Friday, December 29, 2006

African prostitutes

Main

Now the Africans. All the evidence indicates that the largest group, possible half or most of the African prostitutes in the Netherlands are from Ghana. There’s a large Ghanian community in the Netherlands. The second largest group are the Nigerians.

When you’ll hear or read stories about madams and voodoo, that mainly applies to the Nigerians. The Nigerian prostitutes in the Netherlands mainly come from the Edo area. And according to the Wikipedia article about voodoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voodoo ) 80 percent of the population in the Edo area is an adherent to that religion. Also in the South Eastern Ghana are some adherents. But the Ghanians the Netherlands don’t seem to follow that religion.

It is strange that many (app a quarter) of the reported victims of human trafficking are from Africa, while many fieldworkers have the impression that especially the African prostitutes are very independent and professional. But some others disagree. It is difficult to explain this contradiction.

African prostitutes are described in "Illegaliteit en minderjarigheid in de prostitutie een jaar na de opheffing van het bordeelverbod" by
Goderie, Spierings en ter Woerds (2002, translated from Dutch into English)
page 31:

That way the group of Brazilians has completely disappeared since 2000. Initially African women came in their place. These women were nearly all victim of human trafficking and lived here with false documents.
page 56-57:
The threatening of family can affect prostitutes who work for a pimp when they indicate they want to stop with the work. The employees of a shelter facility for juvenile prostitutes notice that this signal can particularly be applied to African girls. The girls coming from Africa have an unclear story (despite the interference of interpreters and experts) and are often confused. There’s the impression that they live under a great fear, which has the result that they do not dare to tell what’s going on. It seems that these girls tell a story which was formulated beforehand. After keeping asking questions things turn out to be not right or impossible. What is clear is that they themselves and their family members are threatened with lots of things if they would withdraw from their trafficker. For aid workers it is very difficult to keep in contact with them. Usually the African girls disappear quickly from the shelter facility with unknown destination.

Helft aangiften mensenhandel vals [half of the number of reports made to the police by victims of human trafficking are false] (De Pers, April 2nd 2009) [translated from Dutch]
(...) Edwin Boer of the Landelijk Expertisecentrum Mensenhandel emphasizes that each report made by a victim is taken seriously, but establishes that investigators increasingly encounter a general story. The supposed victim then cannot name concrete facts and circumstances, so says Boer in RTL nieuws. (...) especially Nigerian women are being forced to abuse the [B9]-arrangement. Often women are involved who are exploited as a prostitute. (...)

In "Tom Marfo strijdt tegen gedwongen prostitutie" (by Anton de Wit in "Volzin", 15 November 2002) reverend Tom Marfo who offers help to African prostitutes speaks about African prostitutes in the Netherlands (translated from Dutch into English):
“The first thing I feel from my Christian inspiration when I see the girls on the street is compassion. I got to talk to some of the girls. I asked them how they came here. Why they did this work.” He found out that most girls end up in prostitution against their will. They pay a lot of money to human traffickers, with the expectation they will get a job or education in Western Europe. “They are tricked. I know a young women who wanted to continue her study of law here, but who ended up straight on de Wallen.”

In “Prostitutie naar een illegaal en onzichtbaar circuit?” by M.D.E. (Margit) Averdijk (2002, translated from Dutch into English):
page 85-87:

From interviews it turns out that respondents have little information at their disposal about African prostitutes. The BRZ (Bureau Regionale Zedenpolitie = Bureau regional vice police) suspects that most African women are victim of human trafficking due to the implausible and identical stories they tell. Proprietors generally know little about the African women. Regarding this one proprietor told that African women never tell anything about their background or their motives.

Mostly they roam through the whole country and come on their own (without an escort) to the club where they work two or three days. As soon as proprietors ask too many questions, for example about their identification, they then disappear again. From RBS-mutations [Recherche Basis Systeem] it turns out that for example when proprietors have doubts about the residence and work status of African women, the women refuse to let their identification papers be checked by the BRZ. One proprietor remarks that these African women ‘very gladly want to work, for whatever reason.’ (…)
Vellinga (1999 “West-Afrikaanse AMA’s: vermist, maar ook gemist? Een onderzoek naar de voorkoming van verdwijning van West-Afrikaanse alleenstaande minderjarige asielzoekster (AMA’s) uit opvangcentra in Nederland.”) found out through analysis of criminal investigation researches that what the women are telling is a story which had previously been instructed to them. Many West African women say they are AMA [Alleenstaande Minderjarige Asielzoeker = Single Minor Asylum Seeker] and report they are 15 or 16 years old. They tell that their parents have diseased and furthermore have nobody. Onboard of the airplane they have been helped by an unknown man who wanted to ‘help’ them (Vellinga, 1999). The similarities with the stories which had been told by the African prostitutes who had been encountered in Twente, are striking.
The stories told by the women however are not the real stories. The true story is that the girls in the country of origin, often Nigeria, have been recruited for prostitution. The recruiters are often also the women who have themselves worked in prostitution in Europe, after returning a couple of years later being rich, and recruit new young women and girls to follow their footsteps. The parents of the girl are approached by a recruiter with the question if their daughter wants to work in a Western country. Because of poverty the parents give their daughters to a recruiter. Although girls often know that they will be working in prostitution, they do not know what that entails. According to research (Van Dijk and others, 1999, “Een schijn van voodoo. Culturele achtergronden van de handel in Nigeriaanse meisjes voor de Nederlandse prostitutie: een verkenning.”) the meaning of sexuality and prostitution in Africa is different. In the Netherlands the girls are often exposed to violence and are being forced to perform sexual acts which they (can and are allowed to) refuse in Nigeria.
The women owe the recruiters money that they have to pay back by working. A voodoo priest is brought in who enforces an agreement and makes sure that the woman pays off her debt. Women often walk into a trap, where there are not only towering, hardly redeemable debts, but also intimidating ritual practices in which the traffickers have a big hand. According to research (Van Dijk and others, 1999) this involves voodoo in a manipulative sense of the word, where there are all kinds of intimidating practices of traffickers who abuse certain rituals to fill the women with fear. The goal of these rituals, which can also take place in the Netherlands, is to create a threatening context in which the women could come under a great pressure to pay off their debts. For this purpose also physical threats and violence is used.
The Dutch asylum procedure is used to bring Western African women into the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or elsewhere into prostitution. After arriving in the Netherlands the women, as was agreed, apply for political asylum, tell an instructed story and go - in relation to their (feigned) minority - into the AMA-procedure. In most cases the AMA’s leave the refugee centre within a view days ‘With Unknown Destination’. Namely after arriving in the refugee centre they call a memorised phone number of a trafficker in the Netherlands. The girls are collected and then are trafficked to a ‘madame’ for whom they have to work to pay off their debts (Vellinga, 1999).

Tom Marfo in "Breaking the spell" (in News Confidential, 21-7-2005, door Pete Saywer):
Marfo is typically modest about his achievements. Sitting in his flat with a commanding view overlooking the tower blocks, Marfo gestures towards the window. 'If we walked a bit down there I could show you where the women were marketed, bargained for and sold,' he says. 'The place was an open space-a sports area where people liked to be-but the bulldozers are very busy there now.'
'It was subtle and only those involved knew exactly what it was. For instance, you would see a guy walking [along] with three or four young girls. They would all have one trademark hairdo. Whenever you saw a guy with a lot of chains around his neck, or a woman with three or four girls following her, you knew it was a madam or a pimp.' The deals were done by nods and whispers. The girls were discreetly paraded in front of prospective buyers, sometimes from Belgium, Luxembourg or other parts of Europe. 'Usually the person who brings them will not put them to work but resell them to a second buyer,' explains Marfo. 'The second buyer may even sell them to a third buyer. But sure, the second buyer will use them.
'The price depends entirely on the physical appearance of the woman. A tall woman with a good figure and nice bone structure will get a good price, perhaps around 30,000 dollars.
'Once she's been "sold" her new "owner" will make her work to earn this money back. She remains a slave for a period of five to seven years. She has to work and she has to make about 60,000 to 80,000 dollars for this person. And until she's finished she remains effectively a slave.'
The girls are 'softened up' to make them more suitable for their new Owners, Marfo says. They are introduced to smoking, drinking and drugs to make them feel high and to lower their inhibitions, as for these girls it is a cultural shock too-they are not used to being naked in front of another person.
According to Marfo, the pimps and madams employ professional torturers and voodoo to scare the girls into submission. 'When the girls are bought they usually have to inculcate into them fear and respect [so that they] take orders, [and] never ask questions. 'It is a culture which is very heavily superstitious, with many gods. They take body parts like fingernails, blood from all parts of [the woman's] body, saliva, hair from her head, armpit and private parts, clothing and underwear. They use these to "conjure up" powers against you if you break any of their "rules". The girls believe that if they go against it they will die, and their parents will die. So [the gangs] keep them perpetually in this bondage.
'Coupled with this voodoo, there is the physical torture that they undergo daily. They are told that if they ever go to the police they are dead.
'But for many the biggest torture is psychological. It is threats against their parents back home in Africa. The girls are told that if they do not cooperate, their parents, brothers and sisters will be killed. The mother will call [and say] that people have come to her and threatened to kill her because she has been misbehaving. The mother will be pleading with her to work obediently.
'They become very pliable. I know of cases where even after they have been rescued they go back to the pimps. They have been so psychologically imprisoned that independence from them is quite a big task.
'Before they are brought here, legal contracts are sometimes signed by the parents, giving out their children to be sold like this. These are illiterate children and parents from the villages. They have never heard the word "dollar" before and they have no idea what it is, let alone how much it is in their currency. They have no idea that it means you have to be a slave for so many years.
'These girls are brought over as teenagers and they never finish paying until they are in their mid-to-late 20s. By the time they have finished paying, their whole womanhood is wasted and their life destroyed.
If the women are unlucky enough to fall pregnant through their work they face the prospect of a botched back-street abortion. 'Some of the girls have even been threatened with having their stomach hacked open and the foetus forcibly removed,' says Marfo. 'All these things put terrible stress on them and I have seen many cases where they have lost their minds.'

(...)

When the girls come to me I have a network and I call the madam or someone [like that]. If the pimp calls I speak to him politely. 'I say, "Come on let's talk. She is now my child; I am her custodian. She is mine." They respect me very highly within the community. All these girls and these pimps are also very religious. The pastor occupies a very high position. Often we resolve it very peacefully. A few times when they have tried to be stubborn, the perpetrators who have been converted handled the case and not me. 'At least 300 people have passed through my hands. The most exciting thing to me is when I see them put it behind them and get married, and I have the honour of blessing them-acting as both priest and father.'

More Marfo in Bevlogen pastor vecht tegen prostitutie (March 1, 2005) source website of IKON-RTV www.ikonrtv.nl (translated from Dutch into English):
According do the reverend there worked some 3000 African girls in the prostitution of Amsterdam in 2001 and 2002. [PS: I don’t believe that] “When at dawn you came to the Central Station to the metro, you saw hundreds of African girls who all came from de Wallen and were on their way to their place of residence in de Bijlmer.” Also thanks to the hard struggle of the Ghanian pastor, who from his organization Christian Aid and Resource Foundation (CARF) sets up all kinds of projects to shelter these women, this number has dropped to approximately 250. But also stricter police inspections and the declined economy have played a role, because suddenly not so much money could be made like during nineties.

A response of the Red Thread on their website (www.rodedraad.nl ) to the article by Menno van Dongen ("driekwart van de prostituees uitgebuit", May 4th, 2007) in the Volkskrant.
Three quarters of the prostitutes on de Wallen are rumoured to be working under some form of force. We are always wary about giving percentages, but we know that a lot is wrong in prostitution. Anyway, we know that many Eastern European prostitutes work under the supervision of a pimp or another criminal. We also have doubts about the level of independence of African prostitutes. What we do about it? We have information in many languages for women who want to change their situation. We hand it out on average once per month. We would like to do that more often, but we have limited means. We regularly emit signals of abuse in prostitution and are also a walking encyclopaedia for prostitutes. (…)

Verklaring over de uitzetting illegale prostituees [Declaration about the expulsion of illegal prostitutes](Amsterdam, June 2003 , of participants from het Platform verbetering positie (migranten) prostituees [Platform for the improvement of the position of (migrant) prostitutes], translated from Dutch into English) :
It is commonly known that many Nigerian women were transported to the Netherlands by criminal networks. Some fieldworkers report that many African prostitutes make a frightened impression. We have also learned that many among them cannot have control over their own passport. Aside from that many clients complain that many of these women ‘clearly don’t like the work’. These are all matters which score high on the list of possible signals of women trafficking. One can also wonder if some women who rob clients ‘together with their boyfriends’ do that completely of their own free will.

Artikel uit de Groene Amsterdammer over Nigeria (“Er is weer stroom”, by Joris van Casteren, 16-6-99) The name of Mudiaga Ofuoku is often mispelled in this article, I corrected this. Also see an article by the Ofuoku. It's called "Sex Export Dirty details of young Nigerian girls being sent to Europe for prostitution" (July 27, 1999), translated from Dutch into English:
When Dotun Oladipo is ready, editor Mudiaga Ofuoku is allowed behind the computer. His piece is about Nigerian women and minor Nigerian girls who disappear into Western prostitution. Ofuoku has discovered after intensive research that during the last couple of years the Netherlands is an increasingly more popular destination. Ofuoku: ‘The circumstances in the Netherlands are good for Nigerian prostitutes. Better anyway than in Italy, where for ages the girls went to. Dutch people are much more calmer in bed than Italians. The girls were ought to make love with dogs and gorillas by the Italians. That doesn’t happen in the Netherlands. There even seems to be a labour union for whores in the Netherlands.’
That the girls are forced into prostitution by criminal organizations is a misconception according to Ofuoku. ‘In nine out of ten cases it are the parents or husbands who sell the girls as slaves. Especially in Benin City (a city three hundred kilometres east of Lagos – jvc) this happens on a big scale. People in Benin are show-offs. When one has a beautiful second-hand car in front of the door, the other one has an even more beautiful second-hand car. He can’t allow it but he’ll sacrifies his wife or daughter for it. They were ought to send as much money as possible from abroad or to return after several years with a big fortune.’
Ofuoku has just come back from Benin. ‘When you walk through the city you see relatively many more expensive houses and cars than in other Nigerian cities. I have spoken with five girls. One of them was on the brink of travelling to the Netherlands. They don’t fly directly from Lagos to Amsterdam anymore, but via Ghana or Ivory Coast.’ It doesn’t matter according to Ofuoku how strictly the Netherlands inspects, the girls will find their way anyhow. ‘When they have entered the country they report themselves as asylum seeker. Or they seduce the military policemen, that seems to be easy. In Amsterdam there’s a network that makes sure that the girls are taken from the [refugee-]centre.’

Liesbeth Venicz about African prostitutes in her report “Achter de ramen, veldwerk onder raamprostituees in Groningen” [“Behind the windows, fieldwork among window prostitutes in Groningen”](1998). She had contact with 18 African prostitutes: 12 Ghanian, 5 Nigerian and 1 Sudanese. (translated from Dutch into English):
page 9:
Most African women come from Ghana and Nigeria. Also they work for family in the country of origin [just like the Latin American women she mentioned earlier]. It is sometimes difficult to approach the African women. A problem that is also observed in other places in the country. They often switch a lot from workplace and residence just like the Latin American women and they are not always approachable. Especially when their residence permit is not completely in order. Especially official authorities are distrusted, which is given the experiences in the home country, not surprising. Also African women are apt to solve problems within their own group.
page 13:
It is striking that in this area [concerning pimps] the African and Latin American women adopt a more independent attitude than the European women. While shaking her head, the Nigerian B. tells about the row she witnessed earlier that day between a Dutch prostitute and her boyfriend, everybody in the street knows that he beats her. She doesn’t understand that the girl stays with him. “European women believe they are nothing without a man.”

"Achter het cliché — hulp en dienstverlening aan prostituees in Den Haag — werkmethodiek in ontwikkeling" [“Behind the cliché — aid and services to prostitutes in The Hague — working methology in development”] (1999, Ellie Teunissen [red.], SPP [Stichting Prostitutie Projecten Den Haag])
page 32:

The African women form a very closed group, which furthermore is very internally divided between different nationalities and cultures. They mostly turn out not to have a passport at their disposal and are strictly convinced that they are being discriminated by the white world because of their skin colour. Most of them have a long journey behind them. They have found excellent survival strategies and won’t divulge them. Assistance has difficulties approaching these women. The African women can be approached by churches and find support here for their spiritual needs, in their relationship to God. Their relationship with social institutes is minimal. Because it is insufficiently clear which nationality they have, English or French surely is the medium of communication, but the conversations don’t make clear where really is need for. Because there are so many nationalities and cultures, it is difficult to establish which kind of female fieldworker should be brought into action to gain trust. Acquiring a Dutch residence permit is the most important question.

In the report “Gezondheid in de raamprostitutie” ["Health in window prostitution"] (1992) by Dr Licia Brussa African prostitutes are being interviewed on the Achterdam in Alkmaar (page 17-19). These African women were probably from Ghana (once she mentions them as being Ghanian).The response was almost one hundred percent, so it cannot be said that only the emancipated women have been interviewed (she spoke with 5 African women). Also here are the result completely the reverse of the information I mentioned earlier about African prostitutes. (translated from Dutch into English):
The African women are satisfied about their workplace and in general also about their work. They experience the atmosphere as good, relaxed and calm. They find the chambers big and clean. (…)
The closeness of this group is also very big [just like the Latin Americans mentioned earlier in that report], they arrange everything with their fellow countrywomen. The rest of the environment (operators, colleagues, doctor) have to keep a distance. Others are not experienced as hostile, but they are different. Most of all, the women believe it’s a sign of dependency when asking for help. (…)
The African women have chosen the workplace themselves. They got information about working in Alkmaar from girlfriends who introduced them here. Before their departure they already were given information that they would be working here in prostitution; therefore they were aware about the purpose of their trip.
The working hours of this group are reasonable: six hours a day on average. Therefore the women work much less that the Latin American women. They say that they rest a lot and they determine the working hours for themselves. Furthermore they are satisfied about their income: they have no debts which have to be paid off, and they feel much less - compared to the Latin American women - the pressure of the duty to maintain their families. (…)
The reason to leave their country, with the knowledge that they would work in the Netherlands as prostitutes, is also different than of the Latin American women. For Latin American women economical motives apply: debts or the care of their children. African women say: I wanted to travel and look how it is in other countries, that’s good for your upbringing, or: You can also learn of other countries. So it’s all about a choice that they made for themselves: to gain experience or to educate themselves personally.

“Handel in Nigeriaanse meisjes naar Nederland” [“Traffic in Nigerian girls to the Netherlands”](1999) by Terre des Hommes and the NDMN (De Nigeriaanse Vereniging Nederland [The Nigerian foundation in the Netherlands]). (translated from Dutch into English):
page 21:
Bierhuizen of the team Mensenhandel en Prostitutie [human trafficking and prostitution]:“It looks as if the Nigerians don’t have to put much pressure on the girls. Often the girls go to their workplace independently and nobody stands outside to watch over them. Through the use of voodoo it is not necessary to threaten them and this way you can exploit them for months or years.” Venicz of the NISSO: “Nigerians barely show interest in violence. Through violence the girls don’t work well and moreover they don’t look well. For Nigerians it’s not about the sex but about the money. They won’t initiate a virgin by raping her, but by selling her for extra money. You can call Nigerians the ‘soft-mafia’. Eastern European Mafiosi guard the girls, are better organized and use more sex and violence.”

Voodoo many times seems to be not so intimidating for the Nigerian women as many imagine. According to the report “Een schijn van Voodoo” (2000) bij the Afrika Studie Centrum the importance of voodoo is strongly overestimated. Voodoo as we now it here (with the zombies and the dolls) is different than the voodoo in Benin. These rituals are very common and are a very normal practice. Often agreements between persons are enforced by a ritual in a temple, the priests collects material from the bodies of the persons (like sperm or hair) and put that into a small package. So the fact that many Nigerian prostitutes in the Netherlands underwent a voodoo-ritual is not so strange at all and probably many times those experiences were not so nasty for the women. But the report gives some examples where those experiences actually were intimidating (like being locked into a big pot for days). Sometimes the traffickers perform the rituals themselves. This report also says that many Nigerian prostitutes are not so prudish about sex at all. The sexual freedom for women and girls in the Edo area in Nigeria is big. Many prostitutes probably already had paid sexual relationships, but they didn’t expect that they were supposed to work under such bad circumstances in the Netherlands.

There's also the report “Tutu, Ghanese prostituées in Nederland” (1995) by Babbe de Thouars and Marc van Osch. They (secretly) interviewed 5 prostitutes among many other (Ghanian) respondents. According to this report there were some estimated 15.000 Ghanians in the Netherlands in 1992 of whom 10.000 in Amsterdam (estimates by the vreemdelingendienst = aliens registration department). In 1994 there were 7.026 Ghanians who were registered, over 50% of them lived in Amsterdam (translated from Dutch into English):
page 20:
After arrival in the Netherlands the ethnic background is not registered or recorded in the identity papers. For that reason there is no exact data available about the ethnic background of the Ghanian migrants. It is presumable however that the majority of the Ghanians who reside in the Netherlands belong to the Akan-group, of whom the Ashanti are a majority (Van 't Hoff 1992). In Ghana 44% of the population belongs to this group.
page 23:
From an exploratory research among Ghanian prostitutes in Amsterdam in 1992 it comes to the fore that comparatively many of the women prostitute themselves. The share of prostitutes was called relatively high and amounts to a quarter of the registered women. Given the fact that the number of illegal Ghanians vastly exceeds the number of legal Ghanians this proportion says little about the real scale of the share of prostitutes. Nonetheless the position that a comparatively large proportion of the Ghanian women works in prostitution is subscribed to by many Ghanians. (…)
page 24:
The Ghanian researcher Akosua Adomako did a research in 1991 into causes of why Ghanian women in Europe and the Netherlands ended up in prostitution. She made a discernment into three groups. As the first she named the women who were victim of women trafficking. Traffickers bring the women through deception and false pretences to Europe with the goal of letting them prostitute themselves. The second category contains the women who by their illegal residence status, financial need and the lack of alternatives are forced into prostitution. A proportion of these women have monetary obligations towards their family or persons who have paid for their travel to Europe. Problems with their debt relief is a problem in which prostitution seems to offer a solution. The last group contains the group of professional prostitutes who come to Europe because they view the European prostitution market as one which has more possibilities.
Mathilde Papoe concludes in her research that of the prostitutes in Europe a third was already working in prostitution before migrating to Europe, a third had a vague idea what kind of work was awaiting them and the rest expected to find a good job or a serious marriage partner (De Stoop 1992, 'Ze zijn zo lief mijnheer'). (…)
page 26:
From our research it turns out that for a large number of women from Ghana there’s no real freedom of choice when they end up in prostitution. Their situation leaves no other option. It’s clear that the illegal residence status op de Ghanian women plays an important role: it weakens their position and therefore limits their freedom of choice and possibilities. Prostitution becomes a means to survive. With that comes the fact that the women who stay here have a larger chance of becoming a victim of traffickers and pimps.
Nearly all respondents were familiar with the fact that Ghanian women were brought to Europe with the goal of bringing them into prostitution. In many case the women are recruited in Ghana and eventually forced by deception, blackmailing and violence to prostitute themselves in the Netherlands. (…)
page 29:
The general tendency which is observed is that the number of Ghanian women in window prostitution during the last few years is dwindling. The Decentrale Controle Prostitutie sees the Ghanian group shifting more and more to the –unfavourable- nightly hours and their numbers declining.
For example the Oudekerksplein formerly was completely Ghanian. And we noticed that there, now certainly also during the evening, there are only Colombian and Dominican girls with only a few Ghanians in between them.
page 35:

For many Ghanians it is important to have a husband or wife to be a respected member of society. For the prostitutes having a man is therefore a way to cover up their working practices. (…)
Because almost nobody wants a prostitute as a wife it is said that the woman has to buy a man. She is dying because nobody loves her, so she has to buy it, says a female respondent. Conversely what applies to men: … the men come in to get something. Not love, they only want their money. (…)
The boyfriends of these women are partly the men who lure the women from Ghana with false promises to then force them into prostitution. Another group are the men who approach these women because of the money what they earn. Multiple respondents call them lazy and cheap. The boyfriends bring the women to their work and collect them. They don’t protect the women during their work, but sit all day in front of the television drinking and smoking, of the money that the women earn.
Nearly all the respondents report the fact that the boyfriends also try to obtain residence permits through the women. When this has be achieved they are rumoured to often leave with another woman. The money is often used for the needs of the man.
page 38-39:
The image of prostitutes is fairly stereotypical and this way gives information about how one thinks about the women. The women are associated with things like smoking, drinking, drugs and all these things…
During a visit to a prostitute it turned out that she indeed already drank beer in the morning and smoke joints. She told that she never took breakfast and when food was offered to her in the afternoon she refused. She couldn’t tell why she never ate. A Dutch prostitute who works with multiple Ghanian prostitutes in the same passage [window prostitution], told also to be surprised about the eating, smoking and drinking habits of the women.
According to one respondent the women don’t eat because they don’t want to eat alone.
Sometimes they make good food, but they can’t eat. Maybe they want somebody to join them. Africa is so. (In Africa it is customary to eat together. Because nobody wants to eat with her here, eating alone is probably too confrontational. BdT and MvO)

From "Migrant Prostitutes In The Netherlands" by Licia Brussa in "A Vindication of the Rights of Whores" edited by Gail Pheterson (1989), based on a pilot study on migrant prostitutes in Amsterdam in 1985:
page 236-237:
In the last four years the presence of Ghanaian women became more conspicuous in the Dutch prostitution world. A small percentage of the African prostitutes come from other countries (such as Somalia, Mozambique, Senegal or Ethiopia) but most of them come fram Ghana. It is difficult to come into contact with the Ghanaian women because, like Southeast Asian women, they usually work in clubs, bars, private houses, peep shows and to a small extent behind the windows in the red-light district. Also, they live in a closed community and sixty percent of them are illegal. They tend to consult private doctors and not to use social services; they prefer solving their problems through informal contacts within their own community. Due to their background and their social-cultural position in their own country, Ghanaian women are business-like, active and independent, also in relation to men.
The presence of many Ghanaians among illegal immigrants is linked to Ghanaian trade. Generally the immigration pattern is like a chain reaction; the man leaves Ghana first, followed by his wife, followed by other relatives and fellow-villagers. In this situation of illegal family re-uniting, the man usually cannot support his wife and other relatives on his small, unsteady trade. Periods of extreme poverty are not uncommon.
Little data is available on traffic in African women. Some women did talk about networks between Ghana and Europe. Important connections are said to exist with French criminal organizations and some cases are known about cooperation between European agents and the African underworld. Women are sometimes transported to Europe by way of marriages-of-convenience, arranged in Britain, France, Gibraltar or Germany. Thus, a certain percentage of the Ghanaian women possess a Dutch passport because of marriage to a Dutch man. It seems unlikely, however, that the traffic in African women is set up by a large-scale international organization.

From 'Tampep - final report' (1994, edited by Licia Brussa)
Page 47-49:
Sex workers from Ghana and Benin.

The women
The target group of TAMPEP in Holland consists of women from Ghana and Benin. They are mostly Ghanaians who speak English or at least Pidgin English, but they do not speak Dutch.
These women originate predominantly from the town of Kumasi in the Ashanti region while a minority comes from Accra.
We approached these women at the windows in Alkmaar, Arnhem and Nijmegen.
Their reasons for travelling to Europe are always economic, because their backgrounds are usually poor, they come to find work in order to care for their relatives back home and also to be able to live better lives. They find work and earn money they would never be able to get in their own country.
The women try to improve the economic situations of their families by buying them some machinery or cars so they can use it in their countries.
African culture demands that you look after your family, otherwise you are useless. This is especially so when travelling abroad because those who have not been abroad think it is paradise in Europe, and they assume there will be plenty of opportunity to help their families in Africa.
Most of the women have children in Ghana who are being taken care of by the family.
The population of Ghana can be divided into three social groups. The top one consists of the self-employed who are generally rich, the middle one is made up of the civil servants, and on the bottom are the unemployed and poor people. The civil servants, although they have permanent work, do not earn much money.
The social role of Ghanaian women is based on the fact that they have to be able to bear children, otherwise they are worthless. When a woman is infertile, her relationship with her husband is not very stable because the man can always find another woman who can have children for him.
Ghanaians believe - and live - in the extended family, so everyone in a family has to behave well in order to preserve the good name of his/her family.
The women consider Europe to be a paradise where one becomes rich quickly. Many of them become disappointed when they realize that life is not so easy in Europe and feel pity that they left behind their better jobs. They regret coming but cannot go back because they either have debts to settle or have sold all their properties. They cannot go back with bare hands, so they accept any work.
Since prostitution is taboo in Ghana, the women do not consider themselves as prostitutes. Prostitution is for them a way to get big money quickly. None of their relatives back in Africa will ever know what kind of profession they exercised during their stay in Europe.
Some of them wish to bring over their children to Europe, so they are in a hurry to earn sufficient capital to allow them to finish with the profession as soon as their children arrive and show them that their mothers are normal, respectable women who have nothing to do with prostitution.
Many of them have given birth to children in Africa before they set off for Europe. Normally they break up with the father of their children before travelling and find themselves a new boyfriend in Europe. They are afraid that their profession might lead to infertility, so if they do not have children yet, they try to have a child before they get really deeply into the job.

How they arrive in the West
The ways they come here are varied. In most cases they are brought over by their families in order to live with people who have already settled themselves in Europe.
In other cases, they are brought by husbands, relatives, or by someone else on an agreement to take something back like money or a car. The women do not explicitly come to work in prostitution - they would take any job that is available. But as they have no permission to stay, or a work permit, many of them will be compelled to work in prostitution, especially if their transfer is being arranged by a sister who is a prostitute herself, or by a stranger who wishes something in return.
If such a go-between is a stranger who demands a considerable amount of money for her or his services, prostitution is the only way to earn enough to cover debts plus saving some money to return to Ghana.
Their routes to the Netherlands are varied; in most cases they acquire the visa of any European country, and then they travel from one country to another. African women are popularly known to work in windows, so we chose to work in windows and not in clubs, where very few are found.

Ghanaian prostitutes in Holland
The Ghanaian female community can be divided socially into three groups. The top group is formed by women who are not prostitutes, the middle consists of the ex-prostitutes and the bottom group is formed by women who currently work in prostitution.
There is much rivalry and jealousy between these groups. The women working currently as prostitutes feel ashamed and guilty, but at the same time they despise the other women because they have no money. The women of the first group feel themselves superior to the rest. The former prostitutes are despised by all the others.
At the beginning, even if the prostitutes come from different regions and tribes of Ghana, they are friendly to each other provided they have no conflict based on jealousy or rivalry, which happens quite often. In such a situation the women quarrel, accuse each other of using juju (black magic), or even beat each other up.
They like to work with white men, specially with Dutch and some tourists (Germans, Italians etc) because they are generous. On the other hand, other tourists (British) are not very much liked as customers because they are difficult in terms of money.
They find that the white clients have more respect for white prostitutes than for the black ones.
They never work with blacks, unless in very bad times, but then they make sure they are not from Africa or they are not a friend of their husband's.
The Turks and Moroccans who live in Holland are considered as wicked, and the women do not like working with them.

The mobility of the women
African prostitutes are very mobile. They have many contacts in Europe through their relatives and friends. Most of the women we approached circulate continuously between different countries and towns in Europe. Their mobility is due to the fact that they work without pimps so they are free to move. They also want to work far away from their community in order not to be recognised by someone they know.
Some women with a husband living in Amsterdam or elsewhere, go home every couple of weeks and stay there for some time. At the same time they want to keep their workroom and window, so the women have developed something of a network, exchanging the rooms with a girlfriend and keeping their belongings there. So the woman never lets the room go. When she plans to move to another town, she arranges that her colleague takes over the room during her absence.
If the woman works far away from her home, she does not come home often because the distance is so large. She stays away for about three months and then goes home for three or four weeks.

The women from Benin
The Benin women who claim themselves as Nigerians are in many aspects different from the Ghanaians. They are not very numerous in the Netherlands.
They maintain close relations with each other and there are no conflicts between them.
They can read and write well.
They have a great deal of respect for their bodies and they always want to know more facts about safe practices. They are much more open and participate fully and ask questions about anything they do not know. This is probably due to the fact that they feel free in the Netherlands because they are not under the control of their own communities or husbands as would be the case in Belgium or Italy.
They accept themselves as prostitutes (but only in Europe) so they are eager to learn more about their profession. They are willing to learn all sorts of new things from TAMPEP provided they sound reasonable to them. They pass this knowledge quickly to their fellow Nigerians, whichever country they may be in. They are also mobile but only between Belgium and Italy.

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