The Nigerian Schoolgirls Near You

CAMBRIDGE – The abduction of hundreds of young Nigerian girls by the Islamic militia Boko Haram has been front-page news for weeks. The global public is outraged by the group’s violation of fundamental principles and sensibilities: the prohibition of slavery, the protection of personal integrity, the obligation to protect children, and the right of adolescent girls to obtain an education and choose when and whom to marry.

Yet the presence of young Nigerian prostitutes on the streets of Western cities barely elicits a reaction. Indeed, most people simply avert their eyes. And the media barely mention the issue.

Each year, thousands of Nigerian girls are trapped by fanatical and mercenary thugs and forced into prostitution, often in the same wealthy countries that are now magnanimously offering help to Nigeria’s government. Six of every ten people trafficked to the West are Nigerian, and at least 60% of trafficked sex workers in Italy and Belgium are Nigerian girls. Across Europe, North America, Russia, and the Middle East, these young women are visible to all who bother to look – and have been for decades.

Why is no one outraged? The inconsistency is rooted in the girls’ circumstances: the schoolgirls are innocent victims crying out for protection, while the child sex workers are illegal immigrants, slated for deportation as soon as they are caught.