Thursday, May 26, 2022
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Human trafficking threat

It is interesting to hear that despite the advocacy being done, some people are still falling prey to human trafficking scams. Immigration Officers at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport has denied exit to a Zambian woman travelling to Oman to work as a house maid in a suspected human trafficking case.

Immigrations Public Relations Officer Namati Nshinka said the woman who is in her late twenties intended to travel to Oman to take-up a job as house maid when she was denied exit for not having clearance from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Mr Nshinka said it is the third incident where Zambians wishing to take-up jobs in the service industry abroad, have been intercepted at the Airport in less than a week.

He said with similar interceptions of four other Zambians headed for Turkey and Pakistan having been made on February 4 and 5, 2022, respectively.

Martin Kapenda, the national director of Tehila Zambia, a child protection organization, recently presented research findings that prove human trafficking is real in Zambia and that Zambia is a source, transit and destination of human trafficking: Source: Zambian people, mainly children and women, are trafficked within the country for organized begging, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and forced labor; or they are trafficked abroad for labor, sexual exploitation or organ removal; Transit: People are trafficked through Zambia from one country to another. Should Zambia allow such human trading within its borders? Who can speak for these victims?

Who will listen to their cries of distress? Who can speak for the voiceless? How does one become aware of such a situation, what action to take, or whom to approach for assistance?

Destination: People from other countries are trafficked into Zambia, especially from Asian countries, and exploited in the mining, construction and manufacturing industries, casinos and massage parlors. He explained that what makes it difficult to identify victims is that internal trafficking (from within the country) looks familiar.

For example, young girls are recruited from rural communities and brought to urban households for the purpose of domestic servitude — a practice called “cultural fostering,” but which is in fact providing cheap or free child labor on a mass scale to city-based households in the form of live-in domestic servants performing routine chores including childcare.

Zambia acceded to the Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons in 2005, yet the country remains the source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Just as in other parts of the world, an intricate network of actors — including transporters, border control agents, acquaintances, relatives and workers in massage parlors, casinos, brothels, employment companies and employers of domestic servants — continue to facilitate human trafficking in Zambia. These trafficking rings exploit Zambians and people from Asia and other African countries in the mining, construction and manufacturing industries, casinos and massage parlors.

Unfortunately, there was no known public government forum to educate the masses and create public awareness about human trafficking to help the masses protect themselves.

Conscious that human trafficking violates the dignity of the person and affects most aspects of Zambian society — families, children, students, domestic and migrant workers, young people searching for a better life, and young people in the hospitality industry — and saddened by the general complexity in both the government and general public, the sisters were convinced that this is the time their prophetic voice is needed in the public square to break the silence that sustains the evils of human trafficking in their society.

Anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts have not achieved concrete results; prosecutions of trafficking crimes have not occurred, as police and immigration officials remained stymied by the lack of a functional human trafficking statute. Zambia prohibits human trafficking through a 2005 amendment to its penal code, which prescribes penalties of 20 years’ to life imprisonment—penalties that are commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes.

The statute does not, however, define trafficking or set out the elements of the offense, and has been interpreted thus far as applying narrowly to only the explicit sale of a person. In 2007, the government’s interagency committee on trafficking finalized a draft comprehensive anti-trafficking law and national policy before transferring the documents to the Zambian Law Development Commission for review.

During the reporting period, police and immigration authorities investigated at least 38 suspected cases of trafficking, the majority of which were detected at border crossings and, thus, were difficult to distinguish from smuggling. 

Relevant diplomatic missions, particularly the Congolese Embassy, assisted with the investigations. When violations of child labor laws were discovered, labor inspectors resolved these cases through mediation and counseling with the employers and families, rather than pursuing criminal charges against the exploiters.

In the absence of a usable law against human trafficking, the majority of the suspected victims and traffickers were summarily deported to their country of origin.

Hundreds of women are unknowingly trafficked every day to various countries through use of the cyber space. As Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating the 16 days of gender activism, it is necessary to appreciate the role that the cyber space plays in fueling sexual violence against women and girls.

In this digital age, many forms of trafficking incidences are taking place through cyberspace with sex and labour trafficking, child pornography, selling of babies and trafficking in organs taking center stage. According to law enforcement agencies, some trafficking offences usually start by offenders meeting their potential victims on social media, such as Facebook and other platforms.

They lure these victims into trusting them by expressing love and admiration of the victim, promising them money and a better future in a new home. Deputy Inspector General of Police Dorris Nayame said there is need to address issues on how the Internet has increased the vulnerability of women. She said the training programme was properly scheduled as the world was going towards celebrating 16 days of gender activism.

“As new technology is being introduced, it is also showing how the cyber space is unsafe for women and girls who suffer sexual violence, including human trafficking,” she said. Ms Nayame said human traffickers demand for money in exchange for the dignity of their female victims. She said in 2018, a Zambian girl was repatriated from Turkey where she had been trafficked through cyberspace.

She further said according to data from the Victim Support Unit (VSU), about 79 per cent of people who suffer GBV are women and girls while 21 percent are male victims. “To counter this problem, laws to protect women continue to be effected and more laws need to be enacted to protect women and girls, among them the anti-gender law,” she said. The VSU and inquiries section of the police service have also been improved to ensure that GBV victims are treated with dignity and provided with the necessary support.

Stories of Zambians being stranded in foreign countries should work to prevent people falling prey to criminal elements. Working abroad requires traceable references and necessary documentation and we commend the alert immigration staff that saved the woman from potential doom.

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