Human sex trafficking is slavery in a modern-day guise with the victims being mostly juveniles. Most children lured into human trafficking are as young as 12 to 14. Once snared, there is no escaping this web. Their average life expectancy after induction into trafficking? A mere seven years.
Contrary to popular belief, the victims aren’t just troubled children from poor households. They’re normal children involved in regular activities seeking attention and peer approval. Human sex traffickers are only too happy to use it to deceive and entangle them.
Their initiation isn’t something as dramatic as an abduction. Nowadays the young are increasingly recruited by friends at school, through social media, at times by their boyfriends or even family members. They are enticed to provide sexual favors for something of value in return. That could be money, drugs, or even food.
This holds true for people in impoverished African countries like Kenya. Ravaged by cycles of drought, hunger, disease, and conflict, a whopping one-third of its population survive on less than $1.90. That's far below the World Bank's estimated measure of extreme poverty. The 2016 Trafficking report from the US State Department says that girls as young as eight are working in brothels of major African cities.
Traditionally girls have been regarded as a financial burden on their families in the African country. A girl child born in Ethiopia is born into servitude. She is literally considered fit only to serve the family. Girls receive practically no support and are expected to drop out of school - to get married or find employment. Instances of female genital mutilation and bridal abduction, a practice of kidnapping girls for marriage are still being reported.
African women have for long suffered under constant threats of illness, hunger, violence and poverty. Now they are facing a new threat - human trafficking. In recent times, girls in poor, rural areas are increasingly being lured away from their schools and homes with the promise of jobs and better opportunities in cities or even other countries. Many end up being exploited as maids and sex workers.
Once abducted, a girl can never return home and they find themselves ostracized.
Prostitution is taboo in Ethiopia, especially in the rural areas where most of these girls are taken from. They are considered to be damaged goods.
Worse still are those who have been taken abroad – particularly the Middle East. There are regular reports of abuses African women face who work as maids. These include inhuman conditions and confinement at work, withholding of salaries, confiscation of passports, and physical and sexual abuse.
Even in this gloomy scenario, there seems reason for optimism with advances in women's rights. With heightened awareness as a result of increasing exposure to the rest of the world, unsavory practices are on the decline. But on the other hand, due to the very same reasons, trafficking is on the rise.