SOLDIER BAR CHILD BROTHEL CASE
In 2008, Dream On (known then as EPAWA) assisted Ghanaian journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, in documenting the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children at the Soldier Bar Brothel and collected substantial evidence, both visual and print. In collaboration with Ghana Police CID, Dream On brought together all stakeholders and prepared for victim protection care. This resulted in the rescue of 60 prostituted children and the arrest of the pimps and customers. The children were sent to the Madina Social Welfare Shelter, where Dream On participated in the rescue and emergency post-rescue care for the victims. Sadly, most of the victims ended up back on the streets, due to lack of safe shelter facilities and proper stakeholder oversight. As this was the first case of its kind in Ghana, it challenged the system not to repeat similar mistakes and be responsible in child sexual exploitation in a responsible fashion. This case demonstrated the issue of child prostitution in Ghana on a massive scale and the need to address it in a comprehensive and holistic manner.
CHINESE TRAFFICKING CASE
In 2009, Dream On (known then as EPAWA) investigated a major international trafficking ring in Ghana. Dream On received information that a group of Chinese ladies were brought to Ghana and were being prostituted to serve the local Chinese businessmen and other expatriates. After four (4) months of investigation by Dream On’s investigative team, evidence was presented to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this substantial human trafficking syndicate was lead by King James Xu Jin and two other accomplices.
The leader of the investigative team posed as a bartender and monitored the activities of the trafficker and the victims. A hidden camera, which was mounted in one of the hotel rooms showed footage of an expatriate sitting on a bed in the hotel room with the trafficker. On the same bed lies a half-naked Chinese girl. Exactly 45 seconds into the footage, the expatriate and the trafficker start a conversation on the processes involved in bringing Chinese girls to Africa. In the footage, the expatriate is seen handing over 150 US dollars to the trafficker as payment for the Chinese girl he bought for sexual exploitation “pleasure” of the expatriate. In their conversation the trafficker mentioned, “It cost me $6,000 US dollars to arrange for visas and everything to transport them here.” He also stated categorically that the recruiting was carefully done to avoid confrontation with the Chinese authorities. He stated that they selected ladies between the ages of 19 to 30. Girls with lesser ages, then that would draw questions, and older girls, will not meet the market demands (hence, not suitable for customers).
Through the investigations, it was discovered that these victims apart from being sexually exploited were severally beaten if they resisted to work, even for one day. However, on February 14th 2009 at exactly 9am in the morning, a team from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Human Trafficking Unit, embarked on a raid after Dream On had made a formal complaint and made evidence available that had been collected in the six-month undercover investigation. Present were some members of the Ghana media and Sorous Samora of the B.B.C who captured live coverage of the raid.
The raid took place at the brothel named Peach Blossom Palace Restaurant in Labadi, a suburb of the Capital City of Accra. During the raid, vibrators, syringes and needles, used and unused condoms and other Chinese medicines suspected to be steroids were found. Also a suitcase with passports of all the victims and $14,000 US dollars were discovered in the trafficker’s room. The Peach Blossom Palace, which was said to be a Chinese restaurant, was actually a complete brothel with a massage room and filled with pan beds. At the time of the raid, a client was discovered to be sexually exploiting a 19 year-old victim.
Forced Begging of 15 children in bimbilla
On July 17, 2008, after three months of undercover investigation and collection of evidence by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the police conducted a raid that resulted in the rescue of 15 Fulani victims of trafficking from Bimbilla in the northern region of Ghana. The victims were recruited by one Imam Alhassan under false pretenses of providing them with Islamic or Koran education. The trafficker exploited them for labor (farm labor and begging) and also sexually abused the girls.
Dream On (then known as EPAWA) organized post-rescue care for the victims. The 15 Fulani trafficking victims were taken to the Tamale Social Welfare Training Institute for shelter and rehabilitation. Dream On supported the victims by providing them with food, clothing, registration with National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), medical care, education (both secular and religious), security in the form of 24-hour guard, recreational activities and supplies, and organized the Walima Ceremony (graduation) for 5 of the victims who had successfully completed their studies in the Koran. During their five-month stay, the Tamale Department of Social Welfare provided the victims with psychosocial services.
Dream On assisted with the family tracing process. The parents of the victims were counseled on the harms of child trafficking. On 20 December 2008, a reunification ceremony was held and attended by Dream On representatives, the Department of Social Welfare in Tamale, the Director of the Regional Coordinating Council, a Representative from UNICEF, senior social workers, some of the parents, and members of the public and the media. The event was closed with some words of advice from the dignitaries to parents to send the children to school and refreshments were served.
Two of the victims who were Togo nationals were transported to Accra by Dream On and transferred to the custody of the officials of the Togo Embassy and Terre des Hommes. They have been reunited with their parents and are presently in school.
Defilement Case in Volta Region
A case of defilement was reported to our pilot helpline. For years, a group of young men in the Volta region targeted and gang raped young girls while they walked to school. Although there were reports of these issues, this situation continued because the men belonged to wealthier families and had support from the chief. Dream On became involved, relocated one of the victims and her sister into witness protection, and ensured that the perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted. At the conclusion of the case, the judge traveled to the community and educated the villagers on the issue of sexual violence. Dream On continued to check on the grandmother to ensure that she didn’t experience further threats and destruction of property as a result of her standing up to the perpetrators and their families in court.
Forced Marriage Case in Greater Accra
An 18 year-old girl was brought to the office of Dream On in 2010. She was really scared. Her uncle and aunt were forcing her to marry a man whom she never met and had collected her bride price from the man already. She didn’t want to defy her family, but really wanted to study to become a nurse. Dream On assisted her, placed her in a safe shelter, and filed a case with the police.
With the mediation of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the police, the young woman was reunited with her family, her marriage plans cancelled, and she was placed in a nursing program.
This case involved a government official who committed violent sexual acts on 4 out of 5 of his children, including the youngest who was a 10 month-old baby. The wife of the perpetrator attempted many times over the 10 years that this abuse occurred to report the case, but was unsuccessful in doing so because of her husband’s status and connections.
Reported to Dream On in 2014, our team worked with the police to arrest the perpetrator and was able to place the woman and her children into a shelter and make arrangements for the education of the children.
Photo credit: Felix Lipov