Often times it is easy to forget that we live in a third world country (yes, we said third world – not the PC term “developing”!)
With tragedies such as the massacre of innocent people (including young corpers who had been posted to serve our country) in Northern Nigeria after the presidential elections. Another stark reminder is the rampant human trafficking that many young girls and women fall prey to.
UK TV station, Channel 4 recently aired an eye-opening documentary on the subject.
You can watch the full documentary HERE and read all about it below- Note that the video expires in 10 days
Reporter Jenny Kleeman and director James Jones travel from Italy to Africa to reveal how human traffickers are using black magic to coerce and trap Nigerian women into a life of prostitution in Europe.
Women are made to swear an oath of loyalty to their traffickers in an elaborate ritual that compels them to pay back extortionate sums of money. If they ever break free or report their traffickers, they believe they will be cursed.
The team begins their journey in northern Italy. As many as 20,000 Nigerian women work as prostitutes on Italy’s streets.
They meet Rita, who tells Kleeman she sleeps with up to 10 men a day, seven days a week, for 20 euros a time. After five years of prostitution, Rita still hasn’t paid off the 50,000 Euro debt she owes her traffickers. She is also forced to pay them 300 Euros a month in ‘rent’ to solicit from her particular patch of pavement beside a highway.
Rita says customers had beaten her badly in the past but she has no choice but to continue working on the streets. She tells Kleeman she has sworn to repay the debt to her traffickers in a traditional West African religious ritual which she calls ‘juju’. She fears she and her family will die or go mad if she incurs the wrath of the spirits by breaking her oath.
The Unreported World team flies to the southern Nigerian state of Edo, where 80 per cent of Nigerians trafficked into Europe begin their journey. In the village of Ewhoini they learn that almost every family has a relative abroad.
Kleeman and Jones meet Elonel, who tells them that he earns money by helping traffic women from here to work for his sister in Italy. Elonel introduces Kleeman to a woman who’s about to make the trip.
Vivian, 23, used to make her living selling tomatoes at the local market. She tells Kleeman that there are no jobs in her town so she has decided to go to Europe to earn money to take care of her brothers and sisters at home. She knows she will have to pay her traffickers back, and that she might have to work as a prostitute to do it at first, but has no idea how much they will ask for.
Vivian says that Elonel is her boyfriend. He’s made all the travel plans for her and has booked her in to see a juju priest. She believes the juju ceremony will bring her luck, but she will also swear an oath of loyalty to Elonel and his sister during the ritual that will ensure they get paid whatever sum they ask of her.
Elonel tells Kleeman that he doesn’t feel at all guilty about sending his girlfriend to a life of prostitution as he simply needs the money.
The team are given rare access to film the juju ceremony. The juju priest, ‘Dr’ Stanley, marks Vivian’s body and makes her kneel at his shrine as she swears her oath. He claims he has the power to give women cancer if they break the promises they make before him.
For those like Vivian who believe in juju, there’s no way of hiding from the spirits. Dr Stanley tells Kleeman that countless others have sworn oaths of loyalty to different traffickers at his shrine.
Getting women to give evidence against their traffickers is a serious challenge because of the conspiracy of silence created by the ritual. The team joins the government’s anti-trafficking agency as they conduct a special juju ceremony to free a repatriated victim from her oath.
Before Vivian leaves Nigeria, Kleeman has a final opportunity to warn her about the reality of life on Italy’s streets. When Kleeman tells her she’ll be working for years as a prostitute to pay off an extortionate sum, Vivian doesn’t believe her.
Her determination to improve her life has made it easy for traffickers to exploit her, and the juju oath has made it impossible for her to change her mind.
A heart-wrenching tragedy. Watching this is like watching a plane about to crash and not being able to stop it. NAPTIP, the Nigerian government agency that works towards tackling trafficking of Nigerians has rolled out several programmes aimed at educating people and eradicating this problem. However, as we can see from this documentary, many people are seemingly aware of what they are getting into but chose to do it anyway. Poverty, desperation and lack of education are some of the factors that drive these young women into this seedy and exploitative world.
Information & Photo Source: Channel 4