Who is behind trafficking young girls into sex slavery?

In the last few months several cases of human trafficking of young Rwandan women have been reported. Young girls are lured with promises of jobs and fat salaries but end up being used as sex slaves. 

In the last few months several cases of human trafficking of young Rwandan women have been reported. Young girls are lured with promises of jobs and fat salaries but end up being used as sex slaves. 

Based on an article published in The New Times on August 19, 2013, titled ‘Hotelier held for human trafficking’ a 26-year-old victim narrated how she was lured to Uganda with promises of employment at a hotel in Bushenyi district by the hotel owner.


“He promises to employ you in his hotel and when you get there, you’re given a room where men come to you every evening for sex and then they pay him,” she says.


According to the victim, this culprit regards Rwandan women as ‘flowers’ that attract customers to his hotel.


The victim speaks with her face covered in a veil while she explains that though she was taken as a hotel employee, she ended up as a sex slave with no knowledge of how much her boss was being paid for her.

What Rwandan women activists say 

Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, a member of the Rwandan Women Movement Activists, an organisation that deals with violation against women, says that trafficking with sections of sex slavery is an alarming problem. 

“I want to say that the problem is there and cases are increasing in number. There are many young women who have been lured after being promised jobs and scholarships. Therefore we need policies as well as backing from all stakeholders because some of the reasons why these young girls are lured is because most of them are jobless and very naïve,” Ingabire says. 

She adds that young women need employment as well as sensitisation on how to overcome tempting offers from these human traffickers hence dealing with the problem of sex slavery. 

“For instances there are some cases in Nyagatare district in the Eastern Province where we  discovered that some young girls leave their homes because of domestic violence caused by the parents and poverty. The fighting between their parents becomes intolerable so the girls leave home in desperation and are easily lured by the people in the human trafficking business. This does not mean that it only happens in the above mentioned district. It’s only that we have not carried out any research so far but these cases are also in other districts,” Ingabire discloses.  

She continues, “Although I have not yet done research but based on what I see, the traffickers first study these young women. If they see that they are vulnerable, they then befriend them and tell them about the tempting offers of going to work abroad or scholarships. The young women feel that this person cares for them or has pity on them. They even tell them about these opportunities during normal conversations.”

The eloquent Ingabire advises young women to always first research about a trip or business venture they are told of by their friends before getting involved in anything. 

“Young women and girls need to be taught that you can get rich even when you are home. You don’t need to go abroad; you will fail to get people to talk to about your problems when you get in trouble and eventually become a sex slave because there is no other choice,” Ingabire states.   

Talking to Women Today, Christine Tuyisenge, Executive Secretary of the National Women Council, said that different sensitisation programmes have been introduced in the society to educate young women on how to detect human traffickers. 

“As these human traffickers mostly target young women who have probably completed school or who are in vacation by luring them with offers of rewarding employment, we collaborated with the National Youth Council and hold educational and sensitisation programmes. Such programmes include debates in schools regarding girls and women’s rights, tackling ways in which to create jobs and get involved in income generating activities. This will prevent them from being lured by these human traffickers,” Tuyisenge said. 

Tuyisenge also said that the National Women Council also works closely with the security organs when incidents of human trafficking or sex slavery arise. 

“We have discovered that in most cases, the people who lure the girls and end up making them sex slaves have been collaborating with the girl’s friends and even sometimes with the relatives,” Tuyisenge said. 

She added, “We want this kind of violation to stop. We shall continue to work with other stakeholders to see how we can respond to these violations so as to get rid of sex slavery, human trafficking and its related dangers to the lives of women.”

Rwanda’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 published on June 16th, 2009, by United States Department of State showed endorsement and enforcement of the anti-trafficking provisions of the draft Penal Code through increased investigations and prosecutions of traffickers, additional steps to assist children trafficked into prostitution and domestic servitude and a launch of a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.

The Rwandan Penal Code Article 252 states that “Any person who abducts or causes abduction, arrests or causes to be arrested, detains or causes to be detained, transports or causes to be transported any person in order to make them slaves, sell them as slaves, force them into begging, illegally adopt them on payment of a consideration, take them in indecent pictures, in dangerous sports, in armed conflicts, live together as husband and wife for the purpose of torturing them or selling their organs shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of seven to ten years and a fine of Rwf5 million to Rwf10 million.”

The same article of the penal code further states that if the above mentioned scenarios are committed at the international level, the offender is liable to 10-15 years of imprisonment with a ten million Rwf 10,000,000 to 20,000, 000 fine. 

What the international security organisations say 

According to the official website of Interpol International, trafficking in human beings is a multi-billion-dollar form of international organised crime, constituting modern day slavery.

Victims are recruited and trafficked between countries and regions using deception or coercion. They are stripped of their autonomy, freedom of movement and choice, and face various forms of physical and mental abuse.

There are three main types of human trafficking; trafficking for forced labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation and trafficking of organs. Closely connected is the issue of  people smuggled in, which smugglers procure for financial or material gain, the illegal entry of an individual into a country of which he is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident. Generally speaking, once payment is completed, the relationship between the illegal immigrant and the smuggler is terminated.

Women and children continue to be sold worldwide and more needs to be done to stop this for good. How deep Rwanda is in this ferocious act is uncertain. But we can only hope that every individual fights to eradicate whatever traces of the vice still lingering around.

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