“All I wanted was to go home,” recalls a Malagasy woman here in the capital of the island nation of Madagascar, which lies off southeastern Africa. Trafficking in vulnerable women, especially to go abroad, is a significant issue here – as it is in many low-income countries.
The problem’s dimensions here are as bad as anywhere. Madagascar is both a source and a destination of victims of trafficking (VoTs). According to research by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and its partners, women are particularly vulnerable and subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour in the domestic sector within the country. Thousands of Malagasy women are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of Malagasy women are sent by persons acting as informal placement agents on false pretense of legitimate work to China and end up exploited in forced labour and sold as brides.
That’s why earlier this month (11 February) IOM launched a six-month initiative to promote human rights and empower Malagasy women victims of trafficking in persons (TiP).
VoTs in Madagascar are almost exclusively women (95% of identified VoTs), and mostly young women (56% aged 29, or less). When identified, these victims show grave signs of physical and psychological trauma related to the forms of exploitation that constitute the crime of trafficking, with nearly half reporting physical and sexual abuse, as well as economic hardship.
Since the mid-1990s, IOM and its partners have provided protection and assistance to close to 100,000 trafficked persons globally. IOM takes a comprehensive approach to addressing human trafficking. In Madagascar, this effort complements IOM’s multi-year support programme to the government and civil society organizations aimed at enhancing the criminal justice system’s response through victim-centered investigations and prosecutions of trafficking cases; strengthening coordination of the national anti-trafficking response; and improving data collection and reporting.
In 2018, upon the request of its partners in the Government of Madagascar, IOM worked with civil society stakeholders to assist close to 140 Malagasy women VoTs, a 400 per cent increase over the previous year, and a record number of victims assisted here in a single year.
One was a woman now using the name “Red Orchid”, who became a beneficiary of IOM’s assistance. Last year IOM assisted “Red Orchid” to repatriate from China to Madagascar, where she also received reintegration support. Her story was harrowing.
“I was promised a job in China, and when we arrived, we were sold, and we were forced to marry Chinese men,” she recalled. “I was married to a Chinese man with mental disabilities. At night, the mother of that man would force me to have sexual relations with her son. She threatened me. She would not let me use the phone or buy clothes if I didn’t do it. I was so far from my family in Madagascar, all I wanted was to go home.”
Through this new initiative, funded by the Government of Australia through its Direct Aid Program (DAP), IOM will be able to provide emergency medical and psychosocial care, in addition to supporting the empowerment of referred VoTs through tailored grants that can cover education or vocational training, or the implementation of an income-generating activity. IOM will also support and engage national TiP stakeholders through a high-level, one-day roundtable to contribute to fill a gap in expertise and know-how on the sustainable social and economic reintegration of women VoTs.
“We are very grateful for Australia’s commitment, and glad to see more partners and friends of Madagascar joining the fight against trafficking in persons in Madagascar,” noted Daniel Silva y Poveda, IOM Madagascar Chief of Mission.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).