Girls in underwear pose in squalid rooms of converted shops along the narrow streets of Saint-Josse, near Brussels Gare du Nord.
African women sell their bodies for as little as 20 euros. Barely half the rate charged by European prostitutes. Outside in the streets, the rates are even lower; 5 euros for a young Nigerian. A price that shocks even some customers.
“They make big gestures to try to attract us. Regarding the price, those women are ready to do a lot of things for little money. You can see that they are very nervous, the women who need to get the money – Sometimes I wonder if they are 18 years old because they seem to be very young,” says one anonymous client.
Nigerian prostitutes number in their hundreds in Belgium. All victims of human trafficking, some are just 14 years old, a problem that is growing in the country.
Katja Fournier, coordinator of the platform ‘Minors in exile’ said “It’s a brothel madam who contacts families who are often relatively poor, promising a great future for the girls: they will go to school, they will be babysitters.”
“And they make a contract; often with a voodoo ritual that will commit the girl to repaying the debt which will be fixed between 40 and 70 thousand euros.”
“The ritual makes sure that she feels the life of her mother, her siblings or her own life is in her hands – so she must repay it”.
The police say they will tackle the problem head on…. but the reality is that it’s a vicious circle that’s difficult to get out of. The girls are often exploited by former prostitutes who have become pimps.
Once their debt is repaid after many years, these girls become madams themselves.