Woman trafficking, the recruitment, movement, transfer or harbouring of women by means of threat, coercion, abduction, fraud, giving or receiving of payment and benefits to achieve the consent of the women having control over the traffickers, for the purpose of exploitation, has become a global threat to vulnerable women and young girls. It is an act of injustice and violation of human rights that affects millions of people and socio-economic level of a particular country.
The scourge is a serious crime. Every year, thousands of women fall into the hands of traffickers in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country is affected by trafficking whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.
The primary victims of trafficking are women and young girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purpose of sex and cheap labour, which is a complicated phenomenon with many forces that affect women’s decision to work abroad. Traffickers primarily target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, factors that impede their access to employment and educational opportunities. The strongest factor is the precarious economic situation, which impacts the availability of satisfactory employment in many countries for women.
Traffickers recruit commonly potential victims who are socially or economically vulnerable; these include women and girls who are susceptible to drug addiction, violence in family, sexual abuse, family dysfunction, school failure or a history of criminal behaviour. It also includes orphans, women with physical disabilities, and those who are innumerate and illiterate.
Women become victims of trafficking when they seek assistance to obtain employment, work permit, visas, and other travelling documents. Traffickers prey on women’s vulnerable circumstances and false promises of decent working conditions and fair payment. Women go abroad not knowing that they will work in the sex industry and without awareness of the terrible work condition and violence that accompany the trafficking business.
It bears noting that woman trafficking has a direct effect on the physical and mental well-being of the victims, as during the initial trafficking, women are deceived usually through the exploitation of their current circumstances, while most victims have a history of abuse and are forced into unsanitary, stressful living conditions and receive little health care services. Movement is often restricted and their personal documents withheld, and most experience significant physical, emotional, sexual and psychological violence. Most times, escaping from such slavery is extremely difficult and dangerous, putting the victims in personal risks. And, if rescued, integration back to the society is incredibly difficult because of the shame, stigma, threat of retribution, and trauma experienced during enslavement.
Most victims are promised good jobs, education or citizenship in foreign countries or offered marriage proposals, which are often turned into bondages. The most common tactic of coercion used among victims is debt bondage, an illegal practice where the victims have to pledge personal services in order to repay some form of debt, such as transport into the country or living expenses.
Woman traffickers often approach families living in poverty and seek for girls or young women with the promise of better life in a richer country or approach women who are engaged in prostitution to be transported overseas.
Victims are particularly susceptible to sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, urinary tract infection, Human Immune Deficiency virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. They may also experience pelvic pain, rectal trauma, and urinary difficulties as a result.
One overriding factor in the proliferation of trafficking is the fundamental belief that the lives of women and young girls are expendable. In societies where women are undervalued or not at all, women are at great risk of being abused, trafficked and coerced into sex slavery. Woman trafficking promotes societal breakdown by removing women from their families and communities; it also fuels organised crime groups that usually participate in many other illegal activities, including drug, weapon trafficking and money laundering. It negatively impacts human resources, and burdens public health systems, erodes governmental authority and encourages widespread corruption.
Widespread corruption and greed make it possible for woman trafficking to quickly and easily proliferate. If women experience improved economic and social status, trafficking will in large part be eradicated.
Glory Bartholomew and Hirhyel Adamu are 300 level students of Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri