Research by the Association of Benin City Girls calls for better protection for victims

More than 500 Nigerian girls and women have been killed in Italy in the recent years. They were all victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution, a new research has revealed.

The research carried out by the Association of Benin City Girls, was financed by the Government’s Equal Opportunities Department.

Three Nigerian former victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution conducted the research, headed by Ms. Isoke Aikpitanyi, the founder and spokesperson of the Association of Benin City Girls, the only association of victims and former victims of human trafficking in Italy.

They interviewed more than a thousand new Nigerian victims of human trafficking in Italy.

One of the key findings of the research is that the number of Nigerian girls and women forced into prostitution in Italy continues to grow day by day, but very few manage to find a way out.

Most of the victims are minor children, and they are usually brought to the country upon an agreement to repay a loan which keeps on growing in order to force them into prostitution for a much longer period.

The average amount each victim must pay for her freedom is 80,000 Euros. This in fact forces them to work every day, whether they are sick, have their periods, are pregnant, etc. Whether it’s hot or cold, the girls and women must go out to look for clients.

The research underlines the fact that prostitution is a very complex issue and warns against the common belief that most prostitutes freely decided to become prostitutes.

Even though many of them easily claim that they chose to become prostitutes and enjoy doing it, in reality this is just a mask they’ve learnt to put on to hide the fact that they are convinced there is no way out.
While there may be people who willingly decide to become prostitutes, this research however, shows that none of the victims interviewed chose to become a prostitute.

The research reveals that there are at least 10,000 female pimps (maman) in Italy managing human trafficking and girls and women forced into prostitution.

The exploiters usually hijack children of their victims so as to blackmail them and force them not to rebel. At least 50% of the victims have performed clandestine abortions, the research shows.

All the Nigerian girls who are victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution in Italy are managed by the Nigerian mafia, the research shows. It also reveals that human trafficking and forced prostitution are just two of the many activities carried out by the Nigerian mafia in the country, which Isoke describes as “one of the most dangerous in the world.” She adds that the Nigerian mafia is specialized in human trafficking especially of women and girls for forced prostitution, men for forced labour, organs, drugs, and arms.

The survey also reveals that social assistants find it very difficult to approach victims of human trafficking because they live in isolation and underground. This makes it difficult to help the victims find their way out.

Even though the Government has banned street prostitution, the research shows that there are still some Nigerian girls and women working on the streets. There is an increasing tendency of transporting them from one area to another, depending on where there is a high concentration of clients and less inspection by the police.

It emerges that the public opinion is not informed of the dramatic situations in the Identification and Expulsion Centres where irregular immigrants are taken before being deported from Italy.
The research also shows that deportation of girls forced into prostitution is not a solution at all to their problem.

Even after deportation, the girls are still under the control of their exploiters who do arrange for them to go to new destinations for the same work, or be marginalized if not killed.

A truly worrying finding of this research is that many Nigerian churches and associations in Italy are accomplices of traffickers. The research reveals that some of them actively collaborate with human traffickers while others are aware of their activities but avoid doing something for fear.

The role of former clients in saving victims of forced prostitution also emerges from this research. Most of the prostitutes and victims of human trafficking who escaped from traffickers were assisted by a client or a former client. This is why the research calls for a campaign to inform the clients of the important role they can play in saving the victims of forced prostitution.

The former victims of trafficking should be involved as peer counsellors and social operators in anti-trafficking operations, the research recommends. It also recommends national campaigns to inform the public of the real situation of the victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution.

The research recommends implementation of the recently adopted European norms calling for tougher penalties for traffickers and better protection for victims.

Recognising the important role former victims of human trafficking can play in helping the new victims, the research recommends involving them in a national campaign in Nigeria to inform potential victims of what they risk if trafficked to Europe. It also recommends establishing care homes for the victims where the former victims of human trafficking play key roles in supporting the new victims and working as peer counsellors. This is supported by the fact that many former victims are ready to help the new victims, especially the very young ones.

It is equally important to help the victims re-establish relationships with their families in their home countries, the research suggests, in addition to a national campaign to raise awareness of the Nigerian mafia.

The research recommends simplifying the bureaucratic procedures in order to make it easier for the victims to seek help.

Isoke says that the Association of Benin City Girls receives so many requests for help from victims of forced prostitution, but with limited resources, they find it difficult to help all of them. We’d like to appeal to all public institutions, private companies and individuals to support the Association of Benin City Girls and all other similar associations helping the victims. People in need of help to save their lives should never find doors closed.

If you are a victim of forced prostitution or if you know a victim in need of help, please contact the
Association of Benin City Girls using the following contacts:
Tel: 346 9406053
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a