By Sebhat Ayele MCCJ
“It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods! These are famous words of Pope Francis in March 2014 on the occasion of the annual Lenten “Fraternity Campaign” in Brazil. The drama of Human Trafficking does not show any sign of respite, notwithstanding, hearty pleas from victims and condemnations from organizations, prominent people like Pope Francis. And yet, it is a responsibility of any person of good will to try to alleviate the suffering of the victims of Human Trafficking and not leave it to Crime Courts; or worse still, just shrug it away. As statistics show below, East and the Horn of Africa are infested by human traffickers. Several relatives and close friends may already be caged by perpetuators of human trafficking.
What is human Trafficking?
Human trafficking goes beyond the trade of humans for forced labour, to sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. It is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another. Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. For example, Kampala roads are full of children from Karamoja who beg for money at the roadside. As such, these children cannot travel all the way to Kampala unless they are accompanied by adults. Fortunately, their journey to Kampala is often by the help of ‘good Samaritans’.
However, whether these are relatives or not, they are human traffickers. It is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), forced labour alone (one component of human trafficking) generates an estimated $150 billion in profits per annum as of 2014. In 2012, the ILO estimated that 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 14.2 million (68%) were exploited for labour, 4.5 million (22%) were sexually exploited, and 2.2 million (10%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labour.
Human trafficking is thought to be one of the fastest-growing activities of trans-national criminal organizations. It is condemned as a violation of human rights by international conventions. In addition, human trafficking is subject to a directive in the European Union.
According to a September 2017 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation;
1. An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery
2. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labour, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labour.
3. Forced labour takes place in many different industries of the 16 million trafficking victims exploited for labour
• 7.5 million (47%) forced labour victims work in construction, manufacturing, mining, or hospitality
• 3.8 million (24%) forced labour victims are domestic workers
• 1.7 million (11%) forced labour victims work in agriculture
4 Gender and age: 71% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls and 29% are men and boys.
• 15.4 million victims (75%) are aged 18 or older, with the number of children under the age of 18 estimated at 5.5 million (25%).
5. Regions of Human Trafficking
• Asia-pacific 15.4 million (62% of the global total).
• Africa has 5.7 million (23%)
• Europe and Central Asia with 2.2 million (9%).
• The Americas account for 1.2 million (5%)
• The Arab States account for 1% of all victims
It is to be underlined that Human trafficking does not always involve travel to the destination of exploitation: 2.2 million (14%) of victims of forced labour moved either internally or internationally, while 3.5 million (74%) of victims of sexual exploitation were living outside their country of residence. Normally, victims spend an average of 20 months in forced labour, although this varied with different forms of forced labour.
Human Trafficking is Big Business
As stated above, Human Trafficking is one of the biggest businesses, though at the cost of innocent human beings. As people are sold and bought like animals, exploited and subjugated mercilessly, some people are swelling their pockets happily. Again, as statistics displayed by ILO, human trafficking is a lucrative business that earns profits of roughly $150 billion p.a. The following is a breakdown of profits by sector. Namely: $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation, $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities, $9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing, $8 billion is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour. In addition, while only 19% of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66% of the global profits of human trafficking. The average annual profit generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude is estimated to be $100,000.
WHO has to do WHAT to stop this CRIME?
In front of such catastrophic situation, it is quite natural to ask: who has to seek urgent solutions for the suffering victims of human trafficking? Can the world continue to ignore such upheavals of innocent victims? Unfortunately, many countries are still in a state of denial about the victims of human trafficking. At the launch of the Report in New York, the Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and crimes (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa said that “many governments are still in denial. There is even neglect when it comes to either reporting on or prosecuting cases of human trafficking.”
He pointed out the fact that while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction. The report was given based on data gathered from 155 countries in February 2009. But up to date, there is no sign of ease; on the contrary, the crime endures persistently. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa, the far Asia region and West Africa, children are the majority: up to 100%.
Recent reports show that in the past few years, the number of Member States implementing the Protocol has more than increased. However, there are still many countries that lack the necessary legal instruments or political will. Still worse, the problem is getting worse because many governments are obstructing the search for truth about traffickers and their victims.
As stated, the concerted fight against human trafficking can be carried about when and if the general public has comprehensive knowledge of all its implications and evil consequences. We have to open new avenues of information for the general public to be aware of the amount of suffering the Traffickers bring to innocent people. Hence, creating awareness and opening eyes of all citizens.
For any social evil, it is the responsibility of each state and political leaders to address the issue. It is disheartening when political leaders hide from the public certain evils committed by criminals that induce untold suffering to innocent people. Human trafficking is one among them that needs urgent attention. Human trafficking can and is happening locally when upcountry underage girls are brought to be housemaids with no or miserable payments. Askaris are hired by some companies with minimum salary that cannot cover their monthly needs. These are forms and ways of human trafficking that we can fight against without going far and to high levels. Political leaders have a constitutional obligation to deal with these issues. They should not concentrate only on their constitutional right as we see happening in Uganda these days.
Human Right groups and local religious leaders, as well, have the moral responsibility to fight such evils that are destroying the lives of innocent and powerless people. It is praise worthy that many religious leaders are advocating for justice and peace, even for human trafficking. As stated above, Pope Francis and the Catholic Church never stopped lobbying for such victims, including the local ones.
Our faith urges us not to be silent when evil things happen around us. If we do, we are accomplices. We can’t ignore the suffering of our neighbour and close our eyes. “Love your neighbour as yourself” means exactly this.“ It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods! (Pope Francis)
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