The Use of ‘juju’ in Human Trafficking: Towards a Demystified Understanding

Marcel van der Watt | September 23 | 10:10 - 11:10 AM | Auditorium

An existing hiatus in empirical research related to the use of ‘juju’ rituals as a spiritual or psychological control mechanism by perpetrators to subjugate victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation has underscored the need for further exploration. The phenomenon is shrouded in secrecy and little is known as to what juju entails and how it is used to subdue victims. The presentation will focus on knowledge gained in the South African context whilst illuminating some of the multi-layered complexities associated with the use of juju as a control mechanism. In-depth interviews with participants in the field contributed to the unveiling of this phenomenon in the South African and broader counter-trafficking context. Juju is a reality that numerous victims of Nigerian traffickers have to contend with. The presentation will show how traffickers use juju rituals as an effective control mechanism and catalyst to instill profound fear among victims, whilst compounding efforts by response agencies and criminal justice practitioners to combat human trafficking. Suggestions for counter-trafficking activities and recommendations for future research are offered. Finally, acknowledging the experience deficit among criminal justice practitioners in responding to arcane methods used in the human trafficking process, the presentation will underscore the importance of perspectives from, among others, sociology and African Traditional Religion to be included in research and human trafficking combating efforts.

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