The confession of a Nigerian woman, Nadège, a victim of human traffickers, has shed light on the activities going on in the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park on the eastern edge of Paris in France.
In a CNN report, titled, “The Paris park where Nigerian women are forced into prostitution,” the Bois de Vincennes park is known for horse riding schools and a zoo, but at night, it is a business spot for Nigerian sex workers.
One of the sex workers, Nadège, who shared her ordeal said that she was trafficked from Nigeria to France and forced into sexual slavery, at €20 ($23) per client, to pay off a huge debt to a female Nigerian pimp known as a “madam.”
Nadège, who grew up in southern Nigeria, started facing life’s challenges when she was 6-years old-when she was raped by a group of neighbors. She was soon sent to live with her aunt but her aunt was killed after she refused a local gangster’s marriage proposal for her niece. Nadège discovered her aunt’s corpse.
At 15, she had her first abortion when she was raped again. So, when she came across a madam in Lagos, who promised her a better life in Europe, she gladly took the offer. Nadège was only 20-years old at the time. Just like the stories of many victims of human trafficking, Nadège swore an oath to repay her madam and to never speak of her oath, or her debt to anyone.
A week after she arrived, she started working as she had a debt of €50,000 ($57,690), to pay off. With a target of €100 daily target, Nadège would work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the morning.
“Sometimes when you get home, you have to sit in hot water for hours before you can get yourself back,” Nadège, who sleeps with 10 men in a night, says.
After nearly a year as a prostitute, Nadège’s turning point came when she became pregnant and she decided with her boyfriend to keep the baby, which was a way of escape from the prostitution gang. With the help of a lawyer, she gained asylum in Paris, however, she is still traumatized by all that happened to her.
“I’m no longer beautiful. my glory’s been taken,” she says. “No matter what I am tomorrow, I’m still going to be useless. Because I can’t proudly say my story. I can’t proudly tell the world who I am. Whatever I’m doing right now, I’m doing it for my son. When I had my documents the first thing that came to my mind was: ‘Thank God I can now give my son a good life. He’s already teaching me… he speaks French now. And he’s so super smart. When I see him sometimes, I forget my past — I forget myself,” she said.
According to Nadège, most of the Nigerian women working in the park are slaves and the ‘real’ human traffickers are in Africa. She explained that her madam has young women throughout Europe- from Spain to Russia.
Les Amis du Bus des Femmes, a charity that works with prostitutes in Paris, says the sex trafficking route from Nigeria to Paris has existed for 20 years. But since 2015 the charity has noticed increasing numbers of under-age Nigerians. It recently found girls as young as 12 working as prostitutes on the streets of Paris.
Nadège, who wanted to be an actress revealed that there are brains and talent wasting in Vincennes as many of the young women can sing and dance but the prostitution, the oath, the fear, has overshadowed everything.
Warning young girls against falling into the hands of traffickers, Nadège says, “It’s not easy to be transported to Europe just like a bag of fruit and sold for men to eat. Don’t even think of it.”