Cross-Border Sex Trade, Transnational Remittances and Changing Family Structures among Benin People of Southern Nigeria

Article excerpt

Abstract

The paper examined Benin women who migrate for the purpose of cross border sexual transactions. It also assessed the changes in the traditional Benin family structure, mediated by the prevalence of Benin women migrants and their financial contributions to their families.

The study relied on qualitative data generated through Household-based Interviews; Key Informant Interviews, Vignette-based Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and Life Histories. A total of 18 vignette-based FGDs were held among adult males, adult females and youths (using -a story of sex-trafficking that ended on "successful" note and a tragic story of a sex-trafficked victim). Also, five (5) Key Informants who were selected on the basis of their social statuses in the Benin Society were interviewed.

Findings showed that the traditional Benin family structure, prior to women migration for the purpose of sexual transaction, which was organized on the basis of age and sex, is fast eroding. Many of these women who have been successful in trans-border sexual transaction, despite their sex or age in the family, are now the centre of authority and pivot of important family decisions. This is as a result of the huge sum of money they remit to their families. Furthermore, findings from showed that Benin women who are direct beneficiaries of transnational remittances from their daughters' sexual transaction overseas, can now access critical resources which were previously inaccessible due to the traditional inheritance system-rule of primogeniture. Consequently, most of these women in this category have become the shadow bread winners in their families by providing for the daily upkeep of family members. Also, many of such women have erected edifices for themselves, parents or husbands, while others have provided adequate financial resources for their family members to open up businesses.

The study concludes that based on the pervasive notion of the utility of transnational remittances obtained from sex trafficking in aiding family economic advancement in the region, stemming the tide by making anti trafficking laws will at best reduce the incidence for a while but cannot curtail the trend. This has an implication of compromising the integrity of the contemporary Benin family, as a socialization agency for its members.

Introduction

Many Nigerian families are currently under pressure as a result of the intense economic crises and degree of poverty in nation (Onimode, 1989). Available data suggest that the level of poverty and deprivation is such that 34miliom people out of an estimated population 140 million Nigerians live below absolute poverty level. The effects of these phenomena of intense poverty, economic recession, unstable polity and decline in values as depicted in Nigerian nation have on the family structure, to say the least is devastating and profound. Perhaps no where is the change in family structure and function well depicted within the Nigerian context, than the current imbroglio of women trafficking for the purpose of transactional sex work across the nation's borders. This phenomenon has become a national concern. The number of women deported from Europe over illegal migration, for the purpose of sexual transaction, has continued to soar. Consequently, UNICEF particularly labeled Nigeria as a leading country in human trafficking especially as regards trafficking of the under aged or minors (Skogeth, 2006). The tragic growth of international prostitution in Nigeria has enlisted her as the source of "raw material" for the world's sex industry in several parts of Africa, Spain, Norway, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Venezuela in South America (Norli, 2006).

Curiously, majority of the illegal migrants who are also trafficked victims deported into Nigeria are from a particular ethnic group in Nigeria, popularly known as 'Benin'. Benin City is the ancestral home of indigenous Benin and also the capital of Edo State in the Southern part of Nigeria. …