One of the major problems in Nigeria is transnational human trafficking. Women, primarily from Benin City in Edo State are trafficked to Italy and other European countries for exploitation purposes. It is estimated that 60-80% of the sex workers in Italy are from Nigeria according to Global Sisters Report. Traffickers may use force, deception, coercion, or abduction. Some of the women are told that they will be doing domestic work, while the tales of profitable prostitution in Europe lure others stuck in poverty to traffickers. However, in both of these instances, the women are not aware of the inhumane conditions that the traffickers are willing to put them through for a profit. There are also cases where parents knowingly send their children abroad because they have heard of the fortunes available in Europe and hope for a better life for their kids. However, they are less likely to be fully aware of the true intentions of the traffickers, who they see in some cases as persons giving a rare opportunity to their children.
To win the fight against human trafficking we must understand why it is happening. Among the root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria, we mention poverty, lack of education, globalization, corruption and gender inequality. Globalization allows traffickers to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders. The presence of these complex channels creates a challenge because it is understood that prosecuting one trafficker may only minimally hinder the network of traffickers. Corruption prevents traffickers from being held accountable and can also prevent victims from seeking justice. In fact, when corruption is found within political institutions, the laws in place are not implemented to their full capacity, if at all. Also, corruption leads law enforcement to succumb to bribery or charge victims outrageous amounts of money in order to have access to justice. Furthermore, gender inequality in a society impacts all other factors. This leaves women less likely to be educated, more susceptible to poverty, and therefore, more vulnerable to human trafficking.
Traffickers convince victims that voodoo rituals prohibit them from escaping and if the victim attempts to turn in the traffickers, severe consequences will ensue. This is how traffickers manipulate one of African ancient religions as a means of holding their victims in bondage because they know of the great fear of many Nigerians.
In 2003, the United Nations’ Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force. Within this document, there is a protocol titled the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women Children, Especially Women and Children. This protocol is important because it focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking. This global crime against humanity is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Of the 193 member states to the UN today, 171 states have become party to this protocol. Nigeria is one of the countries that ratified this protocol, however the laws that were implemented in Nigeria to comply with this protocol are still not being enforced. The United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons report indicates that Nigeria’s tier ranking has dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch list just this past year. This ranking means that Nigeria does not meet the US law’s minimum standards set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and although they are making strides to come into compliance with these standards, Nigeria failed to “provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”
Addressing the problem of human trafficking in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world will take a communal effort. Because we know and see it, we must do something about it. Silence is not an option. Another key part of prevention is education and awareness campaigns. Every community needs to learn about trafficking because those who are vulnerable are members of our communities. Once individuals are educated on the realities of human trafficking, they need to be empowered to speak out. This holistic approach means organizations and the government must be willing partners. One voice will not be capable of eliminating human trafficking; our combined voices will make the difference.
Written By Jamie Vieson
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