When Florence broke out in lesions on her face, she was convinced it was because she had crossed a black magic curse cast on her as she left Nigeria to work in Russia’s sex trade.
Florence is one of a rising number of women lured in recent years from impoverished lives in southern Nigeria to Europe with the promise of lucrative work, many ending up selling sex.
Although some of the women knowingly entered into contracts for sex work, few realised they would be trapped like slaves for years, with their traffickers colluding with madams to ensure black magic curses, or juju, stopped them escaping.
For belief in juju to kill or maim is deeply rooted in Edo state, the home of about nine in every 10 Nigerian women trafficked to Europe, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), with a battle now waging to end witchcraft’s hold over trafficking victims.
Florence, 24, said she had not known she was headed for sex work six years ago when she agreed to a loan to fund a trip to work in Russia in a deal brokered by a pastor from her church.
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