February 20th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Trafficking in Mozambique: 'Every minute was the worst'

By Brent Swails, CNN

The mansion sits in the heart of Maputo, Mozambique. From the street it looks abandoned. Its walls are crumbling, the windows are broken and overgrown shrubs and trees hide the once grand entrance.

But inside there are signs that this place is still a home. The ceiling is black from cooking fires. In the bedrooms, mattresses line the floors and pages torn from magazines decorate the walls.

Local anti-trafficking activist Katie Magill often visits the mansion and other squatter housing in the city. She says its residents are at an age where they idolize the singers and actresses pictured on the pages. But they are much too young for the work they’re forced to do every night.

Many here say that Mozambique’s label of “the land of prawns and prostitutes” is well deserved. Prawns dominate trade by day, and at night, it’s Mozambique’s girls that are for sale.

Early last year police identified a network that trafficked up to 40 women and girls each month through Mozambique’s border with South Africa. They were allegedly being sold for $1,000 (US).

Inside Mozambique’s borders, buying girls for the trade can cost as little as $2 and the victims often know the perpetrators.

Ofelia says she was sold into prostitution at age 12. Four years ago, she escaped and found safety in Magill’s organization, Project Purpose. “I always had hope I could leave,” Ofelia said. “I feel good knowing that you can actually do it.”

Another former victim, Tachina, says she lost hope when she was trafficked for sex at the age of 15. “They’d do horrible things to you and then not give you money. Every minute was the worst. Only, when you’re in that situation, you can’t always see that,” she said.

The U.S. State Department’s annual trafficking in persons report notes an improvement in the Mozambique’s government’s efforts to end the trade. There have been several successful prosecutions since an anti-trafficking law was enacted in 2008. But enforcement remains difficult in this resource-strapped country.

A unit recently set up to deal with trafficking has only seven members charged with policing the entire country. Mozambique also lacks a national plan and a coordinating body. CNN requests for an interview with police went unanswered.

For now the fight against traffickers can’t do without people like Magill. Her organization rehabilitates young victims, many of them mothers, providing shelter for their children.

But she says it’s the ones she wasn’t able to bring to her safe house that continue to haunt her. “I cry now just thinking about the people who should have been in these buildings, the kids who should have a chance to live like that.”

Bras help former slaves

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Nyeleti

    We parliamentarians from Mozambique are concerned about this and committed to finding a way to end this horrible disease in our society. Does CNN want to join and support us?

    February 20, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
    • Mark Mckenzie

      They surely want, but I guess it all starts with proper resources being put together to fight this sort of crime.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
  2. mercenary76

    looks like anycity . anywhere that has a certain enthnic content anyway .

    February 20, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
    • HeidiLiz

      So you truly believe that cities of a certain ethnicity are precluded from these types of practices? I urge you to get a dose of the real world.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
      • Novaa

        aasianbebe on August 30, 2011 I like my body, caseube I am skinny and can wear clothes that are more tight and stunning. But sizes are always hard to find

        March 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • ACF

      I don't think ethnicity has anything to do with it. Human Trafficking affects everyone, young and old, black or white, in all parts of the world.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
    • barbosa

      ethnicity issues?
      did you look around where you live? you might surround of this services

      February 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Erasmo

      Wake up. It has nothing to do with "ethnicity" it's been happening in our own backyards.

      February 27, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  3. spent

    A student in my class, 8th grader was pimping his mother and pulling in the coin. We are all slaves one way or another.

    February 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
  4. nazer faiz

    death to all of them. take those so called pimps in men or women if they are found guilty killed them with out a retrail....

    February 20, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
  5. abbas Lyla

    What would u say if this was in an Islamic country, u hypocrites ?

    February 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Reply
    • Jen

      ... what does an Islamic country vs. Mozambique have to do with the way the horrors of slavery is perceived?

      February 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
      • Kristal

        Exactly! No matter where this is happening and no matter what type of country it is, slavery of any kind is horrific and inhumane.

        February 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
      • abbas Lyla

        i tell what it has to do jen. if this is happening in an islamic country, you would say they're practicing this cuz their religion tells me to do it even though it's not true, same as what u call the honor killing, every day we hear women being killed in america by their husbands, fathers, etc and it's called a crime only and no one assicates it to their religion, but when a muslim criminal kills , u would associate it to his religion, when i say u i mean the american media influenced people

        February 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Romney

      ..it's not a muslim country?

      February 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
      • Isaac

        It has a large Muslim population, and our President is a muslim, but its not a muslim nation. Muslims only make up about 30% more or less of the population here. I live in Mozambique, btw.

        February 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
      • Local-Woman

        @Isaac, you live where? Funny you would say that your president is Muslim when I live in the same country and I go to catholic church with that same President.
        @Aces Ful Seriously dude, grow up and shine off. Be very careful when you attack someone's religion, because it is a serious matter.
        @Jim Are you that bad in History of the World? Please review it.
        @Romney Don't even go there.
        @Jonathan mc Aren't you the righteous one? To think that those who are taken, tied up, beaten, raped, forced to do the unspeakable, are there because they want to? God bless you for you have no idea what you're saying.
        Guys, it doesn't matter the race. It's not a question of black, white, yellow, brown, blue or rainbow, but a matter of PEOPLE being used against their will. Childhoods destroyed, families broken. We need to think about the perpetrators, the persons behind this inhumanity, and stop using the crimes as an excuse for racial/creed/orientation prejudice.

        March 14, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Chris

      Whoa, chill out man. You're getting overly defensive and crazy over there. Stop attacking people for weird things you imagined them saying and relax.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
    • Aces Full

      abbas – you clueless muslim sympathizer and coddler – Islam is a disease, we all know it, it may not be PC to say it but that doesn't change the fact that it's true. You simply cannot ignore Fundamentalist Islam’s primary goal of spreading Islam globally and converting or killing all infidels.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Reply
      • Jeff

        Aces Full
        Yeah your full of sh!t, I'm a Muslim and personally your comments are uncalled for and above all, you truely are uneducated. First Off what you are talking about islam, your talking Culture Based NOT Islam itself. and Second, It doesn't matter where at in the world, the sad thing is Trafficking hits every where, all over the world including America.

        February 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Mac

      CNN wont say a word................

      February 26, 2012 at 6:17 am | Reply
  6. Howard Feinski

    Could be worse.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  7. 2cnts

    What race are the slave owners? Thought So ! Smoke that NAACP (National Association Against Caucasian People)

    February 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
    • hmm

      thats some serious issues you got there-you should get more sleep.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply
    • ambinns

      isn't it more important to be angry about the fact that slavery still exists, rather than what race the traffickers are?

      February 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
      • Jen

        Agreed. Race, religion, class, whatever aside, slavery is atrocious regardless of who the slave is or who the slave-holder is. Regardless of what country its happening in, that's irrelevant to the significance of the atrocity. The only way it would matter is when we consider how that country's government is handling it. We need to leave the simple-minded racism in the garbage where it belongs and focus on the issue here.

        February 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • The Light

      I'm asking what race are the customers. Cut the demand, and the supply will tarnish. Idiot!

      March 13, 2012 at 6:15 am | Reply
  8. anonymous

    Who would have thought that modern slavery pervades in today's society? It's sickening to think that young girls are being profited off of. They should live their lives as kids.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • ACF

      Sadly, most don't get a choice. It is a terrible thing. Parents are sometimes made to think they are giving their children a better life yet their life becomes a living hell...

      February 21, 2012 at 12:03 am | Reply
      • Ruby

        Louise Locas:I absolutely loved it. It had my full attinteon right from the beginning. I was really looking forward to the next episode and was very disappointed when I discovered there were no more episodes. Please, keep them coming! I don't know how the writers do it, but you can't help but like Jack.

        August 2, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  9. Jim

    I thought Lincoln freed all of the African slaves over a 100 years ago?

    February 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  10. Tim

    thanks for running these articles CNN. This is an evil and diabolical trade that is throughout the world. It can only be stopped if people call for it to be stopped. Keep telling people about this CNN.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      That's a good point tim, I agree but however, msnbc had an artical a while ago back about human trafficking, and according to them most trafficing occures by a bogus company, the victims are believeing that they are getting in oversea's job that pays good money, than upon arrival, their ids are taken, they are told you owe us this ammount of money,the victims are told their families would die. its real sad that this shi!t happens, and I hope some day some how this all stops

      February 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
      • rizal

        u r right tim im from south east asia its happening in my country. they recruited women promise them a better job when person leave the country going to middle east as a maid they don't get paid and they and they take their passport so they cannot leave the country they beat the worker or be killed or rape. they cant even escape some of them tride to escape if they are lucky. if they find you tride to escape youll be arrested

        February 21, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  11. anti trafficker

    Nyeleti, do something about the demand. Pass anti john laws and enforce them.
    To America: Wake up..it's going on all around you. Read "Renting Lacy" by Linda Smith

    February 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  12. Romney

    If you vote for Rick Santorum, he'll promise to declare all of the slaves in Africa to be free men. Unless they're gay.. because he does not believe gay people have equal rights.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
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      May 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  13. got piped?

    garbage people blaq people

    February 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Reply
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      April 9, 2012 at 5:09 am | Reply
  14. Master Hip-Hop

    In the U.S. city where I live, there are animals on the east side of town who practice this kind of slavery to this very day. Strange, though, the masters are almost all black, as are most of the slaves, but over the years that has been changing, for it appears that the lighter skinned the slave, the more money he or she brings from the monsters who buy them. The really strange thing is, that the people who see it every day, and denounce old time slavery every chance they get, do not seem to care at all about the slavery going on next door to them.

    February 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  15. Master Hip-Hop

    Sound Off sucks, it is only for those whom love evil and everything about it!

    February 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  16. Jonathan mc

    Evil of all evils for someone to agree to be sold & use her precious body 4 money,pls rem that ur body is Gods house dont destory it

    February 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  17. Jonathan mc

    Allowing urself to be sold against ur wish just 4 money is inhuman & demonic,aviod it at all cost.GOD bless u

    February 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  18. dropadime

    if that's true, 'master' hip-hop, then you need to drop a dime. or an entire quarter.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  19. Laura

    Hi, I'm hoping the author (Mr Swails) can please contact me on this email address.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:43 am | Reply
  20. Audra

    Here is the link to the continuation of the story. http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2012/02/21/cfp-mozambique-slavery-2.cnn#/video/world/2012/02/21/cfp-mozambique-slavery-2.cnn

    February 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  21. Lennon from Harare

    Thank you CNN for highlighting the plight of these women. The problem with most African gvts is they are reactive not proactive, now that you have shown this to the entire world, we are all looking at what the Mozambiquan gvt will do.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
  22. David Katz

    Disgusting that this can still happen in "modern times". Kudos to Magill for helping right the wrongs committed against these kids.

    February 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  23. The Light

    Someone asked: "What race are the owners?". I'm asking what race are the customers. Cut the demand, and the supply will tarnish. Idiot!

    March 13, 2012 at 6:13 am | Reply
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  28. tendai

    my question who is sponsoring this trafficking and also poverty is at play

    August 8, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
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