Nigeria’s ‘Baby Factories’

The Problem

Trafficking is an incredibly increasing phenomenon in Nigeria. It is well known that Nigeria is a popular origin, transit and destination country for human trafficking and modern slavery. A recent BBC article brought to light the raid of a ‘baby factory’ in Lagos, Nigeria, the country’s largest city. – Read the article here. But this isn’t something new. In fact, ‘baby factories’ in Nigeria have been rampant for many years with the first network of ‘baby factories’ identified in 2008. These factories are run by madams or couples who take advantage of young teenage girls who want to terminate their pregnancy, couples who are struggling to conceive and other vulnerable groups within the country and abroad.

It was hard for me to wrap my head around this at first, but as it stands, trafficking of people is incredibly profitable. People will always find a way to create a bigger market for modern slavery and the rise of ‘baby factories’ in Nigeria is one limb of this horrific crime. So why do these places exist in the first place and why is there a market for it? What is the Nigerian Government doing to help eradicate this practice and human trafficking as a whole?

The Market

One thing to always bear in mind regarding modern slavery is this:

Where there is supply, there is demand.

‘Baby factories’ exist and thrive for a number of reasons:

  • Couples who are having difficulty conceiving get caught up in baby-selling scams.
  • The use of newborn babies for rituals.
  • Pregnant women who cannot afford medical treatment go to private homes/facilities to have their pregnancy terminated only to be coerced into carrying the baby to term. Once they have given birth, that baby is then taken away from them and sold.
  • Women going to Nigeria to seek fertility treatment are being sold unwanted babies.
  • Fraudulent adoption agencies and illegal orphanages.

This phenomenon is unsettling as young women risk being kidnapped, raped and forced to keep the pregnancy in order to keep up with the demand for newborn babies. The BBC reports that the babies are ‘sold for adoption, used for child labour, trafficked to Europe for prostitution or killed for ritual purposes’.

After the latest raid in April this year, Agboola Dabiri, the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development in Lagos State, reported that 100 girls and 62 boys had been rescued. Two unregistered orphanages were also discovered in these raids. The children and teenagers that were rescued were placed in government-approved homes for care and protection.

Those that find themselves in this situation are usually poor and facing great hardship. It is easy to imagine how someone in their circumstance can end up in this situation, exploited by traffickers who play on their vulnerability. It is most rampant in the Southeast of Nigeria in states such as Enugu and Imo State. For as long as there remains a lack of education on this issue, inaccessible facilities for abortions and loopholes that allow fraudulent orphanages to thrive, this practice will continue to grow. However, the Federal Government of Nigeria is taking steps to eradicate this crime.

Initiatives in place in Nigeria

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is the Federal Government of Nigeria’s response to tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. I attended an event this week led by AFRUCA at the House of Commons on ‘Diaspora Co-Operation Against Modern Slavery in Europe’. The Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli was in attendance and highlighted that a lot of effort has been put into initiatives in Nigeria that aim to educate and raise awareness about human trafficking. Through the use of various campaigns, liaising with stakeholders, rescue missions and prosecuting offenders, NAPTIP are creating an environment where trafficking and modern slavery will struggle to thrive. Since NAPTIP’s conception, they have secured 366 convictions, two of which were secured this week on Monday, 16th October.

NAPTIP has also recently launched an advocacy and sensitisation programme in the rural areas of Edo and Delta State. This programme aims to teach market women and other traders about the need to protect their children from traffickers seeking to exploit them for sex or labour. It aims to tackle human trafficking at the grassroots. Initiatives such as this are great as traffickers play on the vulnerability and ignorance of those in rural areas. Equipping them with the knowledge of human trafficking and the ploys traffickers use could go a long to way making sure that fewer people fall victim to trafficking through the use of ‘baby factories’.

Read more on this: NAPTIP takes anti-human trafficking campaign to rural communities

What Next

In order to put an end to heinous practices like this, trafficking needs to be addressed from the grassroots in both origin and destination countries. Looking at one without looking at the other is futile. How does one tackle the supply without looking at the demand? We need to tackle poverty, ignorance, greed. Better and affordable facilities need to be in place to allow women to safely terminate unwanted pregnancies. Outreach programmes in schools need to be increased to educate young women who may find themselves vulnerable to such practices and to provide information on family planning. We need to be vocal about the intolerance of human trafficking and the harbouring of pregnant women to feed the desires of traffickers.

While organisations like NAPTIP are crucial to the fight against modern slavery, stamping out this crime is not only their responsibility, it is also ours. People often underestimate the power of raising awareness. It is true that awareness on its own is ineffective, but people can only be moved to act once they are aware of what is going on. This is why raising awareness is key. So I urge you to share what you have read, speak to someone else about it and look for ways to contribute to the fight against modern slavery. It happens abroad and it also happens on our doorstep. ‘Baby factories’ in Nigeria are simply one instance of a crime that has tainted every part of the world.

For links to organisations that are pioneering the fight against modern slavery see the bottom of my previous post, The Scale of Modern Slavery.

To read more about the work of NAPTIP visit their website here.

This post is comprised of research and information from some of the following websites:

WorldWithoutTraffickWorking towards living in a world free from trafficking, free from slavery.cropped-asset-12.png

The Scale of Modern Slavery

In their 2017 Global Estimate, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that in 2016 there were 40 million people globally stuck in modern slavery. This includes 25 million in forced labour and 15 million in forced marriages. The new estimate also revealed that 150 million children were victims of child labour and that 71% of modern slavery victims were women and girls.

They estimate that for every thousand people in the world, there were 5.4 victims of modern slavery. This is equivalent to there being roughly 46,980 people in slavery to London’s population of 8.7 million or 351,000 people in slavery to the UK’s population of 65 million. Now, any number greater than zero is horrid, but the numbers that the estimate revealed are inhumane and incomprehensible.  It is unbelievable that such a large number of people exist who are enslaved at a point in history where we have supposedly grown as a society and abolished slavery.

WHY ARE THE NUMBERS SO HIGH?

One explanation for such high numbers is that the demand for cheap labour, cheap goods and sex is extremely high. In order to meet these demands, corners have been cut and vulnerable people are paying the price – this price is their freedom.

WE KNOW THE PROBLEM – WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

It’s no use throwing statistics at the public and going on about the problem without offering some form of a solution. So, I’ve a compiled a list of things we can all do to help.

  1. Raise awareness:
    • Spreading the word about modern slavery is key if anything is going to change. If no one knows about it then we cannot help those who need it the most. Start conversations about it, share it on your social media – if you aren’t too sure what to share there are a plethora of organisations that tweet daily and blog about modern slavery issues. Check the end of this post for accounts to follow.
    • The impact of raising awareness is often downplayed, but the truth is, without this initial act we’re limited in the number of people we can reach. Unawareness prevents those who may want to help from helping. People, who through no fault of their own, are not aware of modern slavery, won’t know about it if those who are aware do not raise awareness. Everything we plan on changing starts with raising awareness.
  2. Change the products you use/your lifestyle:
    • A lot of the products we use daily have been made by people in slavery. The tea you drink, your cotton shirt, the chocolate bar you have on your lunch break – these products are tainted with modern slavery. It is therefore important to research the products you use to check whether they may have been produced using forced labour. My previous post explains how to check if your favourite company is doing anything to ensure that their supply chains do not include forced labour/modern slavery.
  3. Lobby for change in your government:
    • Law and policy is an important factor in the fight against modern slavery. It is therefore important to email and write to your MP expressing your concern about this issue and questioning what they are doing to help. Twitter is a great tool to use to contact those who have the power to change policy, so check if your MP has a Twitter and tweet them!
  4. Pressure your favourite companies to make changes to their supply chains:
    • I understand that it may not be easy to change some of the products you use, so it is important to put pressure on companies to respect human rights in their supply chains. Companies must take the necessary steps to ensure that modern slavery is not present in their business, but the best way to ensure this actually happens is for customers, people like you and me, to demand transparency. Companies have no choice but to improve their transparency if their customers constantly demand it. After all, without us, these companies would cease to exist.

Change is possible. Despite the scale of modern slavery, with consistent campaigning, effective laws, the implementation of these laws and a genuine heart to effect change, those in captivity can be freed.

See the full report here.

See the summary report here.

Check out these charities and organisations working to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery:

International Justice Missionhttp://www.ijmuk.org/

STOP THE TRAFFIK: https://www.stopthetraffik.org/

anti-slavery internationalhttps://www.antislavery.org/

Freedom Unitedhttps://www.freedomunited.org/

End Slavery Nowhttp://www.endslaverynow.org/

Hope for Justicehttp://hopeforjustice.org/

Unseen UKhttps://www.unseenuk.org/

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissionerhttp://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: https://business-humanrights.org/en

World Without Traffick – The How & Why

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The idea for this website and blog came to life in August on the DLR to Bank. On my way to my internship, I met a friend of my brother’s who worked in the same building I would be working in. We talked about career goals and aspirations. I told him how I wanted to specialise in Business and Human rights (modern slavery/human trafficking) once I qualify as a barrister. We also spoke about the opportunities that are out there and how it can be hard sometimes to secure the opportunities you want. Having applied to lots of jobs since my graduation in July and emailing various people to gain experience from them but hearing nothing back, I couldn’t agree with this more.

However, he reminded me that sometimes you have to create your own opportunities, build a space for what you want and invest time into it. He said something that stuck with me – ‘you always have something to give’. And he was right. Regardless of the qualifications you have, how far you are on your journey to where you want to be or the tools you have been given to make a change with, you always have something to give. So this is my something. I am committed to shedding a light on human trafficking and modern slavery. My hope is for it to be eradicated, for those victims who are treated as slaves to have the freedom they desire and I want others to be aware of this fight. So I have created a space where I can share this passion and hopefully encourage others to join the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery. It is prevalent in most industries such as food, fashion and technology. We use products every day that are tainted with this crime so it is a fight that affects us all.

This will be a space where you can find all things related to modern slavery – general information, articles on current issues, updates on the law,  poetry, and in the future, films. I realised that not enough people know about the scale of modern slavery and all its forms, from human trafficking to forced labour to sexual exploitation and organ trafficking among others. I would be doing an injustice to all those held in slavery if I didn’t use my voice and the tools I have to publicise this crime and help to bring change.

I am hoping that this is the start of something great. I am hopeful that this platform will at least inform others about modern slavery and what we can all do to help. The first is talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more people will know about it. The more people know about it, the more attainable effective change is and I truly believe this change can happen.

So welcome to World Without Traffick! The blog will be fully up and running from January 2018 so look out for more posts in the new year and join the fight.

Midé
World Without Traffick