Gambian girls: ‘We are taken to Lebanon and forced into prostitution’

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According to some of them, they were deceived and taken to that country by a Gambian who served as agent between them in The Gambia and Lebanon instead of China. “Many of us are here but it’s very hard for us here because most of us were not told that we were coming to work as maids. They only told us to come along with our certificates and that we will be given good and decent jobs… This is the opposite of the story here,” a former employee of a water bottling and drinks factory lamented. 

Another frustrated girl who spoke to me via Viber also expressed similar disappointment by the agent who according to her assured her greener pasture in Lebanon. “This is completely contrary to what I was told prior to coming here. He [name withheld] told me that I will be giving a very good and decent job and that I should come along with my certificates, but this is completely the opposite of that story. And as for me, he never told me I will work as a house maid. He knows that I will never agree to that but here I am working as one now,” she wailed. She added that some of them got into physical fights with their employers and that they could not bear the cruelty they are being subjected to daily. “As I speak to you now, there are two girls who are quarreling with their boss and they almost stabbed him,” she added. 

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The girls who work as maids during the day also complain that they are sexually harassed and even abused by their Lebanese male employers. They said one of their colleagues has already been impregnated by her employer and had to be sent back home by the recruitment agency. According to them the girl told his employer that she was pregnant and that she was going to his wife. 

However, when contacted, a ‘Mr Ali’, the agent in Lebanon, said the girl got pregnant in The Gambia before going to Lebanon. “We realised that the girl was pregnant two months after she came here, that’s why we sent her back. I will never allow anyone to subject these girls to any form of sexual abuse,” he told me in a telephone interview.

Another girl who says she wants to talk to authorities said they are paid only a hundred and fifty dollars (a month). “We all want to go back home because it is not easy here. We cannot tell our parents that some of the money we send is made from commercial sex work. Some of us are being forced into prostitution even though it is totally against our will. From the one hundred and fifty dollars, when we buy toothpaste, creams, sanitary pads, medical care, phone credit, nothing is left.”  

The girls who contacted Society through another journalist are seeking urgent help to return home as they said they cannot endure the misery they are being subjected to. “I am telling this because I believe the president will hear our plight when you write our story but please don’t write my name” one of them pleaded.

Asked whether they had reported the matter to the Lebanese police, one of them told me. “Here we don’t know anyone except Ali and he kept on telling us to wait and be patient whenever we complained to him about our situation, but nothing comes out of it in the end. We cannot go home and we need to survive here. We really need urgent help. We are suffering here and we are afraid to report the matter to any authorities here because they don’t even allow us to move alone.” 

 

Author: Aminata Sanneh

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