LOUD WHISPERS: The Lost Angels

A few days ago, I received a message on WhatsApp from a friend. There was a video he wanted me to look at and do something about. I don’t like it when I am bombarded with dozens of meaningless videos, photos and other visuals on WhatsApp, but I have resigned myself to their inevitability. I watched the video clip, and it was a good thing I was not eating at the time. It put me off food for most of the day, and it also kept me up past my bedtime. I have probably become so familiar with the abuse and degradation of women that it is hard for me to be shocked by what I see or hear. However, the video I watched shocked and shook me. It is heartbreaking that after so many years of campaigning about the dangers of voluntary or involuntary trafficking of young women, we still have thousands of them languishing in awful places at home and abroad, forced to perform unspeakable sex acts.

The person who sent me the video claimed that it was about our girls who are in Libya and have been turned into sex slaves. The video showed a young black woman, with her face visible, so she could be identified by anyone who knows her. She was tied up, spread eagled, and it was not quite clear whether she was consenting to all the terrible things being done to her by the Arab looking man who was violating and whipping her intermittently.  The man’s face was not totally visible – no surprise there. It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen, and I almost mentally cursed the person who sent it to me. I hardly ever share trivia on social media, and I was certainly not going to continue the circulation of this horrible video. I however did send it to my friend Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Relations. She responded right away and told me she thought the video was a clumsy attempt at pornography. She has received a lot of information about the fate of our young women in countries such as Libya. Since, as is the case with most illegal immigration, the Nigerian authorities in those countries have no record of them, and the host country does not want anything to do with them either, they are in a kind of Twilight Zone. They fall into the hands of underground vermin who use them to traffic drugs, run guns and as sex slaves. When they are no longer useful or commit what would be regarded as serious offences, they are finished off. We keep losing so many young people who slip out of the country and find their way into these lands, never to be seen again. According to Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, all we can do is continue to raise awareness about the dangers of illegal migration, especially for young women.

In the global women’s movement, there is a disagreement over the issue of commercial sex work. There are those who argue that no woman should have to work as a prostitute, and that the act of prostitution is degrading and dehumanizing. There is the other camp that argues that prostitution is legitimate work that should be properly recognized and remunerated, with rights to health and safety, and women’s rights to commercial sex work (as opposed to the value laden word ‘Prostitution’)  should be recognized and protected. And there are those like me, who do not accept that women should have to engage in sex work for a living, but recognize that should they want to do so out of choice or circumstance, it should be safe for both them and their customers, with their rights to dignity and bodily integrity respected. In this context, it does not matter to me whether the young woman in the video consented to the acts or not, she does not deserve to be treated like rubbish.

This also brings me to the story that appeared in the UK Daily Mail this week, about Nigerian sex workers in a Lagos slum, many of them HIV positive. If we continue to treat the issue of commercial sex work with hypocrisy and ignorance, the numbers of human time bombs moving around will increase. Almost all programs I am aware of targeting sex workers in African communities are focused on ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘redemption’. Yes, sex workers should be moved on to ‘more respectable’ sources of income, but for those who are in the business whether by choice or not, there has to be a focus on providing adequate healthcare, safe sex practices, treatment, counselling and protection from abuse. We ignore all these issues at our own peril. Their customers are usually people’s husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, and they will continue to endanger all the innocent women in their lives. I was once Chair of one of the State AIDS Control Agencies, and I insisted that we had to run a program in collaboration with brothels. I noted the alarmed looks on the faces of some of the officers.

Our definition of who a sex worker is also needs revision. In my own opinion, it is usually a question of geography. There are more commercial sex workers in our countries these days off the streets than we have parading red light districts at night.

Many of the young women who are lured out of the country with promises of work find themselves in desperate situations.  If they find themselves on the sex market in Arab countries, they will have cause to regret their very existence. Most Arab-African countries such as Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and so on have a negative attitude towards black Africans. In those countries African people are still perceived as slaves, and it is no surprise considering the fact that slavery was not abolished in a country like Mauritania till 1981! The fate of the thousands of African women working in the Middle East as domestic workers is well known. In addition to working very long hours, they are often forced to endure sexual abuse by their employers.  If African women and girls are perceived as no more valuable than slaves, this has implications for how they will be treated if they are forced into, or choose the sex trade. It means they will be treated no different from animals, and this is exactly how the young woman in the video I watched was treated.

All the years I worked on immigration policies in the UK and other European countries, I came to terms with the fact that for as long as there is uneven development in many parts of Africa, there will always be people of all ages who want to migrate in search of greener pastures. We have all seen the increasing desperation with which people attempt to cross desserts and oceans to get to their promised lands. This desire has unfortunately become so intense that we have gradually lost our humanity in the process. At a forum on international diplomacy and migration in Abuja, May 2015, a senior Nigerian diplomat told the meeting about his experience in one of the Northern African countries. He had been called to identify a group of illegal immigrants in a dessert camp. Most of them were women, and they were mostly half naked, covered in sand. He was able to identify at least half of them as Nigerian, but they told him they did not want to go back home. They were so far away from home, being held under the most terrible conditions and had gone through goodness knows what, but the last thing they wanted was to be repatriated back home. The diplomat said he had no choice but to leave them alone. People in those kinds of camps are of course very vulnerable. Some die of disease and neglect. Many get sold off, and either end up in the sex industry or have their organs harvested as part of the underground donor organ trade.

Sex and human trafficking are tough nuts to crack, complicated with the high number of people who engage in voluntary trafficking. Let us hope our law enforcement authorities can enforce the anti-trafficking laws we have in place, in ways which do not violate freedom of movement. Let us do whatever we can to provide opportunities for young people, so that they do not have to make such poor choices. Young women should not have to go so far away to be treated like animals and buried like dogs should something happen to them. We should also get real and start addressing the issues of commercial sex work on our doorstep. The oldest profession in the world is not going away anytime soon.

As for the faceless man in the video, may he get his comeuppance one day. I hope he does not have daughters.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com



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27 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Lost Angels

  1. Arite Anne February 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Commercial Sex Workers.It will definitely take a long while before this thing gets eradicated off the picture anywhere in the world. I advocate that they treat them well, get good health policies for them because we must face it, this is a part of our world

    And, the only way to get this off is to get the”customers”’off and we all know that, it will take a while. So adequate treatments should be in place and a good, working anti-trafficking system will be good too.

  2. Aisha February 6, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    This sex work thing cannot be taken off the system. Like, what the writer said, some women are involved in this and they aren’t even in the red zone.

    Some girls on campuses do this to get themselves sustained because when they go for good jobs, they won’t be given if the back isn’t laid on the ground. This is pathetic.

    The situation of the country has made people take drastic measures just to survive. I pray we get a lasting solution to this problem and really, these people shouldn’t be treated with disgust, they are also doing something at least they are better thieves.

  3. Maureen Adams February 6, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    I Know girls who are sex workers and have built houses, and bought cars, established their mothers through this work. It can be dehumanizing but we cannot deny the fact that, this work gets most of them good pay than the 9-5 routine.

    And the same bosses that won’t give workers good pay, will patronise these ladies and pay them handsomely well. They should be given a good avenue to take good care of themselves especially to prevent sexually transmitted diseases

  4. Femi Diipo February 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    The morality, opinion and acceptability of prostitution (sex workers) is often if not always a very complex issue to deal with and I think it has been well addressed here. Our government really need to start taking active effort in such trivial matters, a lot of inhuman things are going on behind the scene that need to be curbed

  5. Detutu February 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    God will punish that man and his household. Can you imagine? In fact, i don’t call those arab african countries, Africans because they don’t call themselves that. I detest them and their racist mindset a lot and the way they treat women is so degrading.

    I hope that girl gets saved and healed. Please, she should be brought home and taken good care of. We love you and for all angels out there in the desert where the cannibals live, may you find good rescue.

    This is such a deep article.

    • Dom dom February 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      Try to not forget that the write wasn’t sure if all these had been done out of consent and the girl was getting paid for it… If it was then I guess your curses are subjected yo a lot of other considerations

  6. fola February 6, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Another exciting article this week. But sincerely, There is no excuse for sex workers. There is nothing as good as a legit work, be hard working and everything will become okay.

    There is no excuse at all. I support that the anti-trafficking agencies we have should step their game.

  7. Dom dom February 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I remember reading Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren Profession, where a woman decidedly chose prostitution as a profession and a very lucrative one at that and it’s brings to fore that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body as long as it is out of consent and she’s getting paid for it. But what happens when this gets out of hand, when the man becomes violent or over demanding. Perhaps anyone going into such business would have been prepared for its consequences and excesses

  8. mide February 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    @fola, o thou righteous man. There is no excuse for sex workers, as if you haven’t slept with ladies, that aren’t your wives before. See you opening your mouth to spill self righteous bull shit.

    Are the women sleeping with themselves? Isn’t the men that patronise them? Please, it’s not necessary to comment, you can read and pass.

    I hope all our lost angels get hope.

  9. Chief Tee February 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Wow. This is so emotional. Women go through a lot just to survive. I really hope that our nation will stand up and put things in place. Seriously, the situation of the country is so unpalatable and that’s why they run for greener pastures.

    Nigeria is making lots of people insane. Really, this should change so everyone will enjoy the bliss of this nation

  10. Michaels February 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    It’s a sad one really, but there is no excuse for such. The bible says our body is the temple of God . Don’t give your body out and God will provide a way out.

    This act should be barnished.

  11. Bisi Alawode February 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    it’s certain that she won’t get paid. Those people don’t pay them, they just humilate them. It’s degrading really, I wish that these girls are found and taken care of and to those who declined coming back,,, I know it’s nothing easy because of a truth there is nothing to return to… But there should be rehabilitation homes for these women especially those who have been rescued

    They should be treated and established, and constantly checked upon.

  12. Modupeoluwa February 6, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Our government should help us fight against these act. For me am not in support of it at all. Why must you choose sex as a profession? Also our youths needs more awareness concerning these.

  13. olakitan February 6, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    I can’t really figure out what the Africans have done wrong that makes us deserve these treatment from these so call Arabians. Better still let us stay back to our country and pray for a better Nigeria.

  14. olanrewaju February 6, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    It is better we don’t stop making awareness.

  15. Legzycool February 7, 2017 at 12:21 am

    Can human trafficking ever stop in this cruel world? I sincerely don’t think so. Can the world ever be free from commercial sex workers? Again, i sincerely don’t think so. This has been the case since i have been young, and it is getting worse by the day simply because the leaders don’t care. All i can render is my sincere prayers to those who are forcefully humiliated and harmed in this process. Like the writer pointed out, some ladies actually volunteer out of frustration and possibly bad experiences. I just hope the anti- trafficking law will be enforced soonest.

  16. Toluene February 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    @legzycool, you are very right sir, ever since I came to this world have been hearing about prostitution and sex trafficking. I even happen to live in an area where they practice it and have their houses around. When they were asked why they do this, you hear them say they must eat and survive one way or the other. See, the situation of the country is not helping matters at all. Man must survive that’s what they will tell you. But it’s not fair the way the people they service now go about it. They humiliate then and make them even suffer more.

    • Samuel February 11, 2017 at 11:21 pm

      @Toluene. Thank you ma.This is just the pathetic situation in the world in general. The less privileged are most times the abused.

    • Legzycool February 11, 2017 at 11:24 pm

      @Toluene. I agree with your stance as well ma. Some commercial sex workers were not coerced or forced into it, they willingly gave their selves into it.

  17. Oluwatosino February 7, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    @Modupeola, which government want to help fight human trafficking… Since when have we been calling on the government to fight it. All is well ooo. Prostitution is not a profession, it’s a choice while some are just victims. May God help us ijn

  18. Tina February 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    What a pathetic story. @michaels, please go live in the galaxy. People like are those who see the real thing, and hide under religious fasade.

  19. Olushola Aderanti February 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    It’s a pity that this is the reality of the world we are in. Even outside Nigeria where you’ve got the slumps, girls do this to survive. They have no choice. Some of them are even educated but they have got no open opportunities for themselves at all.

    Men, haunt them to lay their backs down before they are sorted out for their daily income. So, what do you want them to do? 95percent of those involved in prostitution were forced into it.
    All we can do is make the society better, create more and more jobs and protect the girl child seriously. Create a platform that makes the girl child get good jobs and also that protects their interests where they work.

    This will help in tackling this menace

  20. Melinda February 8, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Let us start tackiling this thing from our homes. Teach our boys to respect the body of a woman. That man in that video is a shame to his mother.

    let’s teach them to respect women, tell them how they should be treated beyond the body. Because this situation is beyond the girls alone the men are also at fault.

  21. Kafayat February 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    This is very pathetic. Our generation is gradually loosing its respect for women, men who are supposed to pamper ladies are now consciously disregarding them all in the name of sex.

  22. Harryrrah February 9, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Being a commercial sex worker is a total waste of time, as the outcome is death.

  23. Princess February 9, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    People no longer care about their lives this days, they can do anything to acquire wealth. Prostitute is very rampant in this generation of ours. I wept when I saw the video of a lady with maggot in her virgina. That adage that says “money is the root of all evil” was never meant to those that acquire their with their God’s given ability, but for those who engage in anything that is ungodly.

  24. Ebonychyqui2 February 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    He who climbs the tree beyond the leaves is inviting an adventure with broken bones. Anyone who wants to be a commercial sex workers should be ready to bear the consequences, this is just too disgusting to me.


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