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More victim protection needed in Human Trafficking bill … good step in the right direction

by Kelvin Chiringa

 The Institute for Public Policy Research has welcomed the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill as the right step in the right direction, but with caution given that more still needs to be done in safe-guarding victims.

IPPR’s researcher, Maximilian Weylandt, in his latest report notes that the bill’s shortfall is in that it does not include some services that the Child Care and Protection Act wants. 

Says Weylandt, “For example, it does not require that victims of child employment have to receive education opportunities, or a job if they want to and are old enough to have a job.”

“In addition, the Bill says that victims should be provided with housing, whereas before, the law said victims should get housing with access to “food, water, clothes and bedding.” Despite its shortcomings, the Bill represents a step forward in fighting human trafficking in Namibia.”

Government has demonstrated immense political will to live up to international standards when it comes to trafficking, passing The Hague Convention and Child Care Act.

 “The Bill is clearly linked to our international agreements. The first objective of the Bill is to “give effect to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.” It is similar to the Child Care and Protection Act in its detailed definitions and prohibition of a range of acts that can contribute to trafficking. It also includes provisions for assisting victims,” he observes.

  A comprehensive law that clearly defines the crime, and makes it illegal to help traffickers in a variety of ways should make it easier for law enforcement to convict traffickers when they catch them, says Weylandt. 

“However, this law will not fix everything,” cautions the researcher.

He advises that government still needs to run awareness campaigns so that citizens can learn about how to spot when trafficking is occurring and how to report it. 

“It needs to ensure better coordination between various institutions so that all agencies are working in the same direction. It also needs to train law enforcement on trafficking, and make sure to give victims the safety and help they need.”

“The Bill shows that Namibia is responsive to its international obligations when it comes to implementing the right laws. The future will show if it can live up to these obligations when it comes to protecting victims in reality,” he adds. 

The years gone by have seen a number of trafficking cases being reported in the media.

Up to date, the press is the only source of of information on trafficking, although they are not always confirmed, Weylandt says in his report.

“Examples of reported cases include a case in which two Namibian girls were kidnapped and smuggled to South Africa; a case in which a Zambian national trafficked boy from Zambia to Namibia to work on farms; and a case in Walvis bay, in which a mother reportedly forced her daughter into prostitution (this was highlighted as trafficking because the daughter travelled from the north before being exploited like this). Several other cases can be found in various reports,” he says. 

Has Namibia been effective in combating this heinous crime?

“We cannot know whether there are many undetected cases of trafficking, or whether the police catch most criminals involved with trafficking. However, we can look at whether the structures are in place to fight trafficking when it occurs: are there strong laws against it, does the government pay enough attention to the danger, and are there services for victims of trafficking when they are found?” says Weylandt. 

He refers to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report  which rates all countries in the world on their efforts against human trafficking which reports that “the Government of Namibia does not fully merit the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.” 

In terms of prosecution, it noted that the government investigated eight alleged cases in 2016, and prosecuted seven people in two cases, he said.

“Of the eight cases, five were for forced work and three for sex trafficking. The report says that the government needs to improve its victim services. It noted that there were no written procedures on referring victims to care services, and no standard operating procedures for shelters.”

“It notes that there were no official meetings by the committee to combat trafficking in 2016, while a planned awareness campaign had not started. The lack of resources and trained staff at shelters and awareness campaigns mean that the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas,” explains Weylandt. 

Meanwhile, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking in persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”