No justice for child victims of Burundi's sex-traffic rings

2014-02-17 10:27
Rape victim (MSF)

Rape victim (MSF)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Reef Fishes and Corals
    This colourful guide contains concise information on 234 reef fish and 36 coral species found along... Now R175.00
    buy now
Bujumbura - Pamela comes from an affluent family and was doing well in one of Bujumbura's best high schools - until two years ago.

She ended up being a sex slave after meeting a group of girls when she was 14. At first they proposed that she come along when they went out, then the trips out became dates with older men who picked up the bill - initially without asking for anything.

But then she was taken to a house in Kiriri, a smart residential district of Burundi's capital Bujumbura, where she was locked up for three months under the close watch of "people in police uniform", she said.

"When a client came, if you didn't want to go with him they would slap you and whip the soles of your feet," Pamela recounted in a trembling voice. She was freed in a police raid after her mother reported her disappearance.

"Such places exist in every part of town. You just have to open your eyes to see them," said Florence Boivin-Roumestan, who heads the Canadian NGO Justice and Equity - an organisation that has exposed the shocking scale of sex trafficking in the small central African nation.

"After months of investigations we're seeing that human trafficking and sex trafficking in particular exists in Burundi on a scale no one would have imagined," she said.

Victims include both girls from poor rural backgrounds and those brought up in middle-class families in the capital.

In an investigation lasting several months, Justice and Equity found that "young girls are recruited across the country and are either forced into prostitution or sold abroad".

"You find girls of nine or 10, but most of them are in the 13, 14, 15 age range," Boivin-Roumestan said.

No justice

The trafficking takes different forms. In Bujumbura, it is girls from well-off families who are targeted in the best schools of the capital. Fellow pupils, both girls and boys, recruited by pimps, play the role of intermediaries.

They gradually gain the confidence of the victims, who eventually end up in brothels.

Keza, who comes from a poor district of Bujumbura, says she was locked up and used as a sex slave by a senior intelligence officer for several months starting from age 15.

"He threatened me and he threatened my parents," said Keza, now 16, adding that she no longer wishes to see her family after the ordeal.

"I filed a formal complaint against him and he received several summons. But he has never shown up. The case has gone nowhere," she told AFP.

Khadija, a 15-year-old Muslim from an even poorer peasant farmer family up-country, is still traumatised by her year-long ordeal in which she was lured to the Gulf.

"Some people came to see my parents and said they had well-paid domestic work for me in Oman," she recounted, staring down at her lap.

"In fact I worked 16 hours a day, every day, I slept on the floor and I was never paid anything," she told AFP.

"Whenever my back was turned they would come up from behind and try to lift up my dress," she recounted, preferring not to give further details.

A good Samaritan took pity on her and arranged for her to leave the family and be flown home, she said, adding: "I came back with just the clothes I had on my back and the plastic slippers I had on my feet."

The three girls have been placed in families who work with Justice and Equity.

'Tossed away'

Boivin-Roumestan admits it is difficult to say exactly how many children are affected.

In Rumonge, for example, a small lakeside town south of Bujumbura, the study found that out of 50 adult sex workers questioned, half said they were forced into the trade when they were still underage.

President Pierre Nkurunziza has vowed to clamp down on the scourge.

"Things are changing. My budget has been increased, focal points are being set up in every province. Today something is being done," said Christine Sabiyumva, the head of Burundi's juvenile brigade, who says she knew exactly how serious the problem was but that she fought a lonely battle for years because she had no budget and because the top police bosses were simply not interested.

Trafficking networks have been dismantled in several towns and some brothels have been raided and closed down in the past two months.

"Arrests are made every day. We have meetings with ministers, generals, churches, youth groups and lawyers who all want to end this traffic," Boivin-Roumestan said. "But everything needs to be done. It'll take some time to end."

For some of the victims it is too little, too late.

"I'm angry, very angry. I feel like I've been used and tossed away," said Pamela, who does not dare return to her family.

"I want those who are responsible for what happened to me to be punished," she told AFP, although she knows that the man arrested after she was freed has already been released.

Her aim now is to go back to school and later pursue a law degree so that she can "help other girls who suffer what I suffered".

Read more on:    burundi  |  east africa  |  child abuse
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Awesome extreme sports people

Watch some of the most epic extreme sports moments of 2014!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
4 exercise excuses and how to beat them
Watch: Insane road bike skills!
The most extreme journey ever?

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.