By Jacqueline Musembi
Human trafficking is one of the most severe violations of human rights in the world today, involving ladies and millions of children worldwide. Recruited as soldiers or sold into prostitution or forced labor, children aged between 12 and 16 are the main victims of this lucrative “business”.
Federeration of women laywers (FIDA) has blaimed the country’s weak laws and policing for continued trafficking of many kenyans to the Middle East .
According to Fida they said our country lacks adquate laws to deal with human trafficking and urged the government to strengthen the High commissions to ensure they safe guard the rights of kenyans working abroad.
Internet has contributed a lot in fuelling to this crime since most web sites are offering job opportunities and turn out to be human traffickers.
Mostly the Kenyan women are trafficked within the country for domestic servitude, street vending, agricultural labor, herding, and work as barmaids, and commercial sexual exploitation, including involvement in the coastal sex tourism industry.
Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Kenyan children are trafficked within the country for domestic servitude, forced labor in agriculture (including on flower plantations), cattle herding, in bars, and for commercial sexual exploitation, including involvement in the coastal sex tourism industry.
In 2008, internally displaced persons residing in camps as a result of post-election violence reportedly were trafficked within the country.
Kenyan men, women, and children are trafficked to the Middle East, other East African nations, and Europe for domestic servitude, exploitation in massage parlors and brothels, and forced manual labor, including in the construction industry. Employment agencies facilitate and profit from the trafficking of Kenyan nationals to Middle Eastern nations, notably Saudi Arabia , the UAE, and Lebanon . Children are trafficked to Kenya from Burundi , Ethiopia , Rwanda , Somalia , Tanzania , and Uganda for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
Most trafficked girls are forced to work as barmaids, where they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, or are forced directly into prostitution. Ethiopian and Somali refugees residing in camps and Nairobi ’s Eastleigh section are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani women reportedly transit Nairobi en route to exploitation in Europe ’s commercial sex trade.
Ann Wairimu, 22 is one of the girls who are suffering in Saudi Arabia today. Ann through an agency managed to secure a job in Saudi Arabia as a nurse. When she went to that foreign land she was forced to work as a house maid.
“I have been working for the last two years as a house girl and my boss used to lock the house when they left. I was very sick but they failed to take me to the hospital so I had to suffer for six months in bed with no proper diet and I used to eat one meal in a day. When I was in my death bed my boss decided to take me to the hospital and lucky enough the doctors said that I can not cope with the weather in the country so had to be deported back home”, says Ann wiping tears.
The number of women trafficked from Kenya to the Middle East has increased in recent years. Every year, women are smuggled across Kenyan borders and sold like commodities without their knowledge. The phenomenon links all countries and regions in a web of international crime.
The Government of Kenya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Post-election violence and the subsequent government reorganization delayed a number of anti-trafficking initiatives, such as the enactment of anti-trafficking legislation and the passage of a draft national action plan. While local-level law enforcement officials across the country continued to arrest and charge alleged traffickers throughout the year, prosecutions failed to progress and data on such cases was not compiled at the provincial or national level. In addition, the government did not allocate adequate resources dedicated to anti-trafficking measures during the reporting period.
In a research Kenya is ranked as a Tier 2 country-as governments that are making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.The ACT states the purpose of combating human trafficking is to punish traffickers, to protect victims, and to prevent trafficking from occurring.
“Children are trafficked within Kenya , usually from rural to urban areas. Internal trafficking of people for commercial sexual purposes and house hold service involves bringing them from impoverished rural to urban areas.” Says Mwangi a Police Officer in Nairobi .
According to a recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Trafficking of children for forced prostitution or labor is exacerbated by war, poverty, and flawed or nonexistent birth registration systems.
Poverty aggravates already desperate conditions caused by conflict, discrimination, and repression. The study also found that Africa ’s 3.3 million refugees and its estimated 12.7 million internally displaced persons are those most vulnerable to trafficking.
Mwangi notes, “It is estimated that Kenya has 250,000 street children, including 60,000 in Nairobi . These children are especially vulnerable to the false promises of traffickers.”
The most common forms of trafficking in children from and within Kenya are theft of toddlers, abduction of children for forced marriage, confinement of child domestic servants, abduction of children for use in occult practices, and illicit intercountry adoption and of late house maids.
He notes that they are exposed to all sorts of abuses like prostitution. No one guarantees their safety as they are exposed to sex predators putting then at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies.
“Child trafficking and child labor are two sisters’ child abuses that move hand in hand and are a terrible experience for the children.” He adds.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year into what it calls “the modern-day equivalent of slavery”.
“Although many of those who are trafficked ultimately do not earn the money promised and the conditions in which they are forced to live and work range from basic to brutal,” says Julius Mulemi a church elder.
In addition, they face beatings and other forms of physical abuse from their employer and in the case of child domestics, the victims are at risk of sexual exploitation by the family employing them.
Mulemi notes brothels and massage parlors in the coastal region also employ foreign women, some of whom are likely trafficked adding that most trafficked girls are coerced to work as barmaids, where they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, or are forced directly into prostitution.
He adds though a significant number run away, are unable to return home or find alternative employment, they resort to prostitution to earn a living.
Because traffickers frequently come from the same region as the children whom they recruit, it is easier for this practice to be hidden as they may know the families and the area.
“The problem with tackling human trafficking is that once authorities become aware of it in one region and try to deal with it, the traffickers move to another region that has little experience of it and carry on there,” Mwangi adds.
Because of the nature of this illegal trade, corruption and the lack of a centralized system for collecting data, accurate statistics have not been compiled.
So far the Government of Kenya does not fully comply with the international minimum standards for the elimination of the vice as the country does not have a fundamental law against Trafficking in Persons
However they are some alternative laws used to curb the vice, for instance the Employment Act of 2007 which outlaws forced labor and contains additional statutes relevant to labor trafficking.
“The Penal Code regards kidnapping and abduction of persons as felonies. Kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years (up to 10 years if the kidnapping is for the purposes of slavery or immorality). The code also prohibits abduction of girl minors|,” Mwangi
In September 2007, relevant government agencies provided comments on a draft comprehensive human trafficking bill to the Attorney General’s office. The stakeholders continue to work with NGOs to further refine the bill.
There are several international conventions prohibiting child trafficking. These include the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and of Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery; the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Organization of African Unity’s African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and International Labor Organization Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
“To curb the issue of child trafficking stakeholders must join hands with the government to strengthen laws that protect children.” Mulemi notes.
The world should seek social justice to the poor and oppressed, there is need for all stakeholders to address core issues affecting children’s rights particularly in war torn countries where their rights are continuously abused.