My first introduction to the phenomenon of trafficking in women and children was from a sensationalist news article about Nigerian sex workers in Italy. What I didn’t know before pillaging WOCON’s bookshelves was that internal trafficking of women and children from rural to urban areas in Nigeria for work as unsalaried nannies, shop keepers, and domestic workers was a problem long before the media ever noticed.
After assisting Mrs. Olateru-Olagbegi with grant proposals for projects targeting internal trafficking of children, I learned that trafficking also affects children from Benin Republic, Togo, and Ghana who are trafficked into Nigeria for domestic work, sex work, farm work, and other forms of labor.
Trafficking of women in Africa doesn’t only involve women from Southwestern Nigeria who are trafficked to Europe. Women are trafficked from Northern Nigeria to Saudi Arabia, and from Southeastern Nigeria to Central Africa. Furthermore, trafficking of women in Africa is not unique to Nigeria.
One can easily find women from Uganda and Zimbabwe engaging in sex work on the streets of Zurich. Trafficking occurs from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana to Mali; from Mali to Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and France, from Tanzania to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kenya, and Malawi, and from Cameroon to Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, and Nigeria.
The outcry over trafficking only came after external trafficking to Europe for sex work began to draw international shame to Nigeria. This raises many questions. First of all, why is it that trafficking only becomes an issue when it involves the sanctity of European borders? Secondly, why is it that trafficking for sex work in Europe has received more international attention than trafficking for domestic work, forced labor and sweatshop labor?
Is it that sex work is truly the worst form of labor or is this assumption based on moralizing judgment calls? Is there a genuine concern for the plight of foreign sex workers who may be victims of trafficking, or are they seen rather as vectors of disease (HIV/AIDS) from whom society needs to be protected?
Posted By Erica Williams
Posted Apr 9th, 2007