There has rightfully been global attention and condemnation of the horrific kidnapping of over 200 girls in Nigeria. However, while there is global outrage at this particular mass abduction, this must also be viewed in the wider context of how women and girls are valued in all societies.
Many politicians, celebrities, individuals and groups globally have rightfully protested, held vigils, offered support and prayers for the missing girls of Chibok. However if we fail as societies to address the root causes of such atrocities, they will simply continue. It is easy for example, to simply blame the obvious misogyny of the Islamic fundamentalist abductors in this case, without acknowledging the global cross cultural misogyny that enables such atrocities to exist. It is easy to support this as an ‘isolated incident’ and not join the dots between this and all forms of male violence and control of females.
The abduction and selling of girls and women is nothing new in Nigeria or in many other countries and cultures. This is a shameful global activity. In human trafficking the stats show that the greatest numbers of traffickers are from Asia, followed by Central and Southeastern Europe, and Western Europe.
At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labour and bonded labour.
Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
An estimated 800,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders every year.
The average age of girls forced into prostitution is 13 years old.
Behind these figures are real human beings and to contemplate the reality of these facts we must accept that there is a fundamental view out there that the lives of women and girls are expendable. If women were viewed as having the same economic rights, social status and human rights as men abductions and trafficking would be largely eradicated.
Sex trafficking/slavery is the exploitation of women and children, in which they are forced into sex work. This can include in prostitution and pornography, and can manifest in being forced to work in massage parlors or strip clubs for example or in private locations. Some trafficking is visible, such as in street prostitution, however much is hidden. Those trafficked suffer horrendously in terms of rape, sexual violence, both physical and mental torture and abuse. State authorities often criminalise sex trafficked victims, imprisoning and deporting them without support or care.
Sex trafficking of women and girls is the utter exploitation of female human beings, as they are deemed as nothing more than commodities for sale. This in turn links to many other issues involving women specifically. The feminization of poverty reflects that women who are economically vulnerable are more likely to be trafficked. The idea of prostitution and the ‘sex industry’ itself and the acceptance that females are ‘goods’ to be exchanged for money is also obviously a fundamental factor.
In countries such as the Netherlands where prostitution was made legal trafficking increased. Demand fuels sex trafficking. Holding “buyers” of sex accountable reduces sex trafficking. Countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have attempted to address the demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking by decriminalizing prostituted persons, and criminalizing those who purchase sex. As a result sex trafficking has decreased.
Prostitution and other forms of ‘sex work’ however are never a victimless exchange.They not only encourage the global trafficking of women and girls but also promote the idea that all women are there to be exploited as marketable goods to be sold and controlled for economic gain and male demand. Those who support the marketing of female bodies in pornography and prostitution etc while simultaneously condemning the sale of the Nigerian school girls are failing to make the connections here.
Global male demand, patriarchal values and the objectification and dehumanizing of women are the misogynistic root cause of atrocities such as the kidnapping of the girls of Chibok.
As societies we often respond positively to particular world happenings. We protest, we donate, we pray, but often without addressing the underlying causes. Such happenings whether resolved or not are then soon moved on from. The Western media especially likes to ‘other’ misogyny as if it only exists in certain cultures and countries ‘somewhere else’. Misogyny happens here, there and everywhere never the less. While we all should be outraged at recent events in Nigeria, this mass kidnapping should not be viewed as an ‘isolated horrific incident’ but as the manifestation of how women and girls are viewed in all societies- in many issues from prostitution to sex trafficking to domestic violence to sexual abuse to female objectification to forced marriage to lack of access to resources and economic equality……etc…..
Until all women globally receive the same human rights as their male counterparts outrages like Chibok will simply continue.