News / Africa

Bound By Magic, Nigerian Women Enslaved

Grace Osakue heads NGO Girls Power Initiative. She says sex trafficking from Nigeria to Europe is often due to lack of awareness. Girls get tricked into volunteering to go, thinking they will get good jobs and wealth overseas. (H. Murdock for VOA)
Grace Osakue heads NGO Girls Power Initiative. She says sex trafficking from Nigeria to Europe is often due to lack of awareness. Girls get tricked into volunteering to go, thinking they will get good jobs and wealth overseas. (H. Murdock for VOA)
Heather Murdock
Tens of thousands of Nigerian women are bonded to sexual servitude in Europe through the use of local magic called juju.  Lured out of Nigeria with promises of lucrative jobs, women find themselves forced to work grueling hours as prostitutes.  Most of the victims are from Edo State.

Here in Benin City, it seems that everyone knows a girl who was or is in Europe. 

Many have been away for a long time.  Others are back with harrowing tales.  They talk about deadly travels through the desert, forced prostitution, arrest, imprisonment and ultimately deportation, penniless, back to the extreme poverty they fled with such high hopes.


Last year, 22-year-old Amaka was approached by a woman who said she would take her to America and Europe.  If she worked hard and was good, she would come home rich.

"I was like, ‘say, what kind of job?’ ‘You can work in poultry, you can work in the farm, you can work as a house help.’ I was like, ‘Ah, you know I guess I will go to a European country and work.  It will be great.’  So I like it, even when I get there I was very, very happy.  At first," she said.

Amaka says she was happy because she survived weeks in the Sahara desert.  When they ran out of water, they drank urine to survive only to land in Libya at war, where many of her fellow travelers died. 

However, her joy was short-lived. There never was a job waiting, only spiked heels, a skimpy dress and orders to work the streets day and night until she paid her madam nearly $80,000 - the bill for getting her to France.

Grace Osakue heads the aid organization Girls Power Initiative and has long researched human trafficking in Nigeria.  Amaka’s tale, she says, is not unusual.

"A lot of people set out with the intention of migrating to greener pastures to escape the poverty in the environment but they become victims of trafficking because those who facilitate such movement are agents of traffickers," said Osakue.

When they get to Europe, she says, few girls dare run away because they are literally bound to traffickers by magical oaths that they took in Nigeria. 

Even if you don’t believe in magic, she adds, there is no denying the power of the oaths.  Many of the girls believe if they don’t pay back the travel fees, they and their loved ones will be killed by the juju spell.

At this café on the outskirts of the city, Inuaghata says she swore she would pay back $35,000 when she got to Europe. 

"I promised them that I would pay, but the person didn’t believe me.  So, we have to swear," she said.

Inuaghata, like Amaka, didn't know about the differences in currencies. She thought she was swearing to pay the equivalent of 35,000 Nigerian Naira - about $220.

Beatrice Jedy-Agba, the executive secretary for Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, known as NAPTIP, says her agency is working to raise awareness among young women in Edo State, the home state of more than 60 percent of the victims, so they can't get tricked like this.

When asked why so many of the victims come from Edo State, home to just 4 million out of Nigeria’s more than 160 million people, she says the answer is largely a mystery.

"It does appear that the first people that made it across to Europe at the time and were successful - seemingly successful - in this business were from the state, and so then they started to bring their relatives and their friends and of course other people they don’t know into the trade," said Jedy-Agba.

Jedy-Agba says trafficking was big business here long before it was criminalized in the early 2000s.  Current laws are being revised, she adds, to impose harsher penalties on traffickers and to punish the traditional priests who magically bind the victims.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 23, 2012 8:49 AM
Hopefully, our girls would be empowered to resist the lure of traveling out to 'work'. Education and economic empowerment would stem the tide faster.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More