Countries urged to do more to stop child trafficking as risks to children rise in Africa
HIV/AIDS and endemic poverty in the region leave millions of children vulnerable
“With over 8 million children orphaned by AIDS, widespread poverty, increased tourism, especially in coastal areas, and greater movement of goods and services between countries, Eastern and Southern Africa is gravely poised to become a major origin of trafficked children,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Per Engebak. “Traffickers are exploiting the aspirations of those living in dreadful conditions with virtually no risk of prosecution.”
Evidence of an expansion in the global trafficking of human beings – which generates an estimated $7 billion to $10 billion a year globally for its perpetrators – into this part of the world is already emerging.
On the Day of the African Child whose theme is ‘Combating Child Trafficking,’ Engebak said some countries in the region were yet to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, part of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Those that had done so had made little progress in enacting national laws outlawing the vice.
“In many countries, the absence of a specific law on child trafficking is a serious loophole that undermines the global effort to stop child trafficking,” said Engebak. “Existing laws that address certain aspects of trafficking, such as kidnapping, rape or sexual exploitation, fall short of punishing perpetrators for the crime of trafficking itself.”
Out of 20 countries in the region, 11 have ratified the Protocol and three have signed it. Only Mozambique and South Africa have made progress in enacting domestic legislation against child trafficking.
Existing data on child trafficking points to some worrying indicators:
A lot remains unknown about the extent of child trafficking in the region. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, South Africa is frequently cited as a destination for victims trafficked from other African countries. Those trafficked are forced into prostitution or exploited for domestic labour.
There is also a considerable level of trafficking occurring within borders, which often goes unmonitored. Knowing the nature and extent of such trafficking obliges governments to conduct national assessments and implement mechanisms for monitoring the situation and collecting information.
At the regional level, cross-border agreements are needed to enable laws to be enforced beyond national jurisdictions. As countries in the trading blocks of COMESA and SADC move towards common customs unions and interlinked transport and communications networks, the need for multilateral agreements between states to stop child trafficking has never been greater.
Ratified – Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Signed – Burundi, Swaziland, and Uganda.
Non-Signatories – Angola, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.