Human Trafficking News

Compiled by Students & Artists Fighting to End Human Slavery

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rights-Mozambique: Law to Stop Human Trafficking, Maputo, July 30

RIGHTS-MOZAMBIQUE: Law to Stop Human Trafficking
By Ruth Ansah Ayisi

MAPUTO, July 30 (IPS) - Over 1,000 Mozambicans, including children, are trafficked to South Africa every year where they are forced into prostitution or to provide free or cheap labour. In response, Mozambique’s government last week approved a new law which will make human trafficking a crime punishable with long prison sentences.It will probably be cold comfort to Sonia to know that Mozambique’s council of ministers approved a law against human trafficking last week. She was rescued just over a year ago after having been trafficked to South Africa to provide domestic work free of charge. After her return, she did not want to talk to her family about her experience. She only wanted to move away to another part of town, to be alone with her twin babies. The 34-year-old Sonia, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, related her story to IPS last year. She had been tricked by traffickers with a promise of a paid job as a domestic worker in South Africa. She was told she would earn the equivalent of 166 dollars a month, an offer she felt she could not refuse. Having only completed 5th grade in primary school, she was unemployed in Mozambique. Even if she had succeeded in getting a job, she would probably have received only the minimum salary of about 50 dollars. Sonia was smuggled across the border without documents. ‘‘They told me they would look after everything,’’ she said during the interview a year ago. She described how near the South African border at around seven in the evening, ‘‘a man led us through the bush and up the hills. I was scared, but what could I do? I got frightened when dogs started barking at us and then the South African police arrested us all. But then the man paid money to the police and they let us go.’’ Once in South Africa, Sonia worked as a domestic worker but without ever receiving any payment. Being illegally in the country, Sonia resorted to the sex trade to survive. She was gang-raped, became pregnant and was infected with HIV. Human trafficking in southern African, especially of women and children to work mostly in brothels or sometimes as unpaid labour, as in Sonia’s case, or as cheap labour in agriculture, is believed to be on the increase. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) found in a study that over 1,000 Mozambican women and children are trafficked into South Africa each year. ‘‘The number is going up,’’ says Nelly Chimedza, the assistant programme officer of the Southern Africa Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme in the Maputo IOM office. The Mozambican bill will be adopted during the next sitting of parliament in September this year. Chimedza comments that ‘‘this is a major achievement, especially as up until now there has not been one conviction for these kinds of activities in Mozambique.’’ However, Chimedza warns that even if the parliamentarians pass the bill, there is still more work to be done before there is a guarantee that traffickers will be bought to justice. ‘‘The challenge will be to disseminate information on the law so that people are aware that trafficking is a crime.’’ But even with knowledge, ‘‘fear and shame’’ persist, she adds. Many of the victims of traffickers do not want to talk about their experience, not even to close family members. ‘‘They want to keep the stories to themselves. They self-stigmatise themselves, especially as sexual abuse is often involved. They want to go through the healing process alone, like Sonia is doing,’’ Chimedza explains. The United Nations’ Children Fund (UNICEF) supports awareness campaigns among law enforcement agents, community leaders, parents, young women and children. ‘‘People are not fully aware of the trafficking issue and the risks involved,’’ says Mioh Nemoto, child protection specialist for UNICEF. ‘‘It is especially difficult as poverty is one of the underlying causes for the existence of trafficking. People are probably told that if they give their children to work in South Africa, they will have the chance to go to school too.’’ Nemoto adds that it is not easy to put the record straight in the community because trafficking is shrouded in secrecy. ‘‘We don’t know exactly what is going on and, without evidence, it is difficult to develop the right messages for communities.’’ Indeed, little is also known about the fate of most victims. Chimedza says, ‘‘Sonia is a ‘success story’ because she is back home. She has a house of her own and makes a living out of petty trading.’’ The house was built by IOM and Chimedza visits her regularly to find out how she is coping. Yet Chimedza is worried that Sonia is not out of danger. Because Sonia’s small business of selling ice pops and fish collapsed due to lack of electricity, she talked about trading across the border to buy goods in South Africa to sell in Mozambique. ‘‘She was very excited about the plan when she told me four months ago but I told her that she runs the risk of coming across traffickers again. I think she understood my point.’’ (END/2007)

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