The report reveals linkages between human trafficking and forced marriage

Asha Bajaj
3 min readOct 8, 2020

UN; UNODC; HumanTrafficking; SocioEconomicFactors

Across the world, girls as young as 12 are being forced or tricked into marrying men who exploit them for sex and domestic work, in what the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has called an “under-reported, global form of human trafficking”.

Farmer Nurul Haque stands near his 13-year-old daughter in Bangladesh, saying he may have to pull her from school and marry her off to an older man because he has few financial options left. Image Credit: UNICEF/UN0159775/Nybo

The agency has published a report which documents the interlinkages between trafficking in persons and marriage and provides steps for governments and other authorities to strike back.

“This is the first publication that looks at the issue globally and through the lens of the international, legal obligations that States have to address trafficking in persons,” said Silke Albert from UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, one of the report’s key authors.

The study involved research conducted in nine countries in different regions of the world, over a 12-month period. The countries covered were Canada, Germany, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Experts interviewed some 150 people who come into contact with potential victims of human traffickings, such as lawyers, government officials, members of non-governmental organizations, and police officers.

“We discovered that although trafficking for the purpose of marriage is a global phenomenon, the way the crime is perpetrated in different countries is very specific depending on cultural, religious, and socioeconomic factors,” said Tejal Jesrani, a UNODC Research Officer.

Forced unions for financial gain

Most cases of trafficking for the purpose of marriage involve young, female victims, many of whom come from disadvantaged family backgrounds, according to the report.

Researchers found that the “marriages” can be arranged by family members, wedding agencies, or brokers, often for financial or material gain. In some cases, brides are kidnapped.

Asha Bajaj

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