A nun, named as one of eight global heroes in the fight against trafficking, has called for greater support for sex slaves. Sister Vanaja Jasphine rescues Cameroonian women from slavery in the Middle East. She brought home 14 trafficking victims last year.

In the last few years, the nun has identified over 200 women who have been trafficked from Cameroon and enslaved in the Middle East.

Many African women go to the Middle East due to lack of jobs at home. Once they reach the region, their employers confiscate their passports and are mistreated, she says.

She narrates how a man threw a woman off a balcony of a two-storey building after she accidentally burnt his shirt while ironing. Some are raped multiple times a day, she says.

Jasphine has helped raise awareness about these women with demonstrations in Cameroon. Women have marched with placards like “Bring back our suffering daughters”.

She lobbies with government officials and has even lobbied with Cameroon’s Prime Minister, urging him to do more to help the women. “It touches every heart because they (the people) feel: ‘It’s my own child who is affected, who is exploited’.”

She says that the government needs to do a lot more to repatriate women who have been abused as sex slaves in the Middle East. Her organisation tries to help victims get back on their feet, takes them to hospital, and provides them counselling

The women are lured to the Middle East with false promises of jobs as teachers or nurses. Through her organisation, Jasphine has played a key role in identifying the trend of Cameroonians travelling to the Middle East and being forced into sex trafficking. She has lobbied with the government to take actions like drafting migrant worker agreements and enhancing screening measures at airports

There are many stories of Indian workers who have been exploited in countries like Saudi Arabia. In another case of exploitation, a woman from Hyderabad, Zabeena Begum, was tortured by a doctor couple who had employed her. She is stranded in the country without money. When she went to the police, they sent her back to her employers.

Also Read: Women and children prone to human trafficking in the aftermath of floods, warn aid workers

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