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Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) has recently uncovered a massive sex trafficking ring containing 20,000 to 40,000 under age girls. The girls were held in hundreds of brothels across Mali, all under complete control of Nigerian women.

According to Nigerian authorities, the girls were lured from their homes under the impression they would be working in Europe. Upon arrival in Mali, the girls were told they would be held as prostitutes until they could pay off their debt. Simon Egede, Executive Secretary of NAPTIP reported that the girls were “held in bondage for the purposes of forced sexual exploitation and servitude or slavery-like practices” in the brothels.

These brothels were mainly located around Nigeria’s capital, Bamako, and in mining towns such as Kaynes and Mopti. Many of them had abortion clinics, forcing the girls into pregnancy termination procedures against their will.

Today, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. There are an estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders annually. Of the 27 million people currently held as slaves, eighty-five percent of them will be sold as sex slaves.

While men mainly control this lucrative industry, in this case, women were in control. Although NAPTIP is currently working with Malian police to free the girls and help them return to Nigeria, the cycle will undoubtedly continue as Nigeria has become a hotspot for prostitution, with thousands of women and girls entering the industry to make money as sex workers.

As human trafficking remains a global issue, the looming question is why countries haven’t taken more aggressive actions to address the problem. Why haven’t governments or intergovernmental organizations done more to raise awareness of the issue, protect trafficking victims, and prosecute exploiters?

Check out the following sites for more information on the international sex trade:

http://www.humantrafficking.org

http://www.notforsalecampaign.org

http://www.naptip.gov.ng