21st August 2011
EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of political federation, Ms Beatrice Kiraso
For slightly over a decade, human trafficking has eclipsed drugs as the world’s most profitable illegal business. Yet, it rarely attracts media attention save for a few dramatic cases when women are sold into prostitution rings and children forced into equally illegal activities.
According to reports from Mexico alone, human trafficking last year accounted for a whopping $6.6 billion. Furthermore, conservative estimates indicated that over 100,000 women were trafficked out of Latin America annually for the purpose of prostitution, mostly to the United States.
Addressing Police Chiefs from the East African Community (EAC) partner states early this month, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of political federation, Ms Beatrice Kiraso, warned that East Africa “was fast becoming a transit route for human trafficking and drugs” and called for concerted regional efforts to combat the two rising crimes.
Ms Kiraso, and indeed any government, has every reason to worry about the two global social pandemics. Human trafficking is the equivalent of modern day slavery while drugs chain mostly the youths to health-wrecking addiction and dependency on narcotics simply because someone somewhere makes ill gotten profit.
“The human and drug trafficking does not augur well for our region if we are to attract more tourists and investments,’’ Ms Kiraso was quoted by the media as telling the region’s Chiefs of Police. I like to believe she was somehow quoted out of context.
If the only reason for the region to combat human and drug trafficking is because we want to look “presentable to tourists and investments,” then we are missing the point. The two crimes are grossly unacceptable because they are an affront to all manner and forms of civilized conduct and the self esteem of any people.
For greater clarity, I will mostly discuss human trafficking because the two subjects are quite broad and may not be adequately treated if approached on a frontal scale. It becomes all the more prudent because human trafficking is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in East Africa both in social and law enforcement circles.
The United States has been releasing annually what it terms as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). Launching this year’s TIP in Washington last June, the US Secretary of State, Ms Hilary Clinton stated:
"Every year, we come together to release this report, to take stock of our progress, to make suggestions, and to refine our methods. Today, (June 27), we are releasing a new report that ranks 184 countries, including our own.
One of the innovations when I became Secretary was we were going to also analyse and rank ourselves, because I don’t think it’s fair for us to rank others if we don’t look hard at who we are and what we’re doing.”
I have selected a few lines from that report on what it says about Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda for our people to see where we stand, internally and externally, in the fight against human trafficking, a crime for which governments agreed, as long ago as 1904, to work together to prevent what was then termed as the “white slave traffic.”
Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Within the country, Kenyan children are forced into domestic servitude, sex trafficking – including involvement in the coastal sex tourism industry – and labour in agriculture (including on flower plantations), fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and bars.
Traffickers, who gain poor families’ trust through familial, tribal, or religious ties, fraudulently recruit children through offers to raise and educate them and women through offers to place them in lucrative employment.
Kenyan men, women, and children voluntarily migrate to other East African nations, Europe, and the Middle East - particularly Saudi Arabia - in search of employment, where they are trafficked into domestic servitude, massage parlours and brothels, and forced manual labour, including in the construction industry.
Children from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking in Kenya. Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani women reportedly transit Nairobi en route to exploitation in Europe’s sex trade.
Rwanda is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Rwandan girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are exploited in domestic servitude within the country; some of these children experience nonpayment of wages or physical or sexual abuse within their employer’s household.
Older females offer vulnerable younger girls room and board, eventually pushing them into prostitution to pay for their keep. In limited cases, trafficking is facilitated by women who supply other women or girls to clients or by loosely organised prostitution networks, some operating in secondary schools and universities.
Brothel owners reportedly supply girls and young women in prostitution to clients staying at hotels for conferences. Rwandan children also are recruited and transported to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, where they are subjected to forced agricultural labour, domestic servitude, and child prostitution, sometimes after being recruited by peers.
In 2010, a female Rwandan trafficking victim was identified in Israel. Small numbers of children from neighbouring countries are victimized in prostitution and forced labour after being lured to Rwanda. Tanzania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
The incidence of internal trafficking is higher than that of transnational trafficking, and is usually facilitated by family members’, friends’, and intermediaries’ offers of assistance with education or finding lucrative employment in urban areas.
The use of young girls for forced domestic service continues to be Tanzania’s largest human trafficking problem. Girls from rural areas of Iringa, Singida, Dodoma, Mbeya, Morogoro, and Bukoba regions are taken to urban centers and Zanzibar for domestic service; some domestic workers fleeing abusive employers fall prey to sex trafficking.
Boys are subjected primarily to forced labour on farms, but also in mines, in the informal sector, and possibly on small fishing boats. In the Arusha region, unscrupulous agricultural subcontractors reportedly trafficked women and men to work on coffee plantations.
Smaller numbers of Tanzanian children and adults are subjected to conditions of forced domestic service and sex trafficking in surrounding countries, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, and possibly other European countries. East.
SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY