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Sister Vanaja Jasphine

Indian nun rescues Cameroonian sex slaves from Middle East

YAOUNDE, Aug 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A celebrated Indian nun who rescues Cameroonian women from slavery in the Middle East has called for greater support for victims to help them recover from the horrors of being drugged, raped and abused.

Sister Vanaja Jasphine says she has identified more than 200 women who have been trafficked from the central African nation and enslaved in the Middle East in recent years.

The 39-year-old nun last year helped to bring home 14 trafficking victims, whom she refers to as Cameroon’s “children”.

A rising number of African women are heading to the Middle East for domestic work, driven abroad by the lack of jobs at home, rights activists say. Yet many have their passports confiscated and end up trapped in modern-day slavery.

“One woman was thrown from the balcony of a two-storey building by her employer after she accidentally burnt her boss’s shirt whilst ironing,” Jasphine said of a victim in Kuwait.

Others are drugged and turned into sex slaves – being raped multiple times a day and even forced to have sex with animals.

“They come home with a lot of trauma,” Jasphine, coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of Kumbo, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a seminary in the capital Yaounde.

“Sometimes, a (woman forced to be a) sex worker can be exploited 15 times a day – physically, mentally, she’s drained … she’s gone,” added the nun, who moved to northwest Cameroon almost a decade ago to work with the country’s poorest.

“In the end, she doesn’t have anything. She comes back in the same dress she left in.”

Jasphine was hailed in June as one of eight global heroes in the fight against trafficking at the launch of the United States’ annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which grades countries on their efforts to stamp out modern-day slavery.

But Jasphine has no time for celebrations.

She is too busy seeking funding, counselling and support for victims left traumatised by their ordeal abroad.


Jasphine says she identifies trafficking victims by working with activists, community leaders and civil society groups.

To raise awareness about their plight, she has helped organise demonstrations, where women have marched with placards reading: ‘Bring back our suffering daughters’.

“We got a lot of support from the people,” said Jasphine.

“It touches every heart because they (the people) feel: ‘It’s my own child who is affected, who is exploited’.”

She has also lobbied government officials, all the way to the country’s prime minister, to do more to help the women.

Cameroon has made strides towards meeting the U.S. minimum standards to end trafficking, having provided services to some victims and sent a delegation to the Middle East to discuss Cameroonian workers’ rights, the 2017 TIP report said.

Yet the state has not funded repatriation for slavery victims stranded in the Middle East, and continues to rely on civil society groups to bring trafficking cases to its attention and provide most services for victims, the report said.

The government has tried to crack down on Cameroonians travelling to the Middle East, but traffickers have changed tactics, and are instead flying women via Nigeria, Jasphine said.

She said the government must now do more to help those coming home.

Although her organisation and other groups try to help victims get back on their feet, take them to hospital and provide counselling, it is simply not enough, the nun warned.

“It is very disheartening,” Jasphine said, showing a series of distressed text messages from one of the women she helped to rescue from Kuwait, who is now struggling financially.

“Much more needs to be done.” (Reporting By Inna Lazareva, editing by Kieran Guilbert and Emma Batha.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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  1. In this story, the main thing to highlight here is these so-called sex slaves are from the north west of Cameroon.
    Ngraffi at it again….

    • Mbappe-USA-Pinguiss Killer

      You this smelly gorilla again! Is it not your beti ewondo bulu fang Eton criminals that have made life unbearable for them in their own country before they are escaping to Arab dungeons? It is more honourable to go out looking for work than staying home to steal tax payers money or eating the excess Daddy stole from the treasury. Even the ones that stay behind end up being raped and murdered like Rev Balla or their organs harvested for Eboutou Ngoh Ngoh rituals. And if we did up the dirt properly, the trafficking agent will end up in a Beti francophone backyard just like the other criminal that was trafficking kids to go and play football but end up being frustrated and homeless in the steeets of Europe.

    • Mbappe-USA-Pinguiss killer

      Is it not because the Beti Ewondo Bulu thieves have made life unbearable for them in their country you this forest gorilla? If this dirt is dug up the properly, the organizing agent behind it may still be the same Beti thief like the one that was caught on camera deceiving families and smuggling their children to the streets of Paris to play football. Monkey

  2. man no di know

    See ur smelling mop

  3. The solution to this problem, is that gov`t should come up with stiff measures
    on prostitution in that country. From their stories and actions, women in that country,
    think that being woman, was meant to use their bodies for a living. Even in
    marital homes, it is not easy, considering the fact that men turn to suffer alot from their
    wives from want of this and that etc and when this is not forthcoming, your guess is as
    good as mine. Women in the Middle East, are cage and they are criticized and ridicled,
    but the bottom line, is that that mindset of selling their bodies and degrading womanhood,
    has to be killed to the barest minimum.
    Women should be forced, to stand up and fight their war. They have no justification for
    their actions and its consequences. It is too much from them.

  4. ‘The nun moved to NORTHWEST CAMEROON almost a decade ago to work with the COUNTRY’S POOREST’. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

    • You are really the lesser man in this forum. The poorest people in the world are considered to be inhabiting the whole of sub Saharan Africa living below a $ a day and this region constitute only a tiny fraction of Africa’s dictators man made hell. At least they have some of the country’s best confessional schools/hospitals compared to the health centres in the rest. I still recall the only cardiac hospital in the whole of west Africa in in this “perceived” poor area. The last time I visited majority of the patients were even French speakers. You are deteriorating something else my man.

  5. This is a problem that should worry those who parade around as the paragons of patriotism, often enunciating policies at odds with the nation’s realities. “Go to school” has become such a sing-song that one would think schooling is the panacea to everything. Did these helpless girls ever go to school? If so whatever happened to their diplomas to warrant engaging in such odysseys?

    Nor is this sad problem limited to women. There are Cameroonian sons who have rendered their families highly indebted simply to find money to travel to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, etc and play football! Upon reaching these places football turns into nightmares, calling for the country’s diplomatic missions to repatriate them!

    If CRTV could beam a searchlight at the entire orchestra of this saga,….

  6. These stories come up every day from the middle east, but our egoistic african Girls will never listen when you advice them.Before they know it,, they,re in nightmare.
    I have a female Cousin in Cameroon who doesn,t talk to me cos i advice her never to think of travelling to middle east for domestic work,, she thinks i envy her not to travel, I wish she could be reading such stories.to realise that i,m marely saving her life.
    Arabs are very wicked People especially when it Comes to dealing with Africans.
    Anyone who has a female Family member in one of These countries should rather seek for means to locate and bring her back home.Others are drugged and turned into sex slaves – being raped multiple times a day and even forced to have sex with animals, just imagine this. God help Africa

  7. Because society condones with this nonsense, that is why it can not stop, eventhough
    we know its consequences.

  8. poverty, illiteracy, joblessness has been driving young Cameroonians away to all sorts of despicable acts , the government in the last 57 years has failed to empower many of their youths, desperately trying to escape from a banana republic run by old dictators, out of touch men and women who continue to ignore their existence as human beings,many die trying to cross the Mediterranean, it is a shame that it takes a foreigner to have compassion for these women since their own government is heartless and uncaring, what is the job of the the government ambassadors? these banana people are as arrogant as their colonial chief in commander, bunches of wasteful representatives, they should copy other civilised Ambassadors & embassies in the world who oversee the daily welfare of citizens