Child prostitution in the Republic of the Congo
The Republic of Congo
Project Monma travelled to the Republic of the Congo to learn more about how young girls get drawn into prostitution. We visited local organizations and went to the streets and local bars frequented by child prostitutes, to attempt to learn more about what was pushing girls as young as 12 years old onto the streets to work in prostitution.
We first met with Amelie Lukuba from Association de Solidarite Internationale (ASI), a French-based organization trying to stem the flow of young girls moving into prostitution in Pointe-Noire and Brazzavile.
Patrolling the streets at night, a team from ASI looks for young girls who are working as prostitutes, mostly between 14 and 18 years old. They try to encourage the girls to stop working in prostitution and to show them that they have value in other ways.
“When you are alone and you don’t have parents it’s really difficult for young women to survive,” Lukuba said. “We are in a country that is considered rich because of the oil, but the people don’t receive the benefits. Young girls feel that prostitution is the only way to survive.”
Congo has attracted an influx of foreigners from French oil companies as well as Chinese and Malaysian construction workers. Along with Congolese men, the foreign men are reportedly clients of underage girls, ASI members said.
There were reports of girls Lebanese client and he gave her an electric shock in her vagina,” said Tsaty from ASI. “Sometimes the girls go to the Chinese clients and there can be five or six men at one time.”
There have been cases where girls have sold themselves for only $2.
There have also been cases where girls have been forced into prostitution due accusations of witchcraft. The Pentocostal church, one of the most popular denominations in the country, is telling parishioners that when something bad happens to a family member it is because of witchcraft. Young girls may be cast onto the street after being accused of being a witch or having received an evil spirit from the devil and that is why they become prostitutes.
Fears of witchcraft also prevent girls from speaking out against violence. They fear that should they accuse a man of violence he will then go to a marabout, the local witchdoctor who will cast a spell against them.
Women and girls face a further threat of being drawn into slavery. Congo is both a source and destination country for human trafficking.
Women and girls are brought in from Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Mali to be sold into sexual slavery, some as young as 9 years old.
Claire Mark, a human-rights specialist with the US embassy in Brazzaville said that girls are brought in from Benin on fishing boats to be sold into domestic servitude, many of who later fall into prostitution. Children as young as 6 are lured by traffickers with promises of a better life.
“Everyone in the community must be responsible, everyone must do something,” Kouykaba said who works as ASI. “We must stop condemning prostitutes and improve the situation for women in general in the Congo. Girls must also speak out against rape and all the violence that they are facing. They don’t have to keep quiet.”