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Nigerian women target of major sex trafficking ring

by Margaret Stewart - Copy Editor
Tue, Oct 30th 2018 10:00 pm
Taken from home Women in Nigeria are being taken away from their home and trafficked around the world. They are taken to countries like France and Italy and forced to have sex with men for $23 per client.
Taken from home Women in Nigeria are being taken away from their home and trafficked around the world. They are taken to countries like France and Italy and forced to have sex with men for $23 per client.

Throughout history, minority groups have been systematically oppressed. In looking for new lives, immigrants and refugees often find themselves in unwelcoming environments. It is jarring the expectation of a new start and new life and being met with the resistance and hostility of reality.

In Paris, France this is no different. Women, clothed in nothing more than underwear, walk the streets needing to make money to survive. Before she escaped, Nadège was one of those women. In an interview with CNN, she confesses, “Even now I don’t have hope for myself. My past already destroyed my future.”

A park known as the Bois de Vincennes in the outskirts of eastern Paris is home to human traffickers. As a part of a massive cross-continental trafficking network, these human traffickers sell thousands of Nigerian women and children through Europe. According to CNN, Nadège, who used a fake name in the interview, was trafficked from Nigeria to France and forced into sexual slavery, at “$23 per client,” to pay off a colossal debt to a female Nigerian pimp known as a “madam.”

“I was told it was like a paradise,” Nadège explained.

Unfortunately, Nadège’s experience was not unique.  According to france24.com, 16 traffickers of the mostly female prostitution ring went on trial in May of this year. While the victim’s testimonies varied, there are some points of commonality proving that they were systematically trafficked. Before leaving Nigeria the victims were promised “economic opportunities” in France, unrelated to sex work. Many, like Nadège, believed that they would be working in a restaurant as a waitress. Others thought they would be working as nannies.

France24.com goes on to say that, before leaving Nigeria, the women were taken to “voodoo priests, some of whom used body scarification in a ritual to “seal” the women’s contracts with their traffickers.” The women’s bodies were cut into in patterns so that their “contract” was literally carved into them. In case that wasn’t enough, others were told they had to pay their traffickers to protect them and did so to the tune of upwards of €70,000. After their payment they were blackmailed into not telling the police as the traffickers threatened to murder their families.

Yehudi Pelosi, a lawyer who specializes in asylum law and human trafficking, sat down with CNN and said “as part of the ceremony the women are often forced to eat a kola nut and a chicken heart and drink a concoction of gin and blood. Some of their pubic hair is taken, and their head, breasts and shoulders are often ritually scarred.”

France isn’t the only country with this problem. In 2016, Italy made the headlines for the same issue. Nigerian women were being trafficked, by boat, to and from Italy. Two years ago the sex trafficking reached “crisis” level. From January to June of that year roughly, 3,600 women arrived in Italy illegally.

About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of this year, almost double the number who were registered in the same time period last year, according to the IOM. The Guardian states that, “more than 80 percent of these women will be trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe.”

Sex trafficking is not unique and the specific market for Nigerian women is not new. It has been occurring, internationally, for more than three decades. Les Amis du Bus des Femmes (LABF), a Paris based charity that helps sex traffickers, says “the sex trafficking route from Nigeria to Paris has existed for 20 years.” However, recently, there has been an influx of under-age Nigerians. There are girls as young as 12 working the streets of Paris.

It is also not uncommon that girls like Nadège are controlled by madams.  In an interview with The Guardian, a lawyer who works with sex trafficking victims claims, “senior prostitutes are often entrusted with new arrivals and may be given a cut of their earnings.” Not only that but, essentially if these senior women “buy” into the prostitution ring because they know it works, they can receive more of their earnings.

This is why the people who have been caught have mostly been women and perhaps why these naïve Nigerian girls are so quick to trust their traffickers when they are promised a new life. As a girl becomes a madam, she is finally “free” from prostitution and able to begin earning the money for the life they were originally promised.