Janny* just arrived in Paris. She is West African, abused, raped, exploited, she thought that her life would be much better in Europe. To tell the truth, she had no other options. She was threatened and forced into Europe alongside her sister. At twenty and under death threats, she finds herself selling her body on the streets of the French capital, Paris. Janny has no one to turn to. She accepted to share her story with Afrik-news.com.
“My father died when I was only eight. My mother’s inability to take care of us was largely because of my father’s polygamous marriages. She was left with nothing after his death and did not make much either. She therefore sent us, my older sister and I, to live with our father’s sister who lives at Bobo Dioulasso. This woman forced us to do all types of odd jobs while refusing to send us to school. We swept, mopped, fetched water, did the laundry, cooked, pressed and folded clothes, hawked whatever items she wanted us to sell… We went to bed late and woke up early. In fact, we barely slept at all. When our bodies were too exhausted to go on with the usual speed, she would scold and whip us. As for her husband, he took advantage of us. When he began touching us, we thought he was being affectionate. But one day, he raped the two of us together. It hurt a lot but he did not care at all… and it lasted for ages. One day my sister and I decided to run away. We got up at night and decided to walk towards where our mother lived. After walking for days on end we finally got to our mother’s village. She was furious when she saw us and did not even bother to listen to us. The very next morning, she hauled us onto a bus bound for Bobo-Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso.
Prostitution with the aunt and uncle
When we got back to our aunt’s house, the already bad situation leaped from frying pan to fire. My aunt and her husband told us that we were good for nothing and that we were costing them money. That is when they started dropping us in front of local pubs, and told us to use any means possible to beg for money from the clientele every night. This meant also having sex with them if that was what would make them give us money. So we started making the money they so desperately needed with the pub manager keeping an eagle eye on us. We could not run away nor keep any of our earnings for ourselves. If we did, they would physically abuse us. I was fifteen and my sister was eighteen. One day one of my aunt’s daughters told us that she had a solution for us. She said that she could help us get away with the help of the pub manager. We could go to Europe. For us, this meant more money and freedom.
My aunt and uncle as well as the manager of the pub took us to meet a local “marabou” (a witch doctor: juju man: voodoo man) to make sure that our trip goes well. The first part of the trip was to take us through Nigeria. Our aunt took us all the way to Benin City. While in Benin City, Nigeria, one of my aunt’s acquaintances told her that, to go to Europe, we first had to go through erotic and pornographic auditions. When we got to the audition grounds, some girls were dancing in front of lots of screaming men. The marabou then gave us a concoction, which started making our heads spin. I later remember them forcing us to get out of our clothes.
The marabou said we have to go through several other tests. Some women taught us the best ways to have sex, including oral sex. This lasted several days. It was part of the conditions if we wanted to go to Europe. And in any case, once there, we couldn’t really look back. The marabou and his assistants threatened to kill our mother and brothers if we did not obey them. When the time came for us to leave, the marabou and our aunt showed us two small bags containing clipped finger nails, hairs and blood that belonged to us. They told us that with those bags, they could do whatever they wished with us whenever they wanted. They would also kill our family if we did not send money back to reimburse the travel costs. Our aunt said that we would be better off obeying those orders by sending her lots of money… and that it was a great opportunity for us.
We did not want to do the things we were made to endure. They were unpleasant and painful… We did not know what was to become of us. But we thought that things would be better in Europe. And as I said earlier on, we did not have a choice anyway.
Dreams of a better life
There were about ten of us selected for the trip, which lasted several months. We were put on several buses and taxis. At every town we transited, we were made to work, despite the fatigue and occasional health discomforts. We needed papers to go from one country to another. It was in Morocco, Italy and later France that we had the most problems obtaining the necessary papers. In Africa, the smugglers always found a policeman willing to receive money to provide us with the necessary papers. But in Tangiers, Morocco, we thought we would never make it. There were lots of clandestine immigrants. Some had been waiting for several months to cross to the other side of the sea. We finally were able to board a boat to Italy with fewer problems. The smugglers provided us with Italian passports.
We worked for a few days in Italy. I was surprised to find so many Africans over there. One of the striking things was how sad most of them were. Our Italian clientele took us for lesser beings and even sometimes maltreated us. We have been in France for only two months now. The French seem nicer. We are all very tired and I am still having trouble finding my bearings. All I want is to find myself a husband and start a new life.
But to do that, I first need to pay back all that I owe. The older women, who take care of us have advised us to do whatever they ask and warned us not to try any dirty tricks. Recently, one of the girls tried to get away and was caught. She was beaten up mercilessly after which she received death threats. I have my sister and mother to think about”.
Testimony compiled by Nathalie Rohmer.
Janny is not her real name.