By Jubilee Campaign –
On Friday, 13 October, we were privileged to collaborate with Set My People Free, Voice for Justice, Coptic Solidarity, and Christian Freedom International to host a parallel event to the UN General Assembly Third Committee entitled “Protect the Girl Child: Urgent Call to Action to Combat Slavery and Stem Kidnapping, Trafficking, Forced Marriage and Religious Conversions”. We are grateful to Arielle Del Turco, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, for her wonderful moderation of our event.
Professor Tomoya Obokata, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, joined us for a second time, having previously participated in our UNGA 76 Third Committee event two years ago, On Stemming the Role of Criminal Groups in Contemporary Slavery within Nigeria. SR Obokata kicked off our event by aptly recognizing that “child and forced marriage constitute a clear violation of fundamental human rights norms and principles”. He additionally provided some foundational information on the factors which heighten the risk of such unlawful and inhumane marriages, including, among others: poverty, gender inequality, intersectional forms of discrimination, lack of access to education, and ineffectual law enforcement. Girls (and women) of impoverished families are often coerced into marriages with men of wealthier families; additionally, religious minority girls and women – who are dually oppressed on account of both their faith identity and gender – are vulnerable to abduction, forced marriage, and coercive religious conversions. SR Obokata in his annual report to the General Assembly this year specifically discuss the use of technology in facilitating and preventing modern slavery.
Caroline Doss, President of Coptic Solidarity, notes that over the past decade, no fewer than 500 Coptic Christian women in Egypt have been kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married against their will. Referencing Coptic Solidarity’s reports Jihad of the Womb and The Disappearance of Christian Women in Egypt, Ms. Doss highlights the inaction of state authorities neglect to investigate abductions and authorities’ swift confirmation of women and girls’ Following Ms. Doss’ presentation, we welcomed the virtual participation of Joseph Janssen of Voice for Justice and Jubilee Campaign Netherlands, whose reports on the systematic abduction, conversion to Islam, and child marriage of Christian and Hindu girls two thousand miles away from Egypt in Pakistan reveals the global ubiquity of these crimes. Joseph cites our collaborative report, Conversion without Consent, which analyzes 100 high-profile cases and makes the following findings: 61% of victims were below the age of 16 years; the average age difference between girl victims and their adult male abusers is 29.9 years; that victims are subjected to further rights violations including physical and sexual abuse, forced drug and alcohol dependency, and domestic servitude; and that state actors, including the police and judiciary, are complicit in the crimes, as they refuse to or unjustly delay investigations into missing girl cases, are eagerly ready to accept false documentation attesting to the victims’ fabricated ages, marital status, and faith conversions. Revealing the trend of forced marriages and conversions in Nigeria, human rights activist Mariam Oyiza shared the story of one 12-year-old girl who was sent to live with a relative and provide domestic labor in exchange for education. She suffered a few years of servitude and physical abuse and, being denied education, snuck into schools to learn; meanwhile, she was considered as a potential bride for a much older man. Years later, she became a Liberian citizen and had multiple children, including Ms. Oyiza.