National Association Against Trafficking In Persons has arrested two Nigerian women for alleged sex trafficking of minors. The arrest came following an investigation launched by a new Gambian investigative outfit, The Guardian Intelligence Investigative Platform. The investigation, focusing on sex trafficking, was launched a few weeks ago following reports of massive trafficking of young Nigerian girls, some of whom are as young as 15 years. The two women, who were held at the Brusubi and Kairaba police stations were released on bail and currently helping the police in their investigations. A senior state lawyer told The Guardian Intelligence that sex trafficking is not a capital offense in Gambian laws and because of that the alleged offenders can be bailed. Jennifer and Viviane have since admitted bringing the girls into the country but insisted that the girls knew they were coming to Banjul to trade in sex work. A claim all the girls interviewed by this medium denied.
“I admit that I brought them to The Gambia but I had informed them they will be doing Asawo (sex work). I never told them they were going to do business or work in a restaurant,” Viviane insisted.
When asked whether she knew the girls were underage and could not have given consent, Viviane said she would not know if the girls had not told her in the first place.
But one of the girls who was trafficked by Viviane said she was promised that she would work in a restaurant. “I was shock when I realised that I was brought to The Gambia to do Asawo (sex work),” she told this medium based on anonymity for safety reasons.
For her part, Jennifer who is believed to be one of the toughest among the traffickers, had a tough exchange with NAATIP investigators during the interrogation and insisted she has done nothing wrong.
When approached for comments, she tensely said: “I am unfairly targeted. I have done nothing wrong.”
The investigation has managed to talk to about 10 victims who have given a detailed explanation of the trauma they face since arriving in the country. One of the victims detailed how she was forced to have sex with a man while seeing her period.
The reporting and prosecuting cases of sex or human trafficking has been a major problem in The Gambia and many countries around the world. The perpetrators usually get away with their actions through bribery and inducement of law enforcement officers. There were cases where the madams were heard in WhatsApp audios shared by some of the victims warning them that they would not be able to have justice because even if they report the matter, they (madams) will pay money and get released. Despite several reports of trafficking cases, The Gambia has not registered much success in terms of prosecution. But a senior investigator at NAATIP has expressed their desire to ensure that the alleged offenders are taken through due process and if found wanting they will be prosecuted.
In a recent communique, the executive director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa said that “many governments are still in denial. There is even neglect when it comes to either reporting on, or prosecuting cases of human trafficking”. He pointed to the fact that while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction.
According to the Report, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the form.
Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).
Some of the girls are currently living with the president of The Gambia Social Workers’ Association while dozen others have been repatriated to Nigeria.