The trafficking of girls in Nigeria is a practice that falls under the broad category of human trafficking. Human Trafficking is one of the thriving illegal businesses in Nigeria today and it consists of all forms of sexual exploitation, abuse and forced labour.1 Human trafficking, as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security is an act that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labour or commercial sex act and every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide.2
Studies show that in Nigeria children form the largest victims of trafficking both internally and externally.3
Definition of Terms
Internal trafficking: Recruitment and transportation of children from the rural areas to the urban and city centres for different forms of labour under exploitative conditions.4
External trafficking: Recruitment and transportation of children across national borders for different forms of labour also under exploitative and slave-like conditions.5
A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals that 99% of the 4.8 million victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2016 were women and girls, with one in five being children.6
Factors Influencing Girl Child Trafficking in Nigeria
There are numerous factors that affect and facilitate girl child trafficking in Nigeria. The factors include but not limited to bad economic conditions such as poverty, unemployment, corruption, broken homes, family size, greed, peer pressure, mental disorder or imbalance, weak legal framework, insecurity, restrictive immigration policies and law enforcement mechanisms are also contributors.7 The ultimate influencers of the trafficking of girls in Nigeria are gender discrimination and poverty.
Lack of Education: This contributes immensely to the successful coercion and manipulation of these girls and their families to either consent to or be forced into this practice. For example, the usual bait for luring the Nigerian girls into trafficking for prostitution is a false promise of employment , vocational training, or marriage.8 With recent exposure, it has been discovered that the true reality of such employment is prostitution. However, despite this information coming to light, a multitude of girls become victims of trafficking through the conspiracy of family members who force the children into trafficking.
Lack of Importance of the Status of the Girl Child: This is mainly due to the lack of importance the society places on children, particularly female children. The poor societal perception of children in Nigeria causes Nigerians to readily accept the practice and ignore the illegality of trafficking of children for forced labour. The society also allows for the perpetuation of sexual abuse towards girls as there is a deep-seated discrimination of girls and women accompanied with the repulsive oversexualization of young girls to the extent of the acceptance of their abuse and exploitation.
Consequences of Girl Child Trafficking
The blight of girl child trafficking in Nigeria is a pervasive evil which not only affects the girls themselves but also their families and the society at large. Some of the direct consequences on the girls are the risk of diseases and death, unwanted pregnancies, psychological trauma, and loss of education.
Disintegration of Families: Families are also affected as the loss of a child to trafficking is deeply traumatic. The society is not spared from the outcomes as well because the development of the nation is deterred. As children are the bedrock of the society, the growth and development of the country largely depends on their well-being.
Denial of Basic Human Rights: Girl child trafficking results in the denial of the basic standard of living, education and fundamental human rights to dignity and freedom of the girls. This violates the rights granted by the Nigerian Constitution as well as international conventions for the protection of the rights of the child.
Ending Girl-Child Trafficking in Nigeria
There is current evidence that the Nigerian government has recently dedicated efforts to the menace of trafficking in Nigeria, for the protection of the girl child. This includes the promulgation of various laws such as, the Criminal Code and the Penal Code, the Childs Rights Act, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, the Children and Young Persons Act 1959, the Immigration Act 1990, as well as the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
However, such efforts have failed to tackle the root causes of the trafficking, leaving the problem inadequately taken care of. The society is mandated to embark on a deep dive into the root causes of girl child trafficking such as those listed earlier in this essay in order to make any headway in dealing with this problem. This is the most effective means to create a better nation and a more suitable environment for girls and women, children, and the entire society to develop wholly.