Residents of a so-called "widows' house" in Banki, Borno State, northeast Nigeria, 15 November 2016 | Photo: EPA/UNICEF / MARK NAFTALIN
Residents of a so-called "widows' house" in Banki, Borno State, northeast Nigeria, 15 November 2016 | Photo: EPA/UNICEF / MARK NAFTALIN

Gender-based violence is the main reason why Nigerian women leave their home country and try to reach Italy, according to a new report. In Italy, these women aren't safe either - the IOM estimates that 80 percent of them are potential victims of human trafficking.

Gender-based violence is the main reason why Nigerian women leave their country for Italy. Violence by men pushes women towards the edges of Nigerian society and eventually forces many to seek a way to leave. 

That's the main conclusion of the report "Mondi connessi. La migrazione femminile dalla Nigeria all'Italia e la sorte delle donne rimpatriate" (Connected Worlds: Female Migration from Nigeria to Italy and the Fate of Repatriated Women). It was drafted by the international NGO ActionAid in collaboration with BeFree, a cooperative against trafficking, violence, and discrimination. The authors analyzed 60 reports of the hearings of Nigerian women noted as alleged victims of human trafficking at the Rome territorial commission for the granting of international protection between 2016 and 2017. 

61 percent victims of violence against women

In 61 percent of the cases analyzed, the main reason the women left was gender-based violence against them - that includes violence against them inside and outside of their homes, as well as forced marriage attempts. Some 33.3 percent of women fled extreme poverty. 

Almost all of the women that gave testimonies were from the Edo state in Nigeria, where human trafficking is endemic due to economic, political, and socio-political conditions. Most of them were young - 66 percent of the women were between 19 and 24 years old. 

"Gender differences become [...] gender inequality: being a woman means having less power, fewer resources, and more difficulty to access education and employment. Being a woman is attributed to an inferior status, a lack, non-value," said Livia Zoli, head of the Global Inequality & Migration unit of ActionAid. "A gender-based approach is indispensable to understand the different forms of expulsion from society, both in the original context and in the one they reach."

She added: "This is one of the crucial aspects of the relationship: Trafficking is one of the tools held by male power to commit violence [against women]." 

Call for greater protection of women 

The trafficking and sexual exploitation of young Nigerian women have increased sharply in recent years in Italy. Some 11,009 Nigerian women landed on Italian coasts in 2016, compared with about 5,000 in 2015 and 1,500 in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN organization estimates that about 80 percent of these women and girls are potential victims of human trafficking.

Some 59.4 percent of women survivors of human trafficking inserted into social protection programs in Italy in 2016 were Nigerian, according to the Equal Opportunities Department of the prime minister's office.  

In light of these figures, ActionAid has asked the Italian government and parliament to grant longer-term stay permits to trafficked women, and to increase lodgings for them, to improve identification procedures and to avoid forced repatriation. 
 

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