Nigerian religious, Sr Nkechi Iwuoha. Nigerian religious, Sr Nkechi Iwuoha. 

Nigeria: Poverty, lack of political will, and not engaging communities drive sex trafficking.

Sunday was World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Nigerian religious Sister Nkechi Iwuoha has researched sex trafficking in the Ogwa community of Edo State, Nigeria.

Sr. Georginia Chidalu Ohalete PHJC - Vatican City.

On the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Sr Nkechi, a member of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, spoke to Vatican News about her research for the Law doctoral degree. She obtained her PhD from Walden University in the United States.

Lack of community participation

According to Sr Nkechi, there is a lack of community participation, infrastructural development, and inter-sectoral collaboration in areas where sex trafficking is prevalent. All of these factors conspire against girls and young women who are trafficked. In the search for solutions against sex trafficking, Sr Nkechi advocates for the holistic involvement of the community in strategies and decision-making processes.

From her research findings, poverty, lack of opportunities, and political will on the part of authorities drove vulnerable young men to become part of the sex trafficking chain.

Poverty and lack of infrastructure

Sr Nkechi found a connection between sex trafficking and the absence of local infrastructure development, such as roads to markets for farm produce. Without economic prospects at the village level, the youth were turning to sex trafficking to survive.

The government’s top-down approach in terms of solutions has proven largely ineffective, as it fails to consider the perspectives and needs of the affected communities. By involving the community in decision-making processes, policies can be tailored to address the specific needs and challenges that vulnerable youth in communities face.

Peer recruitment is now easier with social media

The role of technology in facilitating sex trafficking has become phenomenal, even in rural areas. “Traffickers exploit social media platforms for peer-to-peer recruitment, enabling them to identify and recruit victims on a larger scale. It is crucial to raise awareness about the dangers of online recruitment and develop strategies to address this growing issue,” Sr. Nkechi said.

Recognising the red flags

“To combat sex trafficking effectively, it is essential to recognise the signs that someone may be trafficked,” said Sr Nkechi.  Society, she added, needs to be on the lookout for red flags and advocate for trafficked persons. Sometimes persons in the company of traffickers exhibit signs of fear and might show signs of mistrust. Sometimes they have physical injuries and may live in places where they cannot go and come freely. Sr Nkechi further urged community members, law enforcement, and non-profit organisations to work together to identify potential victims and provide them with the necessary support and rehabilitation services.

Rehabilitation and Support

According to the Nigerian religious, once victims are rescued from their abductors, immediate housing, mental health services, and emotional support are vital for their recovery. She emphasised that sex trafficking victims need counselling and guidance to reintegrate into society as productive citizens. The area of stigmatisation is also a major concern that needs addressing. Sex trafficking victims should not be blamed or regarded as criminals for their ordeal.

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01 August 2023, 15:14