International Law

Nigerian Sex Trafficking, Witchcraft, and the Rule of Law

Imagine you are a young woman living in Nigeria. Living in poverty without an education or vocational skills, your choices are limited. 

How will you survive?

If you're a single mother, a popular option is to work as a prostitute. Don't expect child support from your kid's biological father. 

Even if you didn't plan to do this, odds are that you will be duped into the sex trade by someone offering you a good job.

In Nigeria, Ghana, and other nearby African countries, you will earn less than U.S. $3 per customer. The chances of contracting the HIV virus through unprotected sex are high. 

If you're a victim of international human trafficking, you may end up in Europe planning to work in a good job. Instead, you work in a European brothel after being gang raped by your traffickers. After several years, if you survive, you may be "lucky" to earn enough to buy your freedom from your traffickers or those they sold you to.

Once you discovered that the "good job" consisted of prostitution, why you would go through with it instead of running away or going to the authorities? The power of African witchcraft is often the cause. 

Many Nigerian sex traffickers use witchcraft "juju" spells to bind their victims to them. When this spell is placed on you, you're made to believe that you must pay your traffickers and obey them for their "help." To do otherwise, is to risk death by magic.

What if you are able to purchase your freedom? 

You risk being deported back to Nigeria as an illegal alien with no assets after years of working in a foreign brothel. Lacking an education and vocational skills, you're back where you started but with even less opportunities than you had before leaving. If you return to your hometown, you have the stigma of being a prostitute that further decreases your ability to find a means to support yourself.

What can be done to stop Nigerian sex trafficking and protect the human rights of its victims? At a minimum, the following steps should be taken. 

1. Nigerian women should be educated on the dangers of sex trafficking, including the strategies and tactics applied by human traffickers to dupe them into prostitution.

2. Government and NGOs should provide education and vocational training that increases the opportunities for Nigerian women to find work outside of the sex trade.

3. The Nigerian government should crack down on deadbeat fathers, requiring them to financially support their children.

4. There should be increased enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws designed to deter sex trafficking locally and internationally. Enhanced penalties should be considered where witchcraft is used as a tool to coerce women into prostitution.

5. Countries where Nigerians work in brothels should grant asylum to sex trafficking victims rather than deporting them.

The rule of law must be applied domestically and internationally to both protect Nigerian women and bring sex traffickers to justice. 

Recommended Reading

Nigerian Sex Trafficking Victims Abandoned, Voice of America (Nov. 26, 2012)

Girl, 21, Arrested for Human Trafficking, Ghana Daily Guide (Nov. 26, 2012)

UK jails Nigerian 20 years for sex trafficking, Nigeria Daily Times (Oct. 29, 2012)

Nigeria: Human Trafficking - Nigerian Man Bags 20-Year-Jail Term in UK, All Africa (Oct. 31, 2012)