Armed conflicts and sexual exploitation

“One of the features that characterizes trafficking in persons in armed conflict is that it takes place in the context of high levels of violence and coercion. In conflict situations, traffickers can operate with even less fear of consequences than in peacetime. In environments marked by high levels of violence and abuse, the more frequently reported forms of trafficking in persons include trafficking for sexual exploitation, for sexual slavery, for forced marriages, the recruitment of children into armed groups, and several forms of trafficking for forced labour.”

– UNODC Trafficking In Persons In the Context of Armed Conflict 2018

Main forms of trafficking in persons in armed conflict:

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From the Conflicted Related Sexual Violence, Report of the United Nations Secretary-General, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and trafficking are used as a main tool in armed conflicts.  

“Incidents documented in 2018 confirm the nexus among sexual violence, trafficking and terrorism. Radicalization and violent extremism have contributed to the entrenchment of discriminatory gender norms that limit women’s roles and their enjoyment of basic rights, for example in north-eastern Nigeria and Mali. Sexual violence has served strategic objectives of terrorism, including displacing populations, gaining information through interrogations, advancing extremist ideology and destabilizing social structures by terrorizing women and girls. Sexual violence has also been a recurrent feature of recruitment by terrorist groups, who may promise marriage and sexual slaves as forms of masculine domination and status to young men. Sexual violence can play a vital role in the political economy of terrorism, with physical and online slave markets and human trafficking enabling terrorist groups to generate revenue from the continuous abduction of women and girls.

Conflict-related sexual violence, along with killing, pillaging and the illicit exploitation of natural resources, continued to function as both a driver and a result of forced displacement. Of the 68 million forcibly displaced people in the world at present, a large number are found within the 19 countries examined. Many fled their homes as a result of conflict-related atrocities, including sexual violence. Women and girls, in particular, suffered sexual violence in the course of displacement, navigating their way through checkpoints and across borders without documentation, money or legal status. Others are at risk once they find themselves in refugee camps or camps for internally displaced persons. Such vulnerabilities can lead to further sexual exploitation, trafficking, rape and forced prostitution. Refugees and internally displaced persons have reportedly suffered sexual violence at the hands of state authorities, armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and others who control resources and services in humanitarian contexts. In such settings, desperate parents sometimes forced their young daughters into early marriage so as to reduce the risk of exploitation by strangers or in order to gain access to resources for the rest of the family. Deeply entrenched gender-based violence, such as intimate partner violence, persists and can increase in displacement and resettlement contexts, primarily affecting women and girls.”

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