A U.K. court convicted a nurse Thursday who used voodoo rituals to control and intimidate women she trafficked for prostitution in Germany.
Josephine Iyamu was convicted as the ringleader of a sex trafficking ring that trafficked women from Nigeria into Germany to be forced to work as prostitutes, according to The Associated Press. Iyamu reportedly used voodoo rituals to force the women into swearing that they would not go to the authorities and that they would repay the debt she charged them for travel to Germany. (RELATED: Grave-Robbing Witches, Prostitutes, And Drug Addicts Descend Upon Miami’s Cemeteries)
Iyamu is a Liberian native who became a British citizen in 2009 because of her nursing qualifications. While working as a nurse for the U.K.’s National Health Service, she enlisted the help of a voodoo priest to put the women, whom she trafficked, through a “juju ceremony” that the National Crime Agency said was “designed to exert control” over them, according to BBC.
She forced the women in the ritual to drink blood containing worms, eat chicken hearts, and have powder rubbed into cuts, according to court testimony. Iyamu also charged the women around $44,000 for travel from Nigeria to Europe and forced them to work as prostitutes, ostensibly to pay off the debt.
“The debts incurred by the women were enforced through fear,” said prosecutor Simon Davis, according to BBC. “Each of the women were put through what is known to some as a voodoo ceremony.”
Use of voodoo by traffickers is a common tactic to enforce the submission of victims trafficked from West Africa, where animistic religions are widely practiced and where the Caribbean and Haitian branches of voodoo originated, evolving from the Yoruba religion. Victims are made to believe that supernatural forces will either kill them or kill their families back home if they break the vows they made during the forced voodoo ceremony.
European advocacy groups that aid women who are forced into prostitution, like Nea Zoi in Greece, encounter the tactic often, and say that women who have undergone such rituals require extensive counseling and spiritual ministry once they escape from brothels.
The court convicted Iyamu of perverting the course of justice and five counts of facilitating travel with the intent of sexual exploitation.
Iyamu will be sentenced on July 4.
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