Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sexual slavery in Edo State

This woman is almost certainly Nigerian, and just as certainly, she is likely to be from Edo State.  She was photographed having sex just off the Ramblas in Barcelona.  To most tourists who visit, the Ramblas is perhaps the most beautiful shopping street in Europe.  To her, it is degrading servitude.  As we know from the Channel 4 documentary Unreported World (see the previous post), she was probably forced to take a juju oath, which ensures she spends years and years as a prostitute in Europe paying off 50,000 Euros or more, in utter fear of the consequences of running away.

It seems there is a conspiracy of silence around this contemporary form of slavery in Edo State.  Its not hard to imagine why: the remittances keep flowing in, with 40,000 or more Bini prostitutes in Mali and perhaps the same number (or a lot more) again in Europe.  We know this is going on.  We know it is causing enormous suffering.  A lot of the girls imagine that they will only have to be prostitutes for a few months, and persuade themselves that they will find other work as a hairdresser etc.  It is only when they arrive in Europe and their Madam tells them the terms of the job that they realise their life is effectively over. 

Its long since time that a full-on campaign to challenge sex trafficking in Edo State began with civil society groups joining forces with the Edo State government and NAPTIP.  Their may need to be punitive state-specific legislation passed. 

We are all allowing this to happen, by looking the other way and dismissing Benin women as promiscuous and enthusiastic to do the work anyway.  We were in denial in Germany, 70 years ago, just as we are in denial today.


9jaFOODie 7:47 pm  

:( This is sad... sad on a lot of levels, I felt chills just reading through the post.
We Need to start a campaign or something. No human should be forced to live this way.

Mamuje 7:51 pm  

Jeremy, I don't totally agree with you.... I am an Edo girl and this sex slavery has been going on for donkey years but then again some of these girls are all too aware of what goes on....I mean how won't they know? They willingly take oaths and swear etc....just like a drug trafficker saying he didn't know he swallowed drugs... There has been quite an awareness over the years in Edo state about the perils of prostitution in Italy but most of them don't mind anyway...

omo naija,  11:29 pm  

Disgusting :(
"Almost certainly" ain't good enough mate....not happy with that, it's possible, but "almost certainly" is still a bit much....

So can we get Western Union and Moneygram on the case too? (You mentioned remittances). And what are the authorities in Spain and Italy doing about it?

It is heartbreaking to see these young women with no self esteem and so desperate to make a quick buck. There are so many industries in Nigeria that these ladies could be encouraged to go into in Nigeria - Hairdressing, Arts and Crafts, Tourism and Hospitality, Entertainment, Marketing/Advertising....the list is endless....I hope the politicians are taking note of this - what a big disgrace to the country :(

Ibhade 7:48 am  

I am from Edo state, and it does annoy me when i see my sisters not able to reason with their head upon the awareness and experience from people who had escaped it.

My 9jafoodie sister, don't pity them, because they KNEW what they were going into! NOBODY FORCED OR LURED THEM! They thought they could eat their cake and have it, only to realize they have swallowed a 'bone' planted inside the cake, hence, choking them to death silently.

I am so *urghhhhhh* right now that *i cover my face with disgust & shame*!

When in school, a gal left in 2nd year when she followed her 'uncle' abroad, we didn't need any seer to tell us what she was upto! They want quick & easy money so as to come & 'show' at home, all the talks about poverty & trying to uplift their families is utter nonsense! They have no good qualification for any job & someone comes to tell them they would get well-paid jobs as a sales gals, maids or hair dressers & they swear a oath with demons, then turn around to cry wolf!

ABEGIIIIIIIIIIII!..good riddance to rubbish o jare! WHO DOES NOT KNOW FIRE BURNS? [a rhetorical question even a dunce knows!}

nutritionalert 9:39 am  

Forget the girls and lets talk about the greedy mothers and fathers that allow them into such a life despite all the awareness. Greed greed greed is the problem.

Naijamum in L 11:30 am  

I am from Edo state and I know first-hand that most people are aware of what happens to most Nigerians in Italy, Spain, Libya, Portugal, Mali.....

'Conspiracy of silence'...I dont think so. Even a new born baby in Edo state knows what Naija girls in 'Spain and Italy' get up to!

I am totally with my sister, Ibhade on this.....You have to be deaf not to have heard all the news about this for the past decade.

Problem is most of these girls opt out of school/ vocational training. Again, their so-called guardians - parents, relatives etc are only too willing to encourage them to do this - because they want to sit on their fat a*ses and survive on remmitances.

Over the past decade or so, Benin-City has consistently being one of the largest receivers of Western Union transfers...Yes, tiny, dilapidated, creaking Benin City...
Even the average market woman know the exchange rate for dollars and Euros..

It doesnt take a brainiac to deduce that the parents/guardians are the ones that need enlightenment first..! Laziness and superstition make a potent mix ...as is evident in Edo State.

Jeremy, there is no conspiracy of silence...all we have here is a state where most are suffering from 'cancer of the soul' - in the quest for easy money.

What to do? Your guess is as good as mine.

Nutty J. 2:08 pm  

...they all know what they were going into. This has been going on for ages now and the stories are everywhere

Any girl who doesnt know what she is been sent to do in Italy, Mali and otherwise, and for how long is probably...emm..say 9yrs old.


Sandrine,  3:17 pm  

OMG!Didn't expect this picture.It is very disturbing on so many levels....:(

Anonymous,  4:31 pm  

is she nigerian really?

Anonymous,  5:02 pm  

And just because they know what they are getting into, is that enough reason to let them waste away? should a drug or alcohol addict be left to die because he is aware that the drug is bad for him but yet takes it still?
These women though 'silly' quickly learn that they have made a big mistake. Some of them are vulnerable and are easily exploited. Some greedy perhaps but there must have been a reason behind that greed, that quest to make money by any means. Our leaders every day sit back and destroy us that little bit more without remorse, without care...

You Benin women who have left self righteous and sanctimonious comments have done so not because you care about your fellow women's plight regardless of their ill advised decision, but because you are devoid of a compassionate spirit and too judgemental for your own good.
May the good Lord never ever put you guys in such a vulnerable position as to become desperate enough to throw reason and caution to the wind as these women have done. But more importantly hard as it may seem to you guys, Jeremy is right. These women need our help and our love. The society needs to be cleansed and more needs to be done to help them.
That picture is beyond depressing. I weep silently for their souls, once pure and beautiful now tainted with sordid memories that can never be erased.

ayoke,  8:01 pm  

No, Jeremy, most of those women are not victims. I don't think there is any village so remote in Edo State where the warnings have not reached. The families know about it - perhaps they did not think the girls will be in servitude for as long they eventually end up being.

I really don't know what can deter them.

ayoke,  8:24 pm  

Otherwise, tudo bem?

Vyvyka 8:43 pm  

is this thing still going on? I thought several awareness campaign has been going on about Edo girls and Italy. I even remember Mrs Atiku Abubakar had a foundation WOTCLEF or something like that and they were sponsoring a TV drama on this issue. Hmm, this has got to stop. Geez!that picture is so dehumanizing :(

ayoke,  11:00 pm  

"And just because they know what they are getting into, is that enough reason to let them waste away? should a drug or alcohol addict be left to die because he is aware that the drug is bad for him but yet takes it still? "

No, Anon 5.02 p.m. You don't let the addict die. But if you know one the first rules about helping addicts, it is that the addict can only be helped when he/she accepts that he/she has a problem AND also when the addicts hits rock-bottom. Otherwise, any effort at rehabilitation is a waste of time. The addict will most likely go back to the addiction.

Some of it is greed; some of it is poverty. And that's what we should be talking about. What kind of greed/poverty will push people to plunge into such a dangerous and dehumanizing venture? Can we largely address the poverty/greed?

omo naija,  1:00 am  

Jeremy this should be the poster for the campaign! These girls really need to wake up and smell the Edikang Ikong or whatever!

sennyb,  4:09 am  

Jeremy, i dont thank you for the shock factor this photo achieved; nevertheless, it was quite effective in getting me to read all the responses; i am quite saddened that perhaps the most unsympathetic responses here have been left by my fellow womenfolk... perhaps my public health background is rearing its "i-too-know" head again but I think we should examine the root causes of what leads so many of our young women down this self-destructive path... when faced with situations like this, the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" comes to mind; attributing the girls' willingness to participate in sex slavery to pure greed sounds too simplistic for comfort; any society where the gap between rich and poor is as wide as Naija's leads to desperation; on the part of the have-nots to step up, to be seen and acknowledged; and has anyone considered the implications on the spread of HIV and other STDs? we cannot continue to turn our heads away as Jeremy has rightly (for once) pointed out; if not for the girls' sakes then for the sake of our own fragile humanity; I that pray their willing patrons do not one day end up being your husbands brothers and friends; when will someone say "enough is enough?; I see you, i acknowledge you; here's my hand, walk with me out of this darkness and perhaps we will reach the light...

okuomose 8:41 am  

Nigerians from the past have always been greedy and corrupt as we all know majority of the slaves taken abroad came from Nigeria. the problem hasn't really been address to lure these girls away from the lies and deceit. They are just prostitutes who will do anything necessary to come to Europe.

Anonymous,  12:36 pm  

The photo was shocking, and then i click on the photographs hyper link and there are more equally graphic and shocking. This is a sad case :-(

Lesley,  12:38 pm  

Women all over the world of all races since the beginning of time have been lured or coerced into sexual slavery. The majority of them come from low income and low life quality backgrounds. Poverty and ignorance make them vulnerable. Their 'choice' of career is really no choice at all. They are the dregs of the commercial sex industry. And yet the stereotypes about Edo women include industriouness, and mother dependent homesteads. Edo women need more economic opportunites and not just awareness campaigns. And if a woman has a variety of viable career opportunities and still chooses the commercial sex trade we should protect both her right to do so and her well being on the job.

UzoAfriqion 7:33 pm  

Like Sennyb, I am disturbed/saddened by the mostly unsympathetic responses.

Not to say that poverty is an excuse for bad choice(s) BUT the level of hunger and lack of opportunity in Nigeria is mind and heart boggling.

Blame cannot be placed solely at the feet of the young girls/ladies, their families/society, or the Nigerian government - the blame/shame/burden is jointly OURS. I believe that only when we own this truth will we develop an effective solution(s) that eradicates/alleviates this problem.

Akin 7:52 am  


I am shocked by the picture but even doubly shocked by the "just desserts" comments.

Something tells me the women are victims of something or anything and definitely not fully in control of their destinies.



SAM E.,  11:24 am  

Thank you Lesley.
I am from Edo state and have witnessed first hand how these girls are shipped abroad. I have also visited cities in Europe where I have interacted with some of these girls. One commonality is that 99% of them are uneducated and in most cases shipped directly from the villages and never visited Benin City nor Lagos prior to their trip.
While not excusing this huge problem, ignorance and poverty have played major roles in getting us where we are now.
You can "awareness campaign" all you want, all the ignorant mind is seeing is the house that the neighbor's daughter based in Europe just built for her parents.
I challenge anybody to show me any of these girls that graduated university and decided to become a prostitute in Europe after NYSC.
In these same cities you will meet educated and hardworking Edo girls who mostly can no longer introduce themselves as Edos.
A major problem now is that an industry has been built around this practice. The witch doctors, the smugglers(trolley guys), airline workers, customs and immigration, the guys who test them when they arrive Europe, guys who help them bring money and property home etc. Do you honestly think capitalist Western Union is interested in stopping this business? I don"t think so.
I think the first question we must answer in trying to find a solution to this problem is; considering that Edo is not the only place there is ignorance and poverty in Nigeria, how and when did our people become worshipers of materialism to the level of discarding the Edo pride of yesteryears? If you can answer that, then the solution is not far off.

C'est moi,  12:00 pm  

Apart from the fact that I find the use of such a graphic image on your blog absolutely appalling, you also started off by emphatically proclaiming..."This woman is almost certainly Nigerian"....

So I ask, how do you know? Just by looking at that obscene photo?I mean it's a different thing if you know her personally and can therefore attest to that.

Yes, we know and have heard and seen (in documentaries) the problem of prostitution in these countries. But I daresay not all black women practising prostitution in such countries are African and for sure the African ones among them that do are certainly not ALL Nigerian!

I am not taking away from the seriousness of this problem of sex trafficking but i must say i find your bold assumption that the lady in the pic must be Nigerian to be not only flimsy and patronizing but also of breath-taking arrogance which i find really disappointing...

yhurmie 6:46 pm  

Jeremy, this write-up is so biased, it is degrading to those you claim to be advocating for!

It is absolutely insulting to just simply infer from seeing a picture that the girl concerned has to be Nigerian and an Edo girl for certain!

However, worse than stereotyping, is the statement: she was photographed having sex blah blah blah leading on to the photograph being all about her and how disgusting her act and situation is.

Pray tell, is she photographed masturbating? Cos am wondering why there is no furor about the man photographed having sex on a beautiful popular shopping street!

As to the many female 'judges' that have commented, keep casting stones and ignore your own shame... If you havent realised woman, her shame is your shame!

Anonymous,  11:14 pm  

I'm surprised at the turn the comments took. Even if the women deserve the treatment they get (as some of the comments which I don’t agree with seem to suggest), so what? Is the fact that they once made a bad choice enough reason that they should be condemned to such a degrading life forever? That there should not be a way out for them if they change their minds? I'd assume that many of those commenters are Christians. What happened to mercy and grace?

Anyway, how can we, in light of the situation in Nigeria say with confidence that they are making this choice freely? I don't think the blame for a societal failing can be laid on these women. Whether they chose to go or were deceived into going abroad, they are for the most part victims of many failures at home.

As to what can be done, i'm not so familiar with Edo state and i don't know if any of these things are already in place but these are my thoughts:

- prosecute and punish recruiters, traffickers (including parents and guardians).

_ free or highly subsidised education up to university level. This should also extend to vocational training. If the state considers its girls as high risk and vulnerable, i don't see why they cannot dedicate the money needed to their education.

- someone already mentioned the need for better economic opportunities. This is critical because if these women could make a decent living at home, perhaps they would not be desperate enough to risk it abroad.

- support organisations that provide re-training programs. If they make or sell products, purchase from them because the money goes back into funding their activities. I recently met a woman whose charity runs re-training programs for women trafficked into sex slavery in West Africa. The stories i heard were at once heartbreaking and inspiring. They are also the reason i feel that it is important to create opportunities for women who are trapped like this and want a way out. If organisations like this could receive backing from the government they could assist many more women.


Anonymous,  2:19 pm  

It really makes me laugh when some holier-than-thou people come here to condemn the Edo commenters that have said this has been going on for some time and that most of the girls know what they are getting into.

Anonymous @5.02 and 11.14....If you are such good people, please start an NGO and put your money where your mouth is.

Anonymous,  8:53 pm  

Wow. I'm stunned at some of these comments.

Kathleen,  12:16 pm  

Anyone who studied and understands Economics will agree that this is a Demand & Supply thing. In the greater scheme of things therefore, I agree with yhurmie. The furor should be, must be on both sides for effective deterrents to be put in place and for this to eventually stop.

These women only do this because these men desperately demand it - even in such a beautiful shopping street - and these men desperately seek it because these women desperately have a reason they offer it.

I lived in Kenya a couple of years ago where I smiled at a new law that stated: "Any man caught soliciting a prostitute will be prosecuted". After implementing the law on a few gregarious men, Nairobi's popular redlight "Koinange Street" district finally knew the meaning of "deserted".

These two-way streets of degradation can be emptied.

Anonymous,  2:33 pm  

why you would assume its an edo girl quite baffles me. really. your inference is fallacious and uncalled for, and i am ashamed that a person like you will make such nasty conclusions.

having said that, those girls know exactly what they are doing. even the ones that are tricked into it eventually get to know 'what up'. they choose to continue in their nasty habit cos they think the benefits outweigh the repercursions. i am an edo girl and the awareness in the state is quite high especially as it was a pet project of Mrs. Igbenedion(wife) of the former governor. probably next step is to jail them.

Mike,  3:48 pm  

The guy is definitely from Manchester...he's Shameless - like the rest of them!

Anonymous,  11:05 pm  


Do you have any proof that the women are Nigerians? Where is your proof about their nationality? You truly hate Nigerians.

Shame on you!

Anonymous,  11:04 pm  

It is offer and acceptance really. And if we would just keep our moralising to ourselves? Worse things go down in privacy of minds and homes than will ever be published. Still for as long as it is agreed between willing adults, I don't see how it is anyone's business.

Prostitution is a trade just like any other, this one just involves intimate bits. Manual labourers sell brawn and other types sell their brains so where's the difference?

Anonymous,  10:42 pm  

Anon @ 2:19PM:

Thank you! This is one of Jeremy's causes that will surely not be getting my money or active support... but I will pray for them nonetheless! At the end of the day, in a life of limited choices (admittedly more limited for some), we are all left to live with the oft-imperfect choices we make.

Even in the United States that is still supposedly the land of limitless opportunities, there are men and women administering BJs on the streets for designer knock-offs or even a happy meal. While in some places even much poorer than Nigeria, the concept of sexmigration (btw, who gives these supposedly uneducated ladies visas?) remains non-existent -- perhaps because the desire to keep up with the Joneses is not a paramount social consideration.

A Nigerian IRONY that lays bare the largely bereft nature of Internet sociology is that while the greatest amount of MATERIAL poverty and deprivation (coupled with the least amount of economic opportunities) resides almost entirely in the North, the greatest amount of MORAL poverty and depravity (evidence by ho-exports, 419, drug smuggling, etc) largely resides in the South!

Unfortunately, along with the increasing erosion of the nexus between material wealth and hard work in Nigeria, has apparently come an increasing erosion of any concept of PERSONAL responsibility. I have lived in Nigeria long enough (perhaps too long) to realize that there are infinitely more important and worthy causes... but like I would for everyone else, I will still pray for these ladies.

Edwin Eriata Oribhabor,  10:37 am  

This post should be removed. Is sex slavery synonymous with Edo state? How come a Nigerian would say such a thing. If a white man is guilty of this, it may be understandable.

One see a photograph and concludes that the girl in it is certainly an Edo girl. haba!Let's be serious.

OSAGHAE Kingsley,  4:08 pm  

This picture reminds me of the "cancer" that is fast destoying the dignity of the Edo women. Whether we put the blames on these girls,thier parents,thier madames or the government or not, our society will definately bear the consequencies if we do not join hands together to put an end to this societal ills. I would like to present to you this picture of what happened recently in my church in France: the church is dorminated by Nigerian and Ghanian youths, almost (almost because the church has helped some of them that are willing, to leave the trade) all the Nigerian youths are prostitutes, while all the Ghanian youths are students either doing thier degree programmes or in thier Masters level. I looked at the future of the societies where both groups comes from and i do not need a suitsayer to predict how both society will end up. This "cancer" has also started conterminating our Edo "men" in Europe. They are not ready to work or go to school,rather they are here planing different strategies of how to exploit these girls. I am talking from experience as the Head Pastor of our church and a Bini man which gives these girls more confidence to present thier problems before me. I am presently working with an Association in France to bring these girls off the streets. You can also play your part now and lets stop apportioning blames.

Anonymous,  9:30 pm  

You all should open your eyes! I am a concerned Nigerian living in Europe. I do not think any well meaning Nigerian would like to be associated with the shame and disgrace meted on us by the acts of our sisters over here. Let me correct the issue of the image. That lady there does not seem a black woman, let alone an edo lady. check her colour properly. That looks more white, not even like a bleached-skin lady. So, I would say an Eastern European or a Balkan. I hope you would share some understanding with me.

Esinam 1:01 am  

do u actually know whether she is even a prostitute let alone an edo girl from Nigeria???they can be two people who like having sex outside..shedding light on modern day sex trafficking and slavery is a good thing but making assumptions not based on facts is just plain shameful and really quite stupid

Anonymous,  10:27 pm  

Hey Blogger, how could this person certainly be from Nigeria, and Edo state, I disagree with you 1 million % except there is "something else" you are not telling us. Although I agree that sexual slavery is something that should be wipe out this civilized 21st century.

Anonymous,  11:53 pm  

You are sick to conclude the lady in the picture must certainly com from Edo state. She must be your sister or daughter or sister for you recognized her immediately. God will not forgive you for such castigation of a people. What could you use to proof beyond this picture. The Boy too is your step brother too if you could go straight to the girls home as your father's house. Internet has given your the audacity to insult people with impunity.

A DESMOND,  2:17 pm  

It does not matter if the female in the photo is from Edo or Madrid. The photo has had an impact that has attracted attention.
I work in anti human trafficking specialising in sexual exploitation of Nigeria females into Europe. For the last 5 years I have been doing this work, all of the victims have come from Edo state. YES FROM EDO STATE!!!!!
There is a major problem here.
For some reason it appears to be acceptable for families from EDO to sell the children in their care to slave traders. They are sold by their own family and tribe for a few fast bucks and in the hope that their child will go to Europe and send them back money so they can build a big house. SHAME ON THEM.
Also reading the above entries I can see a three differeent groups. There are those who think it is their own fault therefore just turns a blind eye. Then the ones who do care and are aware of the issues, but are dumb founded because there just does not seem to be an answer, even with all of the awareness training / television ads etc. And then there are those who have their heads buried in the sand saying it does not happen. If you say it is happening, then you are insulting Nigeria. (WAKE UP IT IS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT DOING MORE HARM !!!)
Edo females and males are being sold by their famlies into slavery and conned into working as sex slaves.
YES a number of the victims are aware that they are going to Europe to work in the sex industry. BUT they think they will only have to work for a very short time to pay the money they owe to the traffickers. They are told they will have to pay back 50,000. They then take part in a juju ceremoney in which they think good luck is being brought to them. They swear an oath to the spirits that they will pay back the money. Fear of death if they fail. But then again 50,000 is not that much. It can be paid back in a very short of time. BUT
when the victim arrives in Europe the 50,000 that they have to pay back is not Nira, it is Euros. No one will pay back 50,000 euros in a matter of weeks. They are imprisoned as they have sworn an oath to the spirits that the 50,000 euros will be paid back. Therefore these victims are slaves for the rest of their lives.
Who would want to be a sex slave????
WAKE up EDO !!!!
This is happening NOW. so dont just bury your head in the sands thinking that the world is having a go at you. This is what you are doing to your own children.

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