Sunday, September 18, 2011
ANN A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Uchenna Anozie, Nigeria
Nigeria an oil rich country in Africa, once regarded as the giant of Africa has been experiencing political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure and poor macroeconomic management. They country has suffered from decades of military rule and failures in constant economic reforms. Lots of people live below one dollar per day.
I noticed that there are so many female sex workers in the country, brothel based, non brothel based and unidentified sex workers.
Aside from sex workers in the country, I realized that sexual exploitation of young girls has been a very common practice in the country and the most surprising issue is that these girls are not aware of safe sex practices.
I took my time to talk with about 40 young girls exploited sexually and their ages ranged from 12, 15 to 18 years in my state Anambra state, Nigeria and I came up with lots of stories and events.
However one fact remains that parents do not loud the incidence of such sexual exploitation because they always want to protect the images of their daughters, they generally believe that if such cases are mentioned, it might lead to stigmatization of the girl in her community which might make it difficult for her to get married much later in future. Marriage in eastern part of Nigeria is prestigious and most times women that are unmarried and are of age are disregarded in the society, this has ended up leading to numerous hidden and unmentioned child sexual abuses in the province.
I personally realized that most young girls are forced into child labour to help carry the economic burden of their families, these practices often takes place in form of road side hawking and trading of snacks, sachet water, bread and numerous items on the road sides, motor parks and bus stops.
The suffering under the scotching sun can be unbearable for adults talk less of young females, men then seize the opportunity of their suffering to give them little money or gifts to entice them for sex exploitation and due to the economic situation of the country many parents do not really care how their daughters make extra money from the little items they sell. These girls are most often engaged in unsafe sex practices, sexual abuses and violence of several degrees.
This ugly situation has given rise to the increase of unwanted pregnancies and very high rate illegal abortions in the region and entire country Nigeria. Most of the abortion which has not been taken seriously by the Government of the country is administered by quark practitioners. This has led to many untimely and unfortunate deaths of poor young girls. Money demanded by these abortionist ranges from 3000 naira to 10,000 naira. To worsen the matter health workers have been aiding this dirty act in the country without being penalized. There are also traditional health practitioners that administer herbs that lead to abortion of unwanted pregnancies and often lead to other health complications or even fatality.
I further found out that lots of girls ranging from the ages of 10 to 18 years were maids and lived with alien families that they served either to generate money for their families or to merely survive. More than 70% of these young girls are not been sent to schools irrespective of the fact that primary school education is free in the country and state government secondary schools in the province has been made affordable, their guardians or newly found parents that they serve preferred not sending them to school rather they stay at home and carry out all sorts of domestic works in their homes, these set of girls generally called maids face various human right abuses such as brutality, rape, lack of good food, stigmatization of all sorts, open humiliation and intimidation of various degrees.
Ann a girl of 16 narrated her ordeal to me, of how she was constantly sexually abused by the man of the family she served and his 2 grown sons in the universities. She narrated her ordeals with tears rolling down her chicks of how she was maltreated by the madam of the house. She never knew what a sanitary pad looked like, she was made to understand that toilet roll and unkempt cloths were meant to be used during her menstrual periods, she was practically denied education and was promised that sometime in future she will be sent to a vocational school where she will learn tailoring.
I asked Ann what she wanted to be and she said she has ever aspired to becoming a doctor or a nurse. Ann’s future was totally jeopardized but I tried telling her that life goes on and nothing is too late to achieve.
Ann further told me of how she was always given an unnamed pills to take after being sexually abused by one of the boys in the house, I asked Ann why she did not report all her ordeals to the madam of the house and she told me that the madam will kill her or send her packing and going back to her village will be worse for her because her dad was late and the mother had 11 children and as a poor rural farmer, she cannot sustain her family.
I further investigated to know how she was brought to the family and she confirmed to me that a Revered sister of the roman Catholic Church came and convinced her mother to take her to a good God fearing family that will assist her achieve her dreams in life and make her a better person. Without any prejudice lots of young children mainly girls are been taken away from their homes by missionaries and contractors whom convince their parents in the village that their daughters are being taken to better homes where they will be ensures quality education and all sorts of beautiful promises. These girls then end up in forced labour, sex machines and punching bags.
Ann has presently gone home to stay in the village with her poor family and take her fate as it goes. She cannot forget her ordeals in the hands of her foster family in the city and still upholds her dream of becoming a great health worker in her community someday, sometime in future.
Ann is a girl I cannot easily forget in my life she is presently enrolled in a rural government primary school and she greatly believes in her inspirations.
· Slavery still exists in Nigeria in the name of maids.
· Child right is poor in Anambra state and abused on daily bases in Nigeria.
· Missionaries and many contractors pose to mean good for parents and children and turn out to be child traffickers
· Sexual abuse remains an untold constant event in the province and all parts of Nigeria without apprehension because of social and cultural factors bonding females.
· These young girls are vulnerable to STI/HIV/AIDS, they lack knowledge of safe sex practice and are being exposed to sexual abuses.
· These young girls end up in the streets frustrated and they turn out to become female sex workers, drug users and even join in high criminal activities which are common in the country.
· The psychological torture experienced by these vulnerable young girls is simply unimaginable and only those that are lucky turn out to become responsible people in life.
· This type of practice has given rise to many unwanted pregnancies and street children that lack parental love and care.
· The government of Nigeria has little or no concern for children and the poor. They just give political statements that end up not improving the quality of lives of poor children and her citizens.
· Serious attention is not given to health workers and quarks that conduct illegal abortions in the country which has led to the painful and untimely deaths of many girls.
Ann is just one in a million young girls that has and are still currently suffering from untold and unrevealed forced labour, sex exploitation, brutality, forced illiteracy and other social vices.
I urge human right activists, religious organisations, health workers and all members of civil society to say no to child abuse and sexual exploitation of young girls. Children remain our future hope and strength.