ACCRA, GHANA - Namibian parliamentarians in Ghana attending the Commonwealth expert regional workshop on the role of parliamentary committees in combating human trafficking and forced labour say even though Namibia has made significant progress in tackling human trafficking and forced labour, more still needs to be done to raise awareness and understanding regarding trafficking and forced labour and the dangers associated with this scourge.
MPs Agnes Limbo, Gotthard Kasuto and Eunice Iipinge from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Family Affairs and Social Development bemoaned harmful cultural practices such as marrying off young girls, internal and external trafficking and lack of awareness and research-based evidence as the main impediments that still hamper efforts towards addressing this social challenge in Namibia.
“We still have cases of young girls being married off even when they are still in school. Many cases of internal trafficking go on unnoticed as a result. We need to commission a report to determine the extent of this problem and map the way forward,” suggested Iipinge.
Limbo concurred noting that there is good legislation that seeks to address human trafficking in Namibia but implementation has been lacking.
“Just recently we adopted the SADC model law on child marriage. We have just recently passed our own legislation on human trafficking but these cases still keep on coming up with no convictions,” stated Limbo.
Kasuto further noted early child marriages, part of exploitation associated with human trafficking, have even resulted in more social challenges such as high suicide. “We learnt that in some cases, human trafficking had nothing to do with poverty but forced or early child marriages when we recently conducted our oversight visits,” said Kasuto.
The workshop is an opportunity for lawmakers to exchange ideas around their role in gathering research-based evidence, scrutinising legislation and oversight of the implementation of anti-trafficking laws. According to estimates there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking worldwide with half that number in the Commonwealth countries. The sub-Saharan region is said to be a source, destination and transit point for human trafficking.
Even though Namibia has not yet met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, graded at tier 2, it has made significant efforts especially with the signing of the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill into law in 2017. The law is an improvement from the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) of 2004, that did not explicitly deal with the issue of trafficking. As a result, more traffickers have been prosecuted. The majority of their victims are victims of forced labour and have been referred for care. However, to date Namibia had only one person convicted for trafficking among the 31 cases prosecuted so far.
Officiating at the workshop on Tuesday Ghanaian Speaker of Parliament Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye said human trafficking and forced labour are recognised globally as crimes and therefore efforts should be made not only to address the symptoms but also look at underlying causes such as poverty.
He further noted there should be factual data on the issue and that robust corroborative approaches should be adopted if the status quo needs to be changed.
“We need to have a national database for these cases and a corroborative approach. Without actual data, we will keep dancing in circles as we may not know the magnitude of the problem,” cautioned Oquaye.
According to the Head of the Anti-Trafficking Unit in the Ghanaian Police, Mike Baah, Ghana had 19 convictions of human trafficking associated with forced labour in 2018 alone.
Information provided at the workshop revealed besides negatively impacting the economy, trafficking that is often a consequence of coercion, affects the health and personal development of children that are mostly vulnerable to the scourge. There was consensus that the rehabilitation process should also include social safety nets as the panacea to the underlying cause of poverty.
Members of Parliament further visited the Don Bosco Child protection centre on the outskirts of Accra that houses, rehabilitates and re integrates trafficked children. Countries that are represented at the workshop that ended on Thursday include Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya and the United Kingdom.
*George Sanzila works in the Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.
2019-06-14 10:26:39 4 days ago