Here are explanations given by an ex-victim of human trafficking on the Voodoo ritual that she herself underwent. It is a very delicate subject, which arouses fear, and even talking about it is difficult for those who have experienced it. Here is what she says:
For most victims recruited in Africa, pacts of allegiance are signed beforehand by fetishists to prevent a possible betrayal and escape from the victims sold to a trafficker. This usually takes place in the country of origin, for example Nigeria or Cameroon, in order to guarantee a perfect submission until the full reimbursement of the expenses incurred by the trafficker.
The debt owed to the trafficker usually arises from money lent for transportation, accommodation, food, etc. The victim is assured that once in Europe, she will easily pay back the money, since money is abundant and easy to find there. Moreover, the victim does not know in most cases that she will be exploited. She believes that she will continue her studies or work in a proper job. The trafficker, who does not present himself as such, already promises them a job or study, thanks to the contacts he or she has in Europe.
The pact made between the victim and the trafficker is a voodoo practice called “Juju”. It is a cult invoking the supernatural. The victim sincerely believes in its power. This ritual makes it possible to influence the invisible world and to involve it in the pact that is made.
Hair, pubic hair and nails are taken from the victim and mixed with animal blood and other supposedly magical potions in order to mystically control the victim. The victim is warned that the consequences of a possible escape, betrayal or breach of the pact will have serious consequences for his physical and mental health. In Africa, it is said that such a pact, if broken, can lead to visual and auditory hallucinations that can drive the person to madness and certain death. To make sure that the victim understands these consequences, the person performing this ritual explains them in great detail, in the presence of the trafficker who confirms this.
This is a frightening and feared practice for many Africans.
The Juju ritual is therefore used as a means of pressure by the traffickers. It is presented as a condition for help and support to go to Europe. As already said, it mainly affects people from the African continent.
Traffickers can be people who make human trafficking their business and who work in networks, either within the framework of the mafia or within the framework of organized criminal relationships. Traffickers can also be members of families who have already settled abroad and who promise their nephews or nieces (for instance) a job or further education on the essential condition that they submit to the Juju rite.
About Perla work :
As an association active in the field, we observe that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to help a victim of human trafficking who has been through the Juju ritual, before the debt is fully repaid. Most of the time, these people wait until the debt is paid off before accepting help. This leaves these people isolated and vulnerable to the trafficker. They do not integrate in the place where they practice prostitution, because they have no opportunity to learn the language of the country, they have almost no freedom of movement, and they are afraid of police controls since their status is generally not iregular (they often lead a clandestine existence). As a result, they keep to themselves and watch each other’s backs. Moreover, the mamas, i.e. the pimps, are very close and exercise astrong control, possibly to the extent of controlling what they eat. One of them explained to us that she was hungry because she was only allowed to eat if she brought enough money to her mama, and she was not allowed to bring her own food into the room she lived in. We were also told that the mamas are violent and do not hesitate to hit women who do not bring in enough money.
We know personally two African women who have chosen to defy the power of Juju to escape the hell of prostitution. In addition to the traumas associated with forced prostitution, they both were afraid of suffering the effects of the Juju curse. To help them through this process, it was important to provide regular reassurance and to create a safe and healthy environment so that they can feel secure and free to embark on a new future.