Botswana: Human Trafficking Thorn in Flesh

Kasane — Human trafficking continues to pose a serious threat to humanity in Botswana, regionally and globally.

Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Mr Shaw Kgathi said this when officiating at the 3rd Judicial Colloquium on Human Trafficking in Kasane on July 9

He said the crime had severe negative impact on human dignity as well as the physical and mental integrity of its victims.

The colloquium aimed at equipping judges and magistrates with the necessary knowledge and skills on issues of human trafficking.

Statistics across the world have indicated that human beings, particularly women and children, continue to be trafficked across the world.

He said according to the 2017 International Labour Organization (ILO) report, an estimated 24.9 million people are victims of human trafficking and out of the staggering number of trafficked victims, 71 per cent are women and girls, while 29 per cent are men and boys.

Mr Kgathi revealed that 16 million, representing 64 per cent of victims were exploited for forced labour in mining, domestic work, agriculture, hospitality, construction among others.

He added that 4.8 million accounting for 15 per cent of the total estimated persons trafficked globally were traded for sexual exploitation.

Mr Kgathi said, "Even most disheartening is the fact that the number of trafficked children under the age of 18 stood at 5.5 million."

The minister further revealed that human trafficking victims ended up being traded for various selfish gains, ranging from sexual slavery to forced labour, forced marriage, trafficking for organ or tissue trade or such similar illicit activities.

He said the response to the crime must always be meticulously coordinated and commensurate to its severity.

In Botswana, he appreciated that the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2014 was recently amended through the Anti-Human Trafficking (Amendment) Act of 2018, which makes provision for stiffer penalties.

The heinous crime of trafficking in persons was said to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, which is also believed to be generating illicit income running into billions of dollars globally, he noted.

The 2014 ILO report estimated that human traffickers earned profits of $150 billion per annum with the largest share of that profit derived from commercial sexual exploitation at $99 billion annually, he said.

Furthermore, Mr Kgathi explained that human traffickers were also often involved in money laundering activities in an attempt to legitimise the otherwise illicit earned proceeds.

He said it was necessary for governments to be proactive not only in terms of strengthening relevant anti-human trafficking and anti-money laundering legislation, but also with respect to building capacity for all role players including investigators, prosecutors and judicial officers.

The minister further revealed that in 2018, government caused 25 pieces of anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-financing of terrorism (CTF) legislation to be enacted, adding that the number included the Anti-Human Trafficking (Amendment) Act of 2018.

Out of the 25 AML-CFT laws passed by Parliament in 2018, he said there were those he deemed relevant to anti-human trafficking, citing the Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Penal Code (Amendment) Act, Cybercrime and Computer Related Offence Act, among others.

Mr Kgathi observed that the laws were complimentary to anti-human trafficking efforts, adding that staggering human trafficking profits could be traced alongside the human trafficking predicate offence charged.

Furthermore, he stressed the need for an interconnected efforts to combat human trafficking, stating that the efforts should be multi-sectoral in approach as opposed to being a unilateral response.

"This is because perpetrators of this crime are always keen on exploiting loopholes in the law, the system and in processes, hence the need for a coordinated response," he added.Fostering strategic partnership, with other countries, international and regional organisations and indeed the public, he added, was key to the success of any anti-human trafficking initiative and in line with their commitment through the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Lastly, Mr Kgathi acknowledged and commended the central role that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) played in the global fight against trafficking in persons.

He commended them for their assistance in the provision of technical expertise as it relates to Botswana's anti-trafficking agenda.

The minister also hailed the US for the provision of funding, especially in areas of training and appreciated the role played by the Association of Women Judges in Botswana.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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