Slavery is found in the Bible in Old Testament times – the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and we know the extreme hardships they endured. Joseph was sold by his brothers to become a slave in Egypt, later he was the one who assisted them when a terrible famine raged in the land of Israel and he became their liberator.
Closer to our own times, people from West Africa were taken as slaves to the then ‘New World’, and today we know that there is still deeply embedded racism in the USA where in many instances African Americans are unfairly judged and treated as second-class citizens. For many young black men, they can be set upon and killed for a trivial offense or no offense at all as in the case of George Floyd who was held down by a white police officer holding a knee on his neck (for 8 minutes and 46 seconds) till he suffocated and died. The “Black Lives Matter” movement was born out of the disgust and pain which filled the hearts of millions of people around the world following his death. We witnessed the full horror of his death before our eyes on TV and social media. Sadly, he was not the first, and in subsequent events, other young black men paid the price for being black in a racially divided America.
Human Trafficking - Modern-Day Slavery
After 400 years of Slavery, it was finally abolished in 1807 but slavery and practices which beget slavery are more alive today than at any point in human history. It is estimated that more people are trafficked in one year from Asia alone than in the entire 400 years of the slave trade.
Ten centuries before the West African slave trade the East Coast African Slave trade thrived. Over several centuries countless East Africans were sold as slaves by Muslim Arabs to the Middle East and other places via the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean. Experts say it is time for this to be discussed more openly. The island of Zanzibar is today considered one of East Africa's best destinations: white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and hotels offer tourists from all over the world a holiday to remember. Long forgotten is the dark past that overshadowed this sunny paradise several centuries ago. The archipelago, which today is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, was then regarded as the center of the East African slave trade
The Palermo Protocol
Following a number of minor declarations on Human Trafficking (HT) it was only in December 2000 that the UN Definition of Human Trafficking was finally concretized in the Palermo Protocol, Article 3. It is described as a criminal activity and reads as follows:
“Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of servitude or the removal of organs”
Pope Francis has never hidden his great concern over the phenomenon of human trafficking which claims millions of victims – women, children, and men every year. It is a concern not only of the Pope but of many people within and beyond the Church who are working to counteract what the Holy Father describes as an “atrocious scourge” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary humanity” This is what Pope Francis also said to an International group of law enforcement officers and church workers in a meeting on 9th February 2019. He continued that modern forms of slavery “are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame – within the most prosperous of our societies” He further challenges us to hear God’s cry to Cain (Gen 4:9) – Where is your brother Abel? As a society, we must face the various forms of our own complicity in the work practices we prefer to ignore. How old is the girl who cleans, cooks, and takes care of your family? The society too tolerates the sex trade and millions of body images of young women and girls are available on our social media each day. We are saturated with an ‘out-of-control’ porn industry which itself destroys our view of the other as a human person with dignity. Rather (she) becomes the object of a sexualized body image and is objectified as a means of sexual pleasure whether virtual or in real-time.
Human Trafficking as an Industry
Human Trafficking is the second fastest-growing industry in the world today, following closely behind the arms industry which places it in the league of a very violent industry, and in reality that is what it is. According to the European Parliament, the annual turnover from Human Trafficking is more than the total of all military budgets in the world. It is a multi-billion dollar business and the victims are used as pawns in the game. Trafficking in persons can be categorized into forced labor, followed by trafficking for sexual purposes, and finally for trafficking in organs. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), one out of four victims of modern slavery are children who engage in either physical or domestic labor while another chunk is forced into armed conflict as child soldiers. This affects both boys and girls, the latter being used as sex slaves and cooks for the soldiers. Very young children can be lured away by strangers, often it is just by offering them sweets. They are the ones highly prized for the removal of body organs for witchcraft purposes.
Human Trafficking is Rampant in Kenya
To assert that Human Trafficking is very rampant in Kenya is a gross understatement. Most countries are either source, transit, or destination but sadly, Kenya is all three of them together. We are a rich source for traffickers and their ‘hunting’ ground is vast both in the rural and urban areas. We have a very large jobless population, every year hundreds of thousands of children complete standard 8 with no hope of progressing beyond that very basic and limited education – some do not complete even this minimum standard. We also have many thousands who drop out prior to sitting KCSE and only a handful of those who pass KCSE sufficiently well go on to University or any third level Institution. The reality is that now, we have many more thousands of graduates who are ‘tarmacking’ our streets hoping to find employment than at any time in the past. A significant disadvantage is that many of them do not have hands-on skills which are so much in demand in our world today. Kenya is a transit point for International travel and the largest ‘hub’ for East, Central, and the horn of Africa. Nairobi is strategically placed to be a departure point for every country in the world. Finally, Kenya is also a Destination country and the second largest ‘sex travel’ holiday country after South Africa. This is often visible to the eye - with our pristine facilities along the Indian Ocean where thousands of young people flock to taste some of the ‘goodies’ they expect from visitors. When ships dock in Mombasa with hundreds of sailors, young girls flock there from as far away as Baringo and Eldoret!!
Those Most at Risk.
Women at risk of being trafficked are more likely to be impoverished, uneducated, unemployed, and/or disempowered by political, economic, societal, and family structures, including being subjected to unequal treatment, carrying the burden of household and childcare responsibilities and/or have no access to information on trafficking and how traffickers operate. In our network, we have attempted to offer teaching sessions to classes of primary school pupils from the age of 10 years and above, but with limited means to impart such knowledge, it remains a mammoth task and the Government especially needs to play a herculean role to save the current and future generations. The tactics used by traffickers are to lure their potential victims with promises of unimaginably high salaries, clean work in good surroundings, and a number of ‘perks’ to sweeten the proposed dream work ready for the taking. Who would not fall for such promises? Inevitably, (potential victims) she (sometimes he) believe this is ‘manna’ from heaven and an opportunity to escape the drudgery and poverty s/he has endured all her life to this point. The lure of financial gain with few risks are there for the taking and perpetrators, recruiters and traffickers have packaged their bait in glowing terms such that there is no turning back and another young life faces a possible downhill road to destruction. How many never return? Yet, we know that the ratio of victims identified compared to the estimated number of victims is only 0.4%
Worst Case Scenarios
How will I know that things may not turn out well or not follow exactly as I was promised? There is no sure fool-proof way to be certain. Traveling to that ‘dream job’ may not materialize and in some cases, you may find yourself in a different country to the one where you expected to arrive. How can you account for all the promises made if that is a possibility? The same applies to the actual job. Sally* held a graduate diploma in computer technology but still ended up in domestic services in Saudi where she had a nasty experience. But she told herself “in a different country it may work out better”. Her new agent was very reassuring and told Sally “my dear I have the perfect job for you, you be in a supervisory role in the Samsung corporation in Dubai” It was ‘music to her ears’ Next morning Sally found herself as a domestic servant in Oman where racist remarks were ‘rained down’ upon her.
The Costs of Victim Care.
This is the most difficult part of victim rescue, from the moment we meet that person in distress, it becomes a major focus of our care to help restore some normalcy to their lives. Some find it difficult to open up so our interviewing must be one of total empathy with the person in front of us. Most likely it is a woman or child but we do get men also – they in particular feel they must exhibit a tough outer ‘garment’ but most of the ones I have met are suffering deep inside. One man told me “if we suffer like this, what must it be like for the women”?
Human trafficking is the ultimate slavery and a crime of horrendous proportions. Who thinks they know of Human Trafficking? Most of us can only guess but never get more than a tiny hint of the level of degradation, abuse, and torture experienced by its victims on a daily basis. Human Trafficking is much more than facts, it is a modern form of slavery not previously experienced in our world. With the internet and modern communications on our doorsteps, recruitment is swift and efficient. Then the (human) cargo is dispatched.
Sr Mary O’Malley, Medical Missionaries of Mary