KIGALI, April 29 (IPS) – Desperate to escape the rural areas where she worked in the informal economy in Kayonza, a district in Eastern Rwanda, Sharon* made the long and arduous journey to Kenya in the hope of a well-paying job.
An unidentified person contacted her, paid her fare and gave her a modest pocket money to get to Kenya by road. The man told the 19-year-old she was traveling in search of a “job opportunity”.
However, Sharon discovered she was working as a sex slave at a karaoke bar on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Sharon’s job is to politely bow to all customers at the door and lead them inside the bar.
“I was also hired as a nightclub dancer and was sometimes forced to have sex with clients for a living,” the high school graduate told IPS in an interview.
Like Sharon, activists say the number of young women from rural areas trafficked for sex in many East African countries is growing. Young women are attracted to promises of good jobs or marriage. Instead, they are trafficked into prostitution in cities like Nairobi (Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda).
Both activists and lawmakers have warned that those with hidden agendas could target young women from Rwanda.
The process of trafficking most of these young women to neighboring countries is complicated. It involves vain promises to their families and victims in which they are promised a “better life”, activists say.
In many cases, traffickers lure young women from villages to neighboring countries with the promise of well-paid work. The victims are then transferred to their slaves – especially in questionable hotels and karaoke bars.
While Rwanda has struggled to combat human trafficking, law enforcement agencies emphasize that the main challenge revolves around financing and other support for repatriated victims. The limited budgets of victim investigation and rehabilitation organizations mean that these programs are not working effectively.
President of Legislative Assembly of East AfricaThe Committee for the Settlement of Conflicts and Regional Affairs, Fatuma Ndangiza, warned that without urgent measures being taken, the problem is likely to worsen.
Ndangiza told IPS: “Most of these unemployed young women are victims of a human trafficking ring operating under the guise of regional employment agencies.
The latest figures of Rwanda Bureau of Investigation (RIB) indicated that 119 cases of human trafficking, illegal migration and migrant smuggling in the region were investigated over the past three years.
These cases involved 215 victims, of which 165 were female and 59 were male.
Driven by the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex, experts say, trafficking rings across East Africa exploit mainly economic and social vulnerabilities to exploit victims. their personnel.
But the estimate of United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that the lack of relevant legislation and necessary administrative institutions across East Africa continues to give traffickers and smugglers an undue advantage in carrying out their activities.
To prevent human trafficking, Rwanda has adopted a number of measures, including the passage of a new law in 2018.
Under current law, offenders face up to 15 years in prison, but activists say the measure is not enough of a deterrent.
Although law enforcement officers have received anti-trafficking training, Evariste Murwanashyaka, an avid human rights defender living in Kigali, told IPS that law enforcement is a challenge, mainly because it is difficult to detect women engaged in prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation in neighboring countries.
Murwanashyaka is the Program Director of the Rwandan-based Umbrella Human Rights Foundation, better known as ‘Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme’ (CLADHO)
“Young women are still more likely to be targeted by traffickers due to the growing demand for sex slaves in the region,” he said.
Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, activists say it’s not just a lack of awareness but people, especially teenagers, are unaware that they are victims of human trafficking.
Murwanashyaka told IPS: “Most of the informal job offers from abroad for these young people are related to illegal business activities, such as human trafficking, mainly of women. , and their labor and sexual exploitation.
According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, increasing unemployment, malnutrition and school closures have human trafficking is on the rise.
Meanwhile, RIB spokesman Dr Thierry Murangira believes that human trafficking is a transnational organized crime.
“As transnational organized crime,” he said, “this requires the involvement of multiple jurisdictions and regional cooperation to investigate and prosecute the crime.”
This article is part of a series of features from around the world on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Corporation. The Global Sustainability Network (GSN) is pursuing United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 with a particular emphasis on Goal 8.7, “taking immediate and effective measures to eliminate it.” forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to by 2025 end child labor in all its forms”. The origins of the GSN stem from the efforts of the Joint Declaration between Religious Leaders signed on December 2, 2014. Religious leaders of different faiths gathered to do the work. working together “to defend human dignity and freedom against extreme forms of indifferent globalization, such as exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking”.
Report of the United Nations Office IPS
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