By Roger Seth
We all know that the vast majority of people vulnerable to human trafficking are women and children. It is also clear that it is men who drive the demand for sex trafficking. In the outcry following the horrific rape on 16 December, 2012 in Delhi, multiple newspaper articles appeared, decrying patriarchy as a primary cause of sexual violence against women.
All of this makes sense. Certainly, the world has seen far too much of men dominating women.
Another tragic factor, however, is the role of women in trafficking.
Women enabling the rape of other women is one of the dark secrets which, counter-intuitive though it may be, is a reality we must face.
This past week, as I reviewed cases of girls sent to Courage Homes, a disturbing pattern emerged: Many girls were deliberately thrust into the hands of abusers by women.
There’s the neighborhood “auntie” who lived next door to one girl, who invited her to go shopping in the nearby bazaar. She, along with another woman, got in the backseat of a car with the girl. When they reached the market, the two older women told the teenager, “Just wait here while we pop into that store across the street. We’ll be back in a minute.” No sooner had the women gotten out, then the driver sped off, delivering the girl to the traffickers.
The women’s role was premeditated, not accidental. They sent their neighbour’s daughter into a living hell. On purpose.
Another girl, lured halfway across town by a charming young man, was taken to the home of a middle-age woman in a side-street just behind a bustling row of shops close to where I used to live. This woman presided over a cluster of men who took turns raping the girl. Then, when the girl tried to escape, the woman gave her a heavy beating.
Or what about the case, spotlighted in the newspaper recently, in which a minor girl from a slum repeatedly refused the sexual advances of a man in his mid-twenties? One day the man and his sister accosted the girl on the road. His sister forced the girl to the ground and held her down while the man poured acid all over her face. Apparently, this sister felt it was an appropriate price for the younger girl to pay for not allowing her brother to have his way.
And what of the many mothers, who conveniently look the other way while their beloved sons stalk young women, make numerous trips to brothels, or take advantage of girls in the neighborhood?
You’d think it’s an oxymoron: Women enabling men to be predatory toward women. But it happens in many, many cases.
Some situations I can wrap my mind around, such as the battered wife who, already bludgeoned in her spirit, does nothing to protect her daughter from sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. Though her inaction is inexcusable, it’s at least understandable as a predictable outcome of her extreme disempowerment. It is a welcome surprise when we see such a woman take a stand, such as separating from the husband or reporting to the police—and we have, indeed witnessed such surprises, though they are rare.
But the women who intentionally exert power over vulnerable girls, stealing their childhoods, profiting from their trauma, exploiting their futures, enabling the sexual assaults on their souls…this is grievous, reprehensible, possessing a unique evil of its own.
Trafficking is not solely a problem driven by men, vile as their actions are.
Amongst all the other horrors, it includes this unspeakably ugly picture: Women who simultaneously benefit from, while fueling (and thereby expanding), the systematic exploitation of other women.
Perhaps this is yet one more reason why it should really be called “inhuman trafficking.”