Cross-border sex trade, transnational remittances and changing family structures among Benin people of southern Nigeria

  • OC Osezua


The paper examined Benin women who migrate for the purpose of cross border sexual transactions. It also assessed the changes in the traditional Benin family structure, mediated by the prevalence of Benin women migrants and their financial contributions to their families. The study relied on qualitative data generated through Household-based Interviews; Key Informant Interviews, Vignette-based Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and Life Histories. A total of 18 vignette-based FGDs were held among adult males, adult females and youths (using –a story of sex-trafficking that ended on “successful” note and a tragic story of a sex-trafficked victim). Also, five (5) Key Informants who were selected on the basis of their social statuses in the Benin Society were interviewed. Findings showed that the traditional Benin family structure, prior to women migration for the purpose of sexual transaction, which was organized on the basis of age and sex, is fast eroding. Many of these women who have been successful in trans-border sexual transaction, despite their sex or age in the family, are now the centre of authority and pivot of important family decisions. This is as a result of the huge sum of money they remit to their families. Furthermore, findings from showed that Benin women who are direct beneficiaries of transnational remittances from their daughters‟ sexual transaction overseas, can now access critical resources which were previously inaccessible due to the traditional inheritance systemrule of primogeniture. Consequently, most of these women in this category have become the shadow bread winners in their families by providing for the daily upkeep of family members. Also, many of such women have erected edifices for themselves, parents or husbands, while others have provided adequate financial resources for their family members to open up businesses. The study concludes that based on the pervasive notion of the utility of transnational remittances obtained from sex trafficking in aiding family economic advancement in the region, stemming the tide by making anti trafficking laws will at best reduce the incidence for a while but cannot curtail the trend. This has an implication of compromising the integrity of the contemporary Benin family, as a socialization agency for its members.

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eISSN: 1596-9231