The 30th of July marks the World Day Against Human Trafficking in persons.
The trafficking of persons, also referred to as human trafficking is a significant problem, the world over, including, and more significantly in the developing world. Trafficking in persons is not only a very serious crime, it is also a severe violation of various human rights.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some labour of different types and commercial sex work. Trafficking of persons can happen to absolutely anyone in any community, any age, gender, nationality, from any background; and has to be guarded against.
Traffickers can use violence to meet their end. Other times, they can use manipulation of false promises or better employment or love relationships. They prey on the desperations and sensitivities of others. Traffickers look for people made susceptible by their economic hardships, emotional and psychological vulnerability, lack of social safety net, natural disasters and political instability.
Many victims are unable to seek help. There are various reasons for this. Language barriers of the country they have been trafficked to, can often create a reluctance to seek help. Fear of law enforcement is also a significant hinderance to seeking help, particularly for persons who have been trafficked and forced into commercial sex work. The barriers and hindrances often render human trafficking a very hidden crime. The trauma experienced in human trafficking can cause many of its victims and survivors to not even identify as having been trafficked.
This year, with the pandemic having turned the lives of many around, in the most traumatic of ways, the community working towards ending trafficking of persons are commemorated and recognised. Our duty, as the public, is simply to recognise them, and share their work as widely as we can.
People working in the frontline to end trafficking in persons work in various sectors. Some identify cases of human trafficking, others offer support in various ways, and others still work in prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking, and challenging the impunity of traffickers. Highlighting their stories and experiences in assisting and supporting victims, their function, institution and organisation is highlighted, noting the impact their work has on the society.
The restrictions made in response to the pandemic have rendered the work of first responders against trafficking quite challenging. Their work has, as a result, become much more important, and critical, even though their input is often overlooked.
In 2002, Botswana became a party to the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons (Trafficking in persons protocol). Some years later, in 2014, Botswana enacted her first anti-trafficking legislation, the anti-Human Trafficking Act, which domesticates the protocol.
The courts in the country have also been instrumental in prosecuting human trafficking. Botswana has been identified as a source, transit and destination country, for trafficking, particularly of women and children for sex. Batswana, most vulnerable to trafficking, are apparently the unemployed, the rural poor women and agricultural workers, as well as children. The tactics used are often promises of a better life, with education and good employment.
There are indicators that can be used to identify whether a person has been trafficked. Recognising them and acting accordingly, can help to save a life, be reporting to the Botswana Police service, who are dedicated to ending trafficking, and can use as much help from us as possible.
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organisations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behaviour?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Of course, not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation. The presence or absence of the indicators is not necessarily evidence or proof of human trafficking. They are simply a guide that can be used, which is not necessarily exhaustive. The safety of the victim as well as that of the public are of paramount importance once one believes they have identified a trafficking case. It is critical that the case be reported to the police, instead of trying to confront the trafficker yourself. This can prove to be very dangerous, and can cause greater harm for the person who has been trafficked.