Human trafficking is one of the biggest challenges of the modern world that affects virtually every states, region and continents. Its magnitude and dimensions have continued to pose tremendous moral, social and economic burden on humanity.
This is more especially in third world countries where poverty has tended to exacerbate the impact to be most visible and most felt.
On the African continents, trafficking in human could be traced back to the pre-colonial era when Africans were taken as slaves for hard labour in Europe and America. As a result of this and in pursuance of greater control over the continent, colonial masters struggled in the partitioning of the African territory among themselves. This further fuelled the slave trade as many where displaced and become vulnerable to such exploitation for over decades.
The present trend in human trafficking is actually slave trade in a new garb. There are two main streams namely the trafficking of children for child labour and women mainly for sexual exploitation. Today, gender discrimination in education forces the girl child to receive less educational attention and the boys often have inadequate skills and opportunities for economic independence. In communities where traditional gender division of labour exists, the place for the girl child is in the kitchen and bedroom. Indeed, as poverty and social pressures push the women and children into illegal activities, their access to the formal labour sector become limited. This ultimately results in the boost of the informal and unregulated sectors such as domestic servitude, small trade entertainment and the sex industry.
The issue of human and child trafficking has continued to attract the attention of international community and civil society groups especially towards the end of 19th century. The illegal trade frequently exposes the human commodity to difficult conditions, both while they are on transit and when they settled in host communities. The women and children, in particular, are highly vulnerable to physical violence, hardship, isolation and discrimination.
Trafficking in human is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is link to poverty. Another factor is political and economic deprivations, which deny accesses to opportunities and scarce resource and the exploitation of this through the organized crime. Trafficking jeopardizes the integrity of the credibility of asylum institution. The scourge and rate of the victims increase on daily basis, especially women and children who are being trafficked across international borders annually. Trafficking in human, as a social disaster, has become a global business generating huge profit for traffickers and organized crime syndicates. As the procedure for legal migration tightens due to the fear of trans-border terrorism, perpetrators of the human trade increasingly turn to criminal networks of illegal agents for assistance. The consequence is that new trafficking routes are regularly established and markets for fraudulent travel documents, clandestine transportation and border crossing have developed into a multi- billion dollar business.
The problem can also be traced down to ignorance, and common knowledge that official statistics on human trafficking are often inconsistent, varying widely due to the clandestine nature of the activity. With an estimated millions of people traffic annually, human trafficking is billion dollar illicit industry, third behind illicit drug and arms trafficking. Thus, trafficking in people, especially women and children for prostitution and forced labor is one of the fastest growing areas of international criminal activity.
The UNICEF has pointed out that rich countries in Western Europe, the US, and the Middle East are the destination points for most victims trafficked out of African continent. Thus, out of 53 African countries surveyed by UNICEF, at least 50% responded that human trafficking existed in their respective counties.
Another important point of note is that while trafficking through slave trade in the past was carried out mainly through physical movement of its prey usually by force, present day trafficking has a broader method that includes deception, enticement, false promises and coercion. The ultimate purposes include prostitution, bonded labor, pornography, bride market, sex tourism and false adoptions.
Nigeria like other countries is not immune to the menace of human trafficking. It has been reported that more Nigerian women are actively engaged in foreign prostitution, especially in Italy where young ladies mainly from Edo, Delta and Lagos states. Stories abound on how young girls are compelled to have sex with anything from four to twelve men in a day. A report of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that in many cases traffickers seize their victims travel documents and sell the women to brothel owners. To recover their passports, they have to repay their cost of transportation.
Internally trafficked persons in Nigeria, for example, are reported to be deployed into domestic service: shop attendance, catering service, head loading, hawking, prostitution etc. Children deployed in households are subjected to about 12 – 18 hours of overburdening work; without good clothing and nutrition, the young victims are also often sexually abused by household members. The result has been severe physical and psychological harm including being infested with venereal diseases like HIV/AIDS, pelvic inflammatory diseases and the consequences of suicidal and homicidal tendencies.
Unless drastic measures are taken, African women and children may continue to be trafficked due to poverty, economic hardship, corrupt governance, social disruption, political instability, armed conflicts, natural disasters, familiar pressures, global demand for cheap but vulnerable labor. In view of the foregoing the only remedy to eradication and reduction of human trafficking especially in Africa is through effective public awareness campaign on the danger of the illicit business. The government and other relevant stakeholders must also ensure reduction on poverty level, improve living conditions of the people, create enable environment for jobs, and free education to girl child who has always being vulnerable to exploitation.
There must also be active and collaborative engagements of security and law enforcement agencies in arresting and prosecuting patrons of human traffickers. If the promoters are not punished to serve as deterrents, the activities of these criminals will continue to flourish to the detriment of human dignity.
Human life is a gift from the creator and it should never be for sale. We must therefore collaborate in stopping trafficking in human which degrades human value by its crude methods of coercion, deception and exploitation. It is through our individual and collective efforts that the modern world can achieve tremendous progress in economic and human rights standards.
Saadatu Ovosi | firstname.lastname@example.org | (NYSC Member) Abuja