Campaigns to counter human trafficking

Date: January 1, 1970
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Organisations across Southern Africa are combining forces to coordinate activities and undertake initiatives to prevent human trafficking and child exploitation in the lead up to World Cup 2010.

A campaign launched at a two-day conference in early October in Maputo, Mozambique, led by the Southern Africa Regional Network against Trafficking and Abuse of Children (SANTAC), will run through until the end of the games in 2010.
Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) will also launch their “Red Light 2010 Campaign” to ensure that the World Cup does not increase women and children’s vulnerability to trafficking with Southern Africa. During this year’s 16 days of activism campaign, Souteh African-based gender Links will co-host a regional cyber dialogue with WLSA on human trafficking and the ways in which new technologies can exacerbate these new forms of violence.
 “Prostitution and trafficking in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries affects predominantly children and women. The Southern Africa region is highly vulnerable to human trafficking. In all historical phases, human trafficking (children included) has been seen in some communities as normal thing,” noted SANTAC in a statement.
High profile participants attending the SABTAC launch oncluded SADC government representatives, academics from the region and Brazil, experts from African Union and local civil society organisations. Held under the theme “Sharing lessons learned and developing ways forward” the conference featured Graca Machel, former Mozambican first Lady, holder of several global child rights awards, and long time advocate of counter trafficking initiatives.
SANTAC identifies the lack of consolidated cooperation between states at national level and between governments and civil society as key hindrances to combating trafficking. Such concerted action could go a long way to help to prevent traffickers from recruiting victims, as much of the practice relies on such secrecy and lack of information about safe migration.  
According to one victim rescued by the IOM, “We were once told by some people in our village that we are going to be forced to sleep with men wherever we were going [in South Africa]. We were scared when we learnt about this… we never suspected that [the recruiter] may sell us as sex slaves… I told myself that I have no reason to doubt him because I know his wife very well.”
SANTAC also argues that there is an absence of adequate legislation to punish those who recruit, accommodate and profit from trafficking, as well as inadequate action from law enforcement agents. Participants at the conference called for SADC countries to adopt and implement appropriate measures at national and regional level to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking cases, especially of women and children, long before 2010.
Earlier this year in April, the Parliament of Mozambique approved unanimously the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) TIP law. Mozambique is the first country to have specific legislation against trafficking in the region. However, Mozambique, like many Southern African countries, continues to be vulnerable to the actions of human traffickers, as many challenges exits with implementation.
Despite government and organsiational commitment, there is so far little impact on the ground, and it remains to be seen how effective the legislation will be when it comes to protecting possible victims, and prosecuting perpetrators.
The International Organization on Migration (IOM) states that more than 1000 Mozambican women and children are trafficked each year, mainly to South Africa where they end up in prostitution or in under paid jobs.
According to Nely Simbine Chimedza, of the IOM’s African Counter Trafficking Assistance Programme (SACTAP) in Maputo, part of this issue arises from cultural expectations and reluctance to speak out on the issue. “Human trafficking in Mozambique has been exacerbated by a culture of silence, whereby people tend to try to solve problems of the law within their families and communities without interference from the law.” Many people were afraid to report family or community members involved in crime.
The campaign launch comes at a time when business executives and politicians are concentrating their efforts on the monetary gains that 2010 will bring forth.  Often called the world’s most popular game, the event will attract millions of people – tourists, game officials, players, fans, and business people wanting to profit from the billions of dollars in potential revenues
History teaches us that during these global events, vulnerable groups such as children and women are at risk of exploitation and abuse. Efforts by human rights organisations to put in place strategies to counter the possibility of crime and exploitation during the mega event are essential, in order to ensure that safety and security remains high on the regional agenda.
The conference included the presentation of four country studies about sex tourism from the Southern Africa region and the Brazilian experience, pointing out that human trafficking is not only an individual rights-based crime, but also poses many other security risks.
“It is usually forgotten that trafficking promotes organised crime, violence and drugs, HIV and AIDS, exploitation, ignorance, exclusion, instability and poverty,’’ SANTAC said in a press statement issued before the conference.
Economic disadvantages make women and children in the region the most vulnerable to human traffickers. For them, legislation and coordinated efforts are urgent.
Fred Katerere is a freelance journalist based in Maputo. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news.

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