Human trafficking in Uganda often goes unnoticed, leading to gross abuse and exploitation of individuals. Last week I attended an event by Wetaase Uganda aimed at coming up with a toolkit that will raise awareness of human trafficking in Uganda. I was able to be part of an initiative that tackles human trafficking in East Africa through digital tech. Consequently, I would like my readers to be acquainted with what entails human trafficking since sharing is caring.
Human trafficking in common parlance refers to a practice of illegally transporting, receiving and harboring of human beings from one country or area to another by means of deception, force, abduction, and fraud for purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. It is worth noting that human trafficking occurs both domestically and globally with victims being trafficked within their own country, to neighboring countries, and between continents. Victims can be of any age and any gender. It is an illegal practice because it violates people’s rights besides the negative effects it brings about to the victims and the community.
Signs of human trafficking
1. Confiscating personal documents.
The traffickers often confiscate the victim’s identification documents such as passport, visa, identity cards and money. Disturbingly, some may even go ahead and rename the victims.
2. No freedom of communication, association, and worship.
You are a victim of human trafficking when you are denied to associate with people, communicate with relatives and friends and to worship. This is actually a common practice with not only external but also internal human trafficking.
3. When you are given different work from the one in the initial contract.
This can be manifested through promises of employment opportunities with unreasonably high salary offers, unclear details of employer and unclear details about transportation to the final destination. Once you fail to figure it out as early as possible, upon arrival to the apparently expected destination, captors take control, the victims find themselves with different employers, doing a different kind of work from the one in the initial agreement.
4. Working under pressure
This may include working for longer hours than expected, working at a higher pace forcefully, which may include physical violence or substance abuse incurred on the victim.
Causes of human trafficking
Human trafficking exists because it is a profitable business for the traffickers. A report from the Research by International Labour Organization asserts that forced labour generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Notably, two-thirds of that money comes from commercial sexual exploitation while the rest is from forced economic exploitation including child labour.
These traffickers take advantage of people in vulnerable situations that are looking for a way out and in their desperation, they can easily fall prey to human traffickers. People are vulnerable to human trafficking for various reasons stated below:
- Lack of information(ignorance)
Most young people fall victims of human trafficking due to lack of knowledge about the practice. On the other hand, the traffickers may also not be aware that they are breaking the law especially employers of domestic servants within the country.
This being the biggest challenge facing the youths in Uganda and Africa, human traffickers have taken advantage of the situation to manipulate the desperate young people who are hungrily looking for employment opportunities.
- Relatives/Friends testimonies
This happens when a relative or friend finds success in working abroad or in a different region within the country, so their testimony motivates their friends and relatives to migrate as well in search of success.
Uganda being a third world country with a high level of poverty, people are forced to migrate in search for greener pastures and yet end up falling victims of human trafficking. In addition, some parents sell their children not just for money but also in hope that their children may escape poverty and have a better life with more opportunities.
- Poor government policy
There is still an absence of anti-trafficking legislation effectiveness in some countries, Uganda inclusive because the law enforcement officers haven’t taken enough action to curb human trafficking. I’m not against labour exportation but I think the government should put more efforts to ensure the safety of its citizens exported for labour through follow up of company registration and make sure the right procedure is being followed by these employers.
- Social and Cultural practices
Some societies and cultures devalue abuse and exploit women and girls creating perilous living conditions for these women. With little opportunities and value placed on them, they are more vulnerable to human trafficking.
Effects of human trafficking
- Loss of lives
This may occur in form of suicide or murder and health complications. A report released in October last year indicated at least 48 Ugandan migrant workers in the Middle East ( UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait) have died since January last year. 34 of them committed suicide, 5 died of a heart attack, 1 died of murder, 5 died of HIV complications, and 3 died of traumatic shock.
- Exposure to diseases
These include sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Candida, Gonorrhea etc plus physical disorders resulting from severe torture.
- Unwanted pregnancies
For women forced into the sex industry, unplanned pregnancies are common since it is not popular to use protection. Since it is their bodies they use to make money, they resort to getting rid of the pregnancy by doing abortion so as to be able to continue with their job. This, in a long run, brings about reproduction health problems.
- Drug addiction
Some victims of human trafficking resort to alcohol and drugs as a form of coping with the situation they have faced.
- Broken marriages and relationships
Most people that are trafficked leave behind their families and yet sometimes they never come back, or when they come back, they come in a different state from that expected by their family members which cause misunderstandings hence family break up.
- Physiological and physical trauma
Victims of human trafficking go through gruesome physical torture by the traffickers which cause physical health problems, besides they tend to have post-traumatic stress causing isolation, insecurity, fear, intrusive thoughts and low self-esteem which makes them feel unworthy of living and not good enough.
- Retards development
Human trafficking retards a nation’s development as it promotes criminal conduct and corruption, and also undermines human resource development.
As we think about solutions to eradicate human trafficking both within the country and across borders, we need to first understand it in depth considering the acts, the means, and the purposes and innovate solutions targeting the root causes of human trafficking. The following should work collectively to make this happen – a country/world free from human trafficking:
Anti-trafficking measures must be integrated into all humanitarian action and all policies regarding people exported for labour. The victims must be protected and the traffickers prosecuted.
2. Civil Society Organizations.
There are a number of these organizations working towards protecting and defending human rights and fighting conditions that can lead to the enslavement of human beings. Wetaase.org is one of the national leaders in advocacy and education efforts related to human trafficking. These organizations need to innovate solutions targeting the root causes of human trafficking for preventive measures. Plus they need to work with schools and different community groups to sensitize and teach people to stay safe and become more self-sufficient so that traffickers can’t find their way in.
People should take personal responsibility for protecting themselves from falling into the dangers of human trafficking. They can turn on the light by learning more through seeking knowledge from several CSO’s and avoid falling victims of ignorance. Secondly, they should use their voice, by advocating for their rights and reporting any suspected form of human trafficking witnessed. Weetase.org has provided a platform to report these issues, receive information, help, and advice on human trafficking and they can be reached via their toll-free line 0800202600 so use your voice to speak out.
As I wind up, I would like to share with you a testimony of a 27-year-old youth named Quintino from Guinea Bissau (a former victim of human trafficking) whose story touched me. In 2015, Quintino migrated from his home country along with his other friends in search of employment opportunities. He was heading to Italy through Libya, but unfortunately, he fell into the hands of human traffickers as soon as he got into Tripoli, lucky enough he managed to escape 2 months later under gunfire that luckily missed him. He luckily managed to return to Guinea Bissau with the help of IOM and was received by Masitese (an Italian organization under the European Union) that runs reintergral programmes that enable returning immigrants to start income generating activities, which Quintino finally benefitted from. Read more about his story here.
The advice he gives to young people in Africa is that they should embrace the fact that they can create solutions for themselves and their communities while in the community. He adds that from his experience, he learned a lot and he would not want to see anyone fall into the same trap. He believes prevention is better than cure.