It was a fairly large audience last Sunday at the Terra Kulture where I had gone to watch the last screening of the play Batonga. Let me state ab initio that it was a time and money well spent. The dance drama produced with the support of NAPTIP, Nigeria’s Federal agency responsible for fighting the new generation slave trade fancifully referred to globally as “Child trafficking” told the tale of the reality of life for millions of children in Nigeria, Africa and many parts of the world. These children who are recruited, forced or given away by parents who do not know any better, are sold and resold, transported over long distances away from the security of family and love and subjected to conditions that are simply unimaginable.
The Palermo protocol, an additional protocol of the United Nations Convention aimed at preventing, suppressing and punishing trafficking in persons in its Article 3a defines trafficking in persons as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.`
While the play progressed amid sighs and hews from the visibly disgusted audience most of who fought to hold back tears, I couldn’t but reflect on how much of hypocrites we all are and how we have contributed, and continue to contribute to the menace. It is easy for most of us to express disgust and condemn all those who are actively involved in the actual trading, yet most of us are end consumers of the products of the process and we do so without batting an eyelid or sometimes even without knowing.
I imagine that for the most part, most of the young people in the audience grew up with the familiar luxury of having house helps who did everything for them. When this house helps were not hired, they were distance relations who by accident of their birth didn’t have the same privileges as they did. They might have not been traded in the sense of money offered to procure them as is common today, but they were nonetheless exploited.
The women in the audience on that day who expressed the most disgust are the same persons who cannot do without a house girl, the very people who ensure the traffickers of today have a ready market. Maintaining a family, raising the children and building a career especially in our busy cities is a huge challenge and most of the educated, corporate high-class women, those who will ordinarily condemn child trafficking often need help hence business for the ‘madam traffickers.’
And the men? well the rampant cases of sexual molestation of minors especially those resident in families that is not theirs says it all and it is instructive to note that there are no distinctions to class, education level, wealth etc to this misdemeanour.
Even when we are not guilty of any of the above, we see it happen around us and we turn the other way. We know people, have friends who are involved. Some of us security agents let this pass under our watch. We trivialise it. We Ignore it. We make like it is not happening, like it doesn’t matter that it is happening, like it is normal for it to be happening. And by this, we all find ourselves guilty.
Our collective conspiracy of silence is ensuring that millions of our children, those entrusted with the burden of the future are today being damaged and exploited, every new day a fresh nightmare. We don’t need to be called up to do something. An Igbo proverb says that one who helps his neighbour put out the fire in his hut should not expect to be praised, after all, when the fire is done consuming the neighbours hut, where else is it headed. The fire might not be on our roofs today but the good we fail to do today has implications that threaten our own children tomorrow.
The bold lettering on the worn shirt on one of the trafficked children in the slides shot at the play read, “Do more than just watch.”
Today, we are once again reminded of our obligations to children and the need for action to protect them. Have a good week ahead.
First Published Here