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By Isacc Karikari
Fabruary 15 / Ghana Home Page
A lot of progress has been made over the years in the fight against child trafficking in Ghana and the world at large. One very notable achievement is the increased awareness amongst the general public. This increase in public awareness can be said to be as a result of the activities of organizations (mostly NGOs) and the government in curbing this menace as well as the media’s role in making public, findings by these organizations. The media has actually done a lot in exposing what was hitherto an ‘underground crime’. Their stance so far as child trafficking is concerned is commendable. Only that lately, I find the media’s inclination to be very much towards politics.
Child trafficking may pass for a crime because of laws that have been enacted but it being considered a crime is not merely because of some parliamentary act or executive fiat. There is the need for one to consider the moral aspects of the issue.
Child trafficking is a violation of another person’s rights. It involves bonded labour. Children who are trafficked are often abused. Abuse of trafficked children is more of a norm than an accident or occasional incident. They are underfed, made to do work beyond their capacity and are often victims of verbal denigration, not forgetting corporal punishment. For girls, the forms of abuse sometimes include sexual abuse. There have been reports of children drowning whiles they tried disentangling the nets of their fishermen masters under water.
The term Child trafficking is nothing but a euphemism for one of the most subtle yet worst forms of modern slavery.
Who are those responsible for the high incidence of trafficking?
There are the “masters” who give ‘offers’ to beleaguered parents of those small children.
The children serve as an alternative source of labour. In fact a “better” source of labour. They are easy to handle and they come cheap. The Parents and Guardians One very unfortunate thing is the role the guardians and parents of these trafficked children play. They are the worst offenders. They are the ones who offer the children up for sale. Sometimes under the guise of apprenticeship, children are sold for as ‘much’ as $50. Doesn’t it defy logic that instead of working to ease difficult conditions a parent or guardian would rather ‘send’ a child out to work. Here is the case where they do not even ‘send’ the children out to work. They sell them; at best they ‘rent’ them out for certain periods of time.
Many other reasons are given so far as the dynamics of child trafficking are concerned.
Traditional practices such as children being sent away to live with relatives and the high rate of poverty (especially among the rural folk) are cited. But I don’t think that in any way offers a good enough excuse for the selling of a child.
Trafficking in children is not a crime just because it has been made illegal by an Act (The Trafficking Act, 2005). Even if it were not considered illegal, it involves a blatant and crude violation of the rights of children, who are very vulnerable. It is an abuse of human rights.
What happened to the Children’s Act?
Not only are they made to do work or engage in activities way too dangerous, they also do not have voices with which to state their case and make their protests heard. The various NGOs and government agencies offer them a voice. They are their voice.
However, in a bid to solve the problem of child trafficking some good-intentioned organizations are rather promoting it. With some of the approaches they have adopted those who should be the solution have become a part of the problem. As a means of helping curb this menace some organisations offer money to the ‘slave masters’ for the release of the ‘slaves’. By so doing they are gradually eroding gains that have been made and possible gains that will be made in combating trafficking. The Trafficking Act is being undermined. The giving of monies to these ‘masters’ may appear to work, in the sense that they release the children but it conveys the wrong message. It makes trafficking a viable and enviable venture. Others will engage in it because they know they will be given some ‘incentives’ for the release of the trafficked children. It can be likened to negotiating with a kidnapper or hijacker for the release of hostages.
I believe that instead of offering the ‘masters’ money they should rather be prosecuted. The Palermo Protocols support this view.
The following form part of the contents of the Palermo Protocols: Providing for proportional criminal penalties to be applied to persons found guilty of trafficking in aggravating circumstances, including offences involving trafficking in children or offences committed or involving complicity by state officials; and, Providing for the confiscation of the instruments and proceeds of trafficking and related offences to be used for the benefit of trafficked persons. That will serve as a deterrent and will do more in helping curb trafficking than the offering of monies which helps perpetuate it. Parents who are found to have sold their children should also be prosecuted. Instead of direct micro-finance aid or compensation to perpetrators (fishermen, farmers, parents and guardians) the aid should be directed towards reducing poverty in ‘trafficking zones’ and building more shelters to house the trafficking victims. Arrests and prosecutions would give an indication of government’s seriousness in dealing with the issue. It is however true that most people are ignorant of the existence of the Trafficking Act, 2005. Campaigns and education on the act should be intensified.