The fast growing Lucrative Criminal Enterprise

I was harassed and tortured by many;they, who wanted to sleep with me, did not agree to be the father of my child

Sudan has seen enough conflict to lose millions of innocent lives. During every disaster, while one suffers another gains; and so is it with the people of Sudan. Adding to the effects of conflict, displacement, poverty, etc., slavery has become a trade that is practiced in the country. Slavery was there in Sudan from the ancient days. But the gradual decrease again changed with the second civil war from 1983 to 2005. Men, women, and children are sold under this trade to countries outside Sudan. And Libya is one African country which sells high number of migrants as slaves who seek refuge there.

Today the world consists tens of millions of people trapped into diverse forms of slavery. As per research, 40 million people are enslaved today in the world, through which the traders / traffickers generate more than $99 billion a year. More than 20 million adults and children are bought and sold in this world for commercial sex, and forced labour.; and 2 million children exploited yearly in the sex trade. Researches show that 54% of the trafficked persons are used as sex slaves, and women and girls reach out to 96%. While men are also trafficked, trafficking and slavery of women and children become more in numbers and serious victims as they are used as sex slaves, and marriage slaves [forced wives].

This young woman who wants to be called Lia was born into a family of eight. The large family faced poverty. Her father who was addicted to alcohol cared less for the family. What Lia witnessed from a very young age was seeing her mother in the room with different men from her village. Sometimes her drunkard father brought men into their home.

My mother said she had to do it to free us from hunger; she warned me not to follow her steps. She always said I will find a good husband when I grow up. I never found a single good person.

But Lia’s and her mother’s dreams were shattered when Lia was just thirteen. Her father sold her to a stranger – a sex trader. She was used as a sex slave for seventeen long years. Thirty years old Lia as lost everything today. Villagers look down at her. She is sick today. And the sex trade does not need her anymore.

I was harassed and tortured by many; they, who wanted to sleep with me, did not agree to father my child when I became pregnant sometime due to improper precautions. My heart broke every time I went for abortions. I never could have a child of my own now. Even if I am out of that misery, I am facing so much of sufferings outside of it too. I am struggling to find my life, to rebuild it, to live decently at least for a short time before I die” sobbed Lia.

Sudan is gripped by extreme violence – domestic violence, workplace violence, rape, forced marriages, child marriages, etc., conducted by the state and non-state. Displacement and poverty has contributed to a high rate of gender based violence.

Women in Sudan have very limited rights in everything. Sudan’s majority is governed by the Muslim Personal Status Law,where there is not minimum age to marry is set, except that both man and woman should have attained puberty. This allows girls to begin their married life at the age of 10, either to a boy of 15 or to man of 45 or even more.

Forced marriages are made by the parents due to poverty, or mostly by the father of the girl. The girls are sold to the groom for something in return. Girl’s family receives money, cattle, land, etc., through this trading. This does not confirm the life of the girl to be happy in marriage. The girl harassed both physically, and sexually, raped, and treated cruelly. Girls are not only traded within the country, but also out of Sudan.

I cannot believe I am back here. My days to the graveyard were nearing fast in an unknown land; I was dying daily; one day I fled. I remember falling to the ground after some days, and when I opened my eyes, I smelt familiarity. I was back in Sudan.”

Though the conflict had come to an end, the displaced suffered in the IDP centres, and the majority was women and children. They were harassed by many, and worst was when the soldiers came for them. The soldiers abducted, raped, assaulted, forced them into sex, traded them to traffickers, and made them become their wives by using power and violence. Marcelina [not her real name ], and her mother were victims of the armed soldiers.

We were among many other women and girls who had been abducted by the soldiers. We were given very less to eat, and the toilets were so unclean. The soldiers took turns in raping the women. They even fought among them as to who would get to rape first. They cast lots at times. Our cries went unheard. The worst when I had to see my own mother being raped. Yet I was lucky not to be raped. My mother said it was her prayers that saved me for that ugly experience. A month passed and I was dragged out of the place, my hands and mouth tied. I only heard my mother’s screams” Marcelina narrated her story of pain.

Gender inequality, discrimination, inequitable distribution and lack of resources, and prejudice laws trap women in poverty, making them vulnerable in patriarchal societies. This vulnerability authorizes the impervious to use the women and girls with force and disrespect. And the women confront a high risk of sexual exploitation, sex slavery, marriage slavery, trafficking, forced labour, rape, abduction, etc., which increases the agony in their already suffered lives.

At the age of fifteen Marcelina was separated from her only belonging, her mother and sold to a trafficker. She was transported to another neighbouring country [name withheld], where she was sold to a man who was 30 years older than her. The man married her.

He would use a whip on me when I cried to be freed, or refused to sleep with him. My wounds healed naturally as there was no one to take me for treatment”, cried Marcella showing her back which had weaves of black scars.

God must have heard my weeping; I never became pregnant. This made the man to use more violence on me. He even cut a part of left ear in anger. I was a dead being those three years. Every time I wanted to die, I remembered my mother. I was keen to see her someday, yet not sure if she was still alive. But a month ago, I got to know she had a family; the soldier who kept her to be his sex slave had made her his wife, and they had children. I ran away to come here.”

Trafficking and slavery has not come to an end in Sudan. This ongoing business earns so much of money that one group become rich every day; by suppressing those who are deprived of even their basic rights as human beings.

This fast growing trade of trafficking is a serious crime. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Hiba Oduho  |  Sudan