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Princess, a Nigerian former sex slave trafficked into prostitution to pay off her 45,000 euro debt, washes dishes at her home in Italy, where she gained asylum after escaping her ordeal and set up a charity to help other victims.Photo by Quintina Valeria By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani EDO, Nigeria, Nov 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sitting on the floor surrounded by vials, animal bones and sheets stained crimson with blood, spiritual doctor Olor Elemian described how he scares girls into blind obedience with potions and spells known as "juju".
"Some ask me what they will do when they get there," said Mama Anna, boasting of her reputation as a broker who sends interested girls to Italy to work for her older sister, also a madam. "I want to go to Italy because I want to make money," she said.
"If it is prostitution, I'll do it." In the past, girls like Faith would have been tricked into prostitution, promised jobs like hairdressing or supermarket before being forced to work for pimps.
Girls are then taken to a spiritual priest, who conducts the "juju" rituals designed to bind them to their traffickers.
Such rites instil fear in victims, who believe that they or their relatives may fall ill or die if they disobey their traffickers, go to the police or fail to pay off their debts.
"These people, they are enemies, because this country is too rough now," said Igose, a mother-of-eight who relies on money sent by her 22-year-old daughter in Italy to feed her family.
While Igose in Benin City, the capital of Edo state, fears for the future of her family, in neighbouring Uromi, Faith is still searching for a madam to arrange her passage to Italy. "I see pictures on my phone of people drowning in the sea," she said. (Reporting by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Editing by Kieran Guilbert and Timothy Large; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.
Pimps, madams, smugglers and even parents bring girls to his shrine in Amedokhian village near the southern Nigerian city of Uromi, where they drink concoctions brewed with pieces of their own fingernails, pubic hair, underwear or drops of blood.
"I can make sure she never sleeps well or has peace of mind until she pays what she owes," said the 39-year-old spiritual priest known in his neighbourhood as "Doctor".
She was finally arrested and deported back to Nigeria.
Before arranging their passage through contacts in Libya, traffickers like "Mama Anna" make the girls sign a contract to finance their move - leaving them with debts that can spiral to tens of thousands of dollars and take years to pay off.
"Edo women started going to Italy to buy gold and beads in the early 1980s and saw a thriving market in prostitution," said Kokunre Eghafona, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Benin and a consultant researcher for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).