Lighter-skinned women and girls at high risk of being sold in the sex slave trade in Mozambique - report

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  • A report has revealed that healthy-looking and lighter-skinned women and girls are sold as sex slaves for between R9 000 and R26 000 in Mozambique.
  • Kidnapped child soldiers are part of those who "pick wives" from those sold sex slaves.
  • Since 2018, at least 600 girls and women have been taken captive.

Healthy-looking and lighter-skinned women and girls are at high risk of being kidnapped and sold in the sex slave trade in conflict-torn northern Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, according to a report.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday that there was a ready market from an armed group, Al Sunnah wa Jama'ah (ASWJ), also known as Al-Shabab (or mashababos), linked to the Islamic State (ISIS).

Since 2018, at least 600 girls and women have been taken captive. Most of them don't find their way back home.

In a statement, HRW said the women were sold for between $600 and $1 600 (R9 498 - R25 328).

"Others have been sold to foreign fighters for between 40 000 and 120 000 Meticais ($600 to $1 800)," read the statement.

HRW conducted "remote" interviews with 37 people, including survivors and their families. One woman narrated the story of how she was forced to identify houses where there were young girls in the neighbourhood of Dica town. She said the captors said they were not interested in older women with children and likely diseases. Instead, the age range they were interested in was 12 to 17 years.

A 34-year-old former male abductee, who is not named for security reasons, said he was tasked with selecting which girls would sleep with selected fighters on their return from terrorist missions. Those who resisted "were punished with beatings and no food for days".

READ | Man jailed for kidnapping girl, 14, from Mozambique, keeping her as his 'second wife' in SA

Save The Children, using information based on officially recorded cases, said last year that 51 young girls were abducted by non-state actors in Cabo Delgado. In one of the cases pointed out by the organisation, on 9 June 2020, 10 girls were abducted while drawing water from a local well. The organisation said  seven girls watched as 11 people were beheaded while they were taken into captivity in June last year.

No headway has been made despite a frantic call from the African Union Commission's special envoy on women, peace, and security in April this year, for regional and international partners involved in fighting rebel forces in Mozambique to help put an end to the abuse.

The abuse and kidnapping of women and children by rebel forces is a contravention of the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol of 2005).

While concern has been concentrated on women and girls, boys too are faced with the brunt of the abuse and kidnapping. Al-Shabab was found to be training boys to fight government forces in violation of the international prohibition on the use of child soldiers.

In the town of Palma, parents say they have seen their children return wielding guns alongside older soldiers to raid villages.

Consistent media reports in Mozambique tell stories of young boys in fighting ranks who behave like adult men and even pick "wives" among kidnapped girls.

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