Children, women’s safety in jeopardy over rife human trafficking in Namibia

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Human trafficking is not a thing of the past as many think; it still exists in the 21st century. There are no significant changes in the modern era, despite the industrial revolution and technological development, as millions of people worldwide are still going through slavery. Unlike in the ancient times when victims of human trafficking, especially from Africa were transported oversees, nowadays the act occurs within the villages, towns or neighbouring countries. In fact, transporting the victims does not define trafficking; but exposing them to exploitative condition is called trafficking. People get trafficked for forced labour, sexual exploitation, slavery, marriage among others.

The 2019 United Nations Global Report on human trafficking indicates that African countries are still global players despite the existence of the established laws enacted by their governments. The study shows that West Africa leads in child trafficking, East Africa adult and Southern Africa are front-runners in women trafficking.

“Worldwide, almost 20 per cent of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa…children are the majority up to 100 per cent,” reads the part of the report.

Namibia is a hub of human trafficking in the South African region. It is a source, transit and destination for children trafficked for forced labour in agricultural plantations, cattle herding, charcoal production, involuntary domestic slavery, commercial sexual exploitation and vending according to the 2018 US Department of State report titled ‘Trafficking in Persons.’ The poor, orphans, illiterates and unemployed from rural areas reportedly are the most vulnerable to trafficking. They are lured to urban centres and commercial farms with promises of work for hefty salaries by the traffickers.

It is alleged some mothers force their daughters into sexual exploitations for money while some adults subject their distant relatives under their care to forced labour and commercial sex. Some cultures which encourage children to stay at home to take care of household chores rather than going to school also bear the blame for the rise of human trafficking in the country. Reports further link truck drivers with children trafficking to Namibia’s neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Angola and Zambia.

Others factors behind this inhuman act are demand for cheap labour, poor border control, poor birth and identity registration system and lack of surveillance systems. San and Zemba communities are the most targeted. Traffickers also kidnapped vulnerable children and girls and at times use Facebook and WhatsApp as recruitment platforms.

The crime exposes the victims to unbearable pain, physically, emotionally or psychologically. It also has negative impacts on families involved, community and the region at large. Even though the government of Namibia has not done enough to eradicate the menace, it has demonstrated the commitment to battle the vice since the first case was reported. In March 2018, Namibian President Hage Geingob signed the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, which explicitly criminalizes human trafficking and provides protection measures for victims.

The government further created awareness of trafficking across the country. Using a media campaign against gender-based violence and trafficking, the government encouraged victims and the public to report suspects to trafficking officers. In partnership with an International Organization, Mr Geingob administration initiated a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to act as a guide to front-line officials in the identification of victims and provision of protective measures.

Protection centres for the victims have been designated. The centres offer psycho-Social, legal and medical support. Examination rooms are in place in the major hospitals to offer treatment to victims overwhelmed by trauma and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare employed safety and health inspectors responsible for enforcing laws against child labour among other measures.

Finally, few individuals have been charged in the court of law over-involvement in human trafficking the latest being a 33-year-old woman. A Windhoek court found the woman guilty of luring two minors from a village in northern Namibia then sold them into sexual slavery. She was charged with four counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and three charges of trafficking in persons.

By Samuel Ouma |@journalist_27