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Twelve Dollars.

I went to my local market tonight to buy a few groceries: a couple bananas, some vegetarian delights, and an apple. My total was $12.

I came home and read that hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls missing since April 14 are now being sold as ‘wives’ to their militant captors for the same price. These students, 234 total, 16-18 years old, are being raped amongst packs of men somewhere in the jungles of Nigeria as their families’ cries go unanswered.

I bought some fruits and vegetables in Manhattan as hundreds of girls are raped in northeast Nigeria, and the transactions cost the same.

Two hundred and thirty-four girls were stolen from their schools, their sexual innocence sold for the price of non-organic fruit.

According to The Guardian, “Desperate parents launched their own rescue attempts in the 60,000 sq. km Sambisa forest where the girls were being held. Security sources told the Guardian that at least three rescue attempts had been scuppered….Reports of the mass marriage came from a group that meets at dawn each day not far from the charred remains of the school. The ragtag gathering of fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews pool money for fuel before venturing unarmed into the thick forest, or into border towns that the militants have terrorised for months.”

News comes from villagers: “On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.”

Nigeria’s local military has been unsuccessful in battling the insurgent Boko Haram, the terrorist group suspected of leading and continuing the abduction. The girls were targeted because they were attending school, readying for their final exams; Boko Haram means, “Western education is forbidden.”

Hundreds of Nigerians protested in a march through Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to press for action. Four students who were able to escape joined the hundreds in attendance.

According to the BBC, “Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau first threatened to treat captured women and girls as slaves in a video released in May 2013. It fuelled concern at the time that the group was adhering to the ancient Islamic belief that women captured during war are slaves with whom their “masters” can have sex, correspondents say.”

What would have been my punishment if I tried to steal my $12 bounty at the market? How quickly would I have been caught, punished, questioned in this Manhattan enclave?

I wonder this tonight, as 234 schoolgirls remain missing, with no protection nor hope to be found.

I wonder how these terrorists calculate the price of a girl, the process of determining how best to slay the love these families have for their precious daughters, sisters, friends.

And all I’m left with is $12. These girls were sold for $12. A woman at the Abuja march held a sign: “Can Anyone Hear Me?”

It’s raining in New York tonight. The grocery store is closed now, but I got what I wanted.

It only cost $12.

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