Your house-help is not a slave, pay her her dues

Nyambura Michael Mungai

By CIKU KIMANI
Posted in the Daily Nation of Monday, August 302010

In Summary

  • Once in a while, have a day where she puts her feet up as you and the children do the cleaning, cooking and laundry. It teaches your children the value of work

For all working mothers (salute to all the single fathers out there, working or otherwise) house-helps are an essential part of the family equation.

Ideally, one wants a house-help who would look after the house affairs and the children as if they were hers, one who puts your mind at rest when you go about your day-to-day activities away from home.

What is shocking, though, is how badly some people will treat these important people. Nobody expects you to be your house-help’s best friend, but a friend she needs to be.

Here are a few tips towards achieving this:

1 Never hit your house-help, EVER! Besides this being abuse and illegal, it is humiliating. One way or the other, she will get back at you, and woe unto you if you have children.

2 Do not overwork her. If you cannot look after six children under the age of 10, fetch water, cook, feed the cows and clean the house on a daily basis, do not expect her to do the same. She is human, remember.

3 Set a good example to the children. They will treat her the way you treat her. And, in turn, she will treat them similarly in your absence. It is a cat-and-mouse, and there can only be one winner… and it is not you.

4 Do not make her your confidante. If you have a lover’s tiff, do not moan about it to her. House-helps talk amongst themselves, and unless you want your quarrel to be the talk of the block, keep your tiff to yourself or call a friend in private. It is also a no-no to fight in front of the house-help, because her respect for you both goes out the window.

5 Be civil. If she does something wrong, like all humans tend to do once in a while, do not shout at her or use foul language. Have a civil dialogue and explain why you are unhappy with her.

6 Do not underpay her. Most people think they have a good deal when they can underpay a house-help. Beside the fact that she will be keeping her ear to the ground for better pay, you will get worth of what you pay. If you can afford it, pay her well as this brews loyalty.

7 Give her a day off. You do not work seven days a week and, if you do, it is not out of choice. Everybody needs to recharge, and the time off gives you time to bond as a family.

8 Reward her. Once in a while, especially when she has been exemplary, buy her a dress. If she has children, do the same… or give her a bonus.

9 Take her along on your holiday. Should you have extra cash, let her accompany you on your trip to the coast. Not only will it give her a rare opportunity to travel, she will be handy in looking after the children should you have a night out.

10 Chip in with the housework. Once in a while, have a day where the house-help puts her feet up. You and the children do the cleaning, cooking and laundry. It teaches your children the value of work, while the house-help feels appreciated.

(Unfortunately, you can do all the above and more and still have the house-help from hell. If that happens, you are at liberty exonerate yourself from any blame).

The vicious circle of sexual exploitation

The sexual abuse of children in Kenya and other African countries has astronomical consequences on children’s physical, psychological, and social development, and ends up in such tragedies as early pregnancy and the transmission of HIV/AIDS, says a new report.
Zachary Ochieng

A July 2002 report by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) and the United Nations Children’s Fund – East and Southern Africa Regional Office (UNICEF-ESARO) details the horrific sexual abuse that children in Kenya and all over Africa are forced to endure at the hands of parents, teachers, employers, and sex trade customers.

The report, “A situational analysis of sexual exploitation of children in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region,” notes that although commercial sexual exploitation of children cannot be easily quantified due to a lack of adequate data and surveillance mechanisms, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence that the sexual exploitation of children is an extensive global problem.

It is against this background that the first World Congress on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1996 to put the problem on the international political agenda. The conference, which led to the adoption of an international action plan against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, received the endorsement of UN agencies, NGOs, and many governments.

The Declaration and Agenda for Action of the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (1996) provided the following definition of the practice: “The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a fundamental violation of children’s rights. It comprises sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual and commercial object. The commercial sexual exploitation of children constitutes a form of coercion and violence against children and amounts to forced labour and temporary slavery.”

As a follow up to the first World congress, a second congress is to be convened in Yokohama, Japan in December 2002. This second congress will review the progress that the international community has made towards eliminating the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

This latest July 2002 report seeks to review, ahead of the Yokohama congress, the progress made in the East and Southern Africa Region in curbing the problem. The report’s objectives are to assess all forms of sexual exploitation, to focus on the links between non-commercial and commercial sexual exploitation, and to examine all issues related to the sexual exploitation of children and HIV/AIDS.

The report is based on both primary and secondary data. The secondary data were collected through an extensive review of current literature based on studies, surveys, reports, and assessments of the problem since 1996. Some information was also obtained through interviews with key informants – NGO officials, government officers and other stakeholders.

According to the report, children are sexually abused and exploited in the home, community, school, workplace, and brothels. It notes that there is a widespread commitment, in principle, to child welfare and protection as exemplified by the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and public pronouncements of a commitment to the Stockholm Agenda for Action.

However, with reference to recovery, rehabilitation and integration, there are inadequate services available to children who have been sexually exploited and abused. The report further cites lack of human and financial resources as an impediment to tackling the problem of sexual exploitation of children.

Lack of trained personnel to work in the area of commercial sexual exploitation of children has been identified as having an effect on integration and rehabilitation services. “This has hampered counselling and support services to victims,” says the report. The report states that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is both an old and a new practice: old in the sense that it includes traditional practices; and new in the sense that globalisation and advances in technology are posing a different set of challenges.

“The global sex sector is growing, with an accelerated demand for younger children due to inadequate government intervention and lax law enforcement particularly in terms of protective measures for children,” adds the report.

In Kenya, the report cites poverty, tribal clashes, lack of education, disintegration of family and social values, large-scale migration, and lack of protection to children at risk as being the major causes of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Sexual exploitation of children results in serious and often life-threatening consequences of physical, psychological and social development, including threats of early pregnancy, maternal mortality, physical disabilities, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is both a cause and a consequence of sexual exploitation of children in Kenya, says the report.

According to the report, child sexual exploitation in Kenya exists in the form of child prostitution, incest, early child marriages, rape, sodomy, indecent assault, and defilement. The report notes that there are a number of children joining prostitution as a means of survival. Children – especially those from slum areas – are exposed to sex at an early age. “An overwhelming majority of children in Kenya are abused in the streets. They are either orphaned, destitute or from families facing conflicts”, says the report.

A unique feature of child prostitution in Kenya is that people take in destitute children but instead of caring for them, they hire the children out as prostitutes from time to time. Some children are also kept in brothels alongside adult prostitutes.

Another form of child sexual exploitation that the report notes is homosexual sex tourism, particularly for the boy child. This practice is associated with the coastal towns of Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu. Tourist agents – both local and foreign – are reported to direct and guide tourists to special child prostitutes. Production of child pornography is also found to be widespread in the coastal towns.

Child marriages have also been noted as a form of sexual exploitation. They are common among the pastoral communities in districts including Kajiado, Transmara, Moyale, Wajir, and Mandera. According to the report, some parents are known to marry off their young girls to older men in order to pay the school fees of their male siblings.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has also contributed to early marriages, as many adult males seek out young girls for sex and marriage in the belief that they are free from HIV. The report sadly notes that the growing number of sexually exploited children has also contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS in that age group.

The report concludes that in order to overcome obstacles to the implementation of the Stockholm Agenda for Action, greater co-ordination is required amongst non-governmental organisations and government agencies. A holistic approach is needed in the fight against all forms of sexual abuse with full participation of communities and children, taking into account cultural settings and contexts. The report also recommends that urgent measures need to be taken in the field of law enforcement, education and recovery, rehabilitation, and integration of victims.

My newest friend had me on sale

By  DANIEL WESANGULA dwesangula@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted Saturday, August 21 2010 at 22:00

In the Daily Nation

Robinson Mukhwana met Nathan Mutei three weeks ago, with no idea that his newest friend was a man with a fishy past and on the run from Tanzanian authorities.

To him, Mutei simply represented a path to an unexplored world of richness in a foreign country.

The thought of what he could do with all the money he would earn as a truck turn boy in Tanzania almost seemed obscene, for Mr Mukhwana, who until his sojourn in Tanzania was a watchman, is not used to the comforts that money brings.

“I thought he was a friend concerned about my future,” he said on Sunday.

Indeed, Mutei was concerned, but not about the well-being of his newly acquired friend.

If all went according to plan, he would be a millionaire in less than a week. All he needed to do was establish contact with a Tanzanian juju man.

He had held several informal jobs in various Tanzanian towns and this was not hard to do.

Interviews by Sunday Nation detail his journey to hell and back.

While still in Kitale, Mr Mutei managed to activate a contact in Mwanza. The initial deal was for Mr Mutei to supply this juju man with bones from an albino’s grave.

His client gave him two options: the Tanzanian could come to Kenya for the bones and pay Sh1 million or Mr Mutei could transport the bones to their rendezvous in Mwanza and earn Sh4 million.

But a problem presented itself; how was he to move the bones across the border with an existing criminal record? It was in his second plan that Mr Mukhwana was to play a starring role.

“A week after we met, he started telling me that his boss in Tanzania was looking for two more workers,” said Mr Mukhwana.

So he packed his bags and accompanied his new-found friend to Tanzania.

“On Wednesday August 11 we left Kitale. During the journey, he was updating his boss on our progress,” says Mr Mukhwana.

These ‘updates’ were in fact negotiations for the best possible price for him.

They spent the night at Isebania and the border police briefly detained Mr Mutei on Thursday morning.

“There was an arrest warrant out for him in Tanzania. He had conned someone of Sh20,000,” said Mr Mukhwana.

They proceeded on to Mwanza and checked into a hotel, where Mutei’s boss was to come and meet them the following day.

In his haste to leave the country, Mutei had failed to mention to his client that he had not come with bones but instead had a human being with him. This complicated matters. The price shot up, and the logistics of transporting the “goods” changed.

The intended client backed down, but promised to bring another interested party to the table.

Truly the East African Economic Community has taken off. You can now move all sorts of goods and merchandise across the common border without hindrance. Indeed, there is this lucrative trade item — the albino.

You do not have to carry it across the border, it will walk across with you, and even keep you company on the way. If it happens to be your childhood friend, well, that’s just a minor inconvenience. The sale of its hair, legs, arms will fetch you millions…

If the story of Robinson and “friend” Nathan was not so tragic, it would be very funny. Indeed, it has provided some of our FM radio comedians with material to entertain their breakfast listeners with.

The small matter of the feelings of those born with albinism, their parents and relatives, is an inconvenience that they cannot be bothered with.

For those of us born with albinism in East Africa, and for the many fathers and mothers of children with albinism, the last three years have been a never-ending nightmare.

As though the card that nature dealt us was not hard enough to deal with, we now have to live in fear of people who believe that killing us and using our limbs for witchcraft will bring them great wealth.

We have to battle skin cancer because we do not have melanin, yet most of us cannot get adequate education, and even if we do, getting employment is a major challenge. So we end up working in the sun, as farmers or hawkers, and die before our 30th birthday.

We have to deal with a society that is largely silent about our plight, and media that refuse to find a way of referring to us in ways that can bring to the fore our humanity, rather than our genetic condition.

For that is the only thing “wrong” with us. In a world where colour has defined so much of people’s fate, from slavery to colonialism, we are in the unfortunate position of not having been born with any, or with very little, and thus become eternal outsiders, fitting nowhere.

Our genetic inheritance from our parents, both mother and father, means that our skin does not manufacture melanin. In every other respect, we are like everyone else.

We have no supernatural powers. If you use our bodies in witchcraft you will only carry around with you the rotting body of your brother.
For that is what we are, whether you like it or not.

We are born of parents who do not have albinism, they just happen to be carriers. They too inherited their genes from their parents, which they passed on to us.

You do not know whether you are a carrier or not, and whether your mate will also be a carrier, in which case one in four of your children may be born with albinism. Please note that I do not use the word “albino.”

The use of the term has always been derogatory, placing us in the same level as animal species, placing our genetic condition first, and ignoring our humanity.

Albinism is the only condition that I know of which everyone thinks is fair game, which is okay to laugh at and insult and mock. We have just passed a new Constitution that guarantees to everyone the right to life, human dignity and the right to have that dignity respected.

We are, however, living in a society that has little space for difference, that assumes “different” to be inferior.

While not feeling completely hopeless about our situation, for there are many good people out there who care for and support us, one is apt to get depressed by the almost total lack of support that people with albinism face.

The Church has fought tooth and nail for the right to life of the unborn since the constitutional reform process started, but I am yet to hear a single church leader condemn the killing or exclusion of persons with albinism.

The human rights sector has been largely silent about the killings.
As for the media, our pleas that they begin to change attitudes towards us by the terms they use to refer to us has gone largely unheeded.

We are, to the media, albinos. The phrase “persons with albinism” is too long, too awkward. The media, it would appear, cannot sacrifice journalistic convenience even if it would begin the slow process of helping change attitudes to people who were born with albinism by putting their humanity first, rather than their genetic condition.

They call us ‘albinos’ — the licence to mock and murder fellow humans

By MUMBI NGUGI Posted Friday, August 20 2010 at 15:50

in the Daily Nation

Truly the East African Economic Community has taken off. You can now move all sorts of goods and merchandise across the common border without hindrance. Indeed, there is this lucrative trade item — the albino. You do not have to carry it across the border, it will walk across with you, and even keep you company on the way. If it happens to be your childhood friend, well, that’s just a minor inconvenience. The sale of its hair, legs, arms will fetch you millions… If the story of Robinson and “friend” Nathan was not so tragic, it would be very funny. Indeed, it has provided some of our FM radio comedians with material to entertain their breakfast listeners with. The small matter of the feelings of those born with albinism, their parents and relatives, is an inconvenience that they cannot be bothered with. For those of us born with albinism in East Africa, and for the many fathers and mothers of children with albinism, the last three years have been a never-ending nightmare. As though the card that nature dealt us was not hard enough to deal with, we now have to live in fear of people who believe that killing us and using our limbs for witchcraft will bring them great wealth. We have to battle skin cancer because we do not have melanin, yet most of us cannot get adequate education, and even if we do, getting employment is a major challenge. So we end up working in the sun, as farmers or hawkers, and die before our 30th birthday. We have to deal with a society that is largely silent about our plight, and media that refuse to find a way of referring to us in ways that can bring to the fore our humanity, rather than our genetic condition. For that is the only thing “wrong” with us. In a world where colour has defined so much of people’s fate, from slavery to colonialism, we are in the unfortunate position of not having been born with any, or with very little, and thus become eternal outsiders, fitting nowhere. Our genetic inheritance from our parents, both mother and father, means that our skin does not manufacture melanin. In every other respect, we are like everyone else. We have no supernatural powers. If you use our bodies in witchcraft you will only carry around with you the rotting body of your brother. For that is what we are, whether you like it or not. We are born of parents who do not have albinism, they just happen to be carriers. They too inherited their genes from their parents, which they passed on to us. You do not know whether you are a carrier or not, and whether your mate will also be a carrier, in which case one in four of your children may be born with albinism. Please note that I do not use the word “albino.” The use of the term has always been derogatory, placing us in the same level as animal species, placing our genetic condition first, and ignoring our humanity. Albinism is the only condition that I know of which everyone thinks is fair game, which is okay to laugh at and insult and mock. We have just passed a new Constitution that guarantees to everyone the right to life, human dignity and the right to have that dignity respected. We are, however, living in a society that has little space for difference, that assumes “different” to be inferior. While not feeling completely hopeless about our situation, for there are many good people out there who care for and support us, one is apt to get depressed by the almost total lack of support that people with albinism face. The Church has fought tooth and nail for the right to life of the unborn since the constitutional reform process started, but I am yet to hear a single church leader condemn the killing or exclusion of persons with albinism. The human rights sector has been largely silent about the killings. As for the media, our pleas that they begin to change attitudes towards us by the terms they use to refer to us has gone largely unheeded. We are, to the media, albinos. The phrase “persons with albinism” is too long, too awkward. The media, it would appear, cannot sacrifice journalistic convenience even if it would begin the slow process of helping change attitudes to people who were born with albinism by putting their humanity first, rather than their genetic condition.

Brief Histrory of Anti Human Trafficking Efforts in Kenya

Michael Mungai and Richard Ochanda

Back in 2004 Kenya ratified the Palermo protocol. In 2007 the government with the help of IOM developed a national plan of action to counter human trafficking.   The plan centered much more on government ministries and had an opening for the civil society participation. The plan elaborated activities in prevention, protection and prosecution (commonly known as the 3P). However the main stumbling block towards the implementation of this plan was the lack of legal instruments. From 2008 to 2009, a team came together to prepare a Kenyan bill to counter human trafficking in and out of the country. The organization that steered this process is The Cradle. By December 2009 the bill had been forwarded to the speaker of the national assembly Hon. Marende and underwent the first reading. On the 6th of July 2010 the third reading was made and the bill was passed. It is currently with the Attorney General of the republic pending its being forwarded to the president who will sign and make it a law of the republic.In the social arena, the past year has seen attention from all over NGOs, the media, governmental and intergovernmental agencies initiatives directed to issues of human smuggling, irregular migration and trafficking in persons. Social workers have had and arranged awareness creation campaigns throughout various parts of the country, capacity building initiatives for public servants (police force and jurists), the media has also directed its energies to trafficking in persons and there is frequent reporting on the same.

Sisters Stand Up Against Human Trafficking

Posted by Nyambura Michael Mungai

In Africa.

Nigerian nuns are celebrating the realization of their dream to set up a home for rescued victims of human trafficking, a worsening evil in the country and West Africa in general.

The dream came true on July 11, 2007 when the Women Resource Centre was opened.

The home is a generous donation from the Italian bishop’s conference. It was built and supervised by Fr. Vincenzo Marrone and other Salesian Missionaries in Akure/Ibadan. Caritas Italiana bought the land upon which the shelter is built. The Dutch Foundation of Religious against Trafficking in Women (SRTV), Missio Aachen and many other groups gave generous donations.

The idea to do something about the vice came to mind after the nuns came face to face with the reality of Nigerian girls involved in prostitution in Europe. In 1999 the nuns formed the Committee for the Support of the Dignity of Women (COSUDOW) to address more concretely the issue of sexual abuse of Nigerian girls in Italy.

The nuns say Benin City is the worst-hit area of trafficking in Nigeria.

At the opening ceremony on July 11, the Holy Mass was presided over by Archbishop Felix Alaba Job of Ibadan who is also president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

In America.

Excerpt from an article by Ed Langlois in The Catholic Sentinel, July 12, 2010.

Jessica Richardson stood before a crowd of 325, most of them nuns, and explained her years in Portland’s thriving sex trade.

“I have been a slave, but today I am free,” Richardson told a Saturday downtown rally organized by Catholic women religious.

In strong terms, the sisters and local political leaders called for an end to human trafficking — the use of people as property.

Holy Names Sister Susan Maloney said the rally carries on her congregation’s tradition of education and serving social justice. It was the Holy Names Sisters who founded St. Mary’s Academy in Portland more than 150 years ago.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. has teamed up with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to help victims of trafficking and boost enforcement. The bill would provide money for shelter, food, education and job training and would train police.

“This issue is not partisan,” said Wyden, who fired up the crowd with a sermon-like talk. “Today, Oregon comes together to shake up and wake up the United States Congress about finally combatting human trafficking. From the streets of Oregon to the dark alleys of Europe and Asia, we will not rest.”

The Vatican

JUNE 15, 2009

Benedict XVI is lauding the commitment made by women religious to put a stop to human trafficking and rebuild the lives of those victimized by this phenomenon.

The Pope affirmed his support for the initiative in a telegram signed by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The papal message was sent to a four-day international conference being held in Rome on what various congregations of women religious are doing to oppose human trafficking. The conference began today.

The Holy Father contended that it is important to bring about “a renewed awareness of the inestimable value of life and an ever more courageous commitment to the defense of human rights and the overcoming of every type of abuse.”

The Pontiff expressed his “deeply-felt appreciation for the laudable initiative” that has gathered together not only religious and experts, but also members of the International Organization for Migration.

Prophetic role

For his part, the recently named president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, Archbishop Antonio Vegliò, inaugurated the working sessions by expressing his “admiration for the work [already] done.”

The archbishop underlined the dramatic reality of human trafficking; L’Osservatore Romano reported him saying that data he has received indicate the phenomenon could be much more widespread than what is reported, victimizing as many as 4 million people across the globe.

In the Friday press conference presenting the conference, it was reported that 2.5 million people are affected by trafficking, which is a $150 billion business — money that goes in the pockets of those who control the markets of prostitution, trafficking in organs, and forms of slavery that predominantly affect women and children.

In this context, Archbishop Vegliò affirmed, the Church has a role that is “not only important, but also prophetic.”

He said that before all else, it is important to “know the factors that encourage and especially attract prostitution, and the strategies used by recruiters, traffickers, intermediaries and those who abuse the victims.”

Then, in the commitment made by the religious to combat human trafficking, the Vatican official affirmed that personal and spiritual formation is needed, so that they know how to deal with difficult and broken lives that need to be reconstructed.

Out of the dark

Archbishop Vegliò also highlighted the importance of collaboration and interchanging information.

“Many women religious are already doing excellent work in this area,” he said. “You have to know about this [work] and share it more thoroughly at the national and global level.”

To overcome human trafficking, information is decisive, the archbishop affirmed. He suggested “working with the press to ensure adequate information about this grave problem. The more hidden it remains, the longer it will endure.”

Archbishop Vegliò assured that his dicastery is ready to offer all the support possible to help the religious in their efforts. But he also asked to be privy to the information sharing since, “we also have the need to know and share the ways in which this is proceeding so that we can also contribute to this grand undertaking.”

Sold into Slavery

Human trafficking is the new-age form of slavery

Human trafficking is the new-age form of slavery

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Posted Monday, August 9 2010 at 12:28 here

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”
— Article 4, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Slavery, as loosely defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ended in the 19th Century, but various forms of it have persisted over the years. Only recently did the powers that be realise that there is an even bigger monster slowly chipping away on society, and the name of that beast is Human Trafficking, the modern day version of slave trade.

The UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or force or other forms of coercion … for the purpose of exploitation”.

The tragedy, however, is that, whenever people talk of ‘human trafficking’, what comes to mind is various forms of slavery in faraway lands, yet a study conducted last year in East Africa revealed that, much as there are dozens of people being exploited beyond their national borders, local human trafficking is still vibrant.

The Survey — Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children in East Africa — concludes that the region has elements of culture that “encourage human trafficking”. Prepared by a Dutch organisation in conjunction with the Koinonia Advisory and Development Service (KARDS), the report says some of these retrogressive cultural elements involve lack of concern for laws about migration.

“Migration issues are barely included in political agendas and hardly discussed by national governments,” it says. And, with the recent commissioning of the East African Common Market Protocol — an arrangement that allows people from the region to move freely within the East African economic bloc — things could take a turn for the worst.

So far, only Tanzania has passed legislation against human trafficking, yet the US believes the region is an illegal source (and transit point) of the illegal trade. In Kenya, all indicators point to a spiralling rise in the vice, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has warned that the post-election violence of 2007, coupled with poverty and drought, have contributed heavily to the rise of the vice.

This is mainly because people, left helpless and hopeless by these calamities, begin to desire for a better life, and hence become easy prey to any trafficker with a sweet tongue. Patrick Mudogo, one of the researchers at KARDS, says the vice has affected more females than males locally.

“Young girls are normally the preferred choice as domestic workers,” he says. “At the coast and other tourist havens, these girls are also the most popular with sex tourists.” Mr Mudogo laments that, although the vice is common knowledge, the state has done little to demonise it and, as a result, very few people know that hiring a minor as a domestic worker, for example, is illegal.

The Children’s Act forbids anyone employing a person below the age of 18, and attracts a year behind bars or Sh50,000 should one be found guilty. Across the borders, things are even nastier for those who are unfortunate enough to fall victims of this scheme. No one illustrates this better than Ms Fatma Athman, a Kenyan woman who flew home from Saudi Arabia in January with broken limbs and a gory tale of how employers fed her on remnants, sexually assaulted her and worked her like a beast.

She had been promised a better life by her employers, but the bait was withdrawn immediately she landed at the airport. At her employer’s home, she was handed a 22-hour-a-day work schedule, a single meal per day, constant beatings and sexual harassment by male relatives of the boss.

Yet, despite all this, hordes still troop to employment agencies in search of that opportunity to better their lives. Mr Festus Mutuse, the chief registration officer for employment bureaus at the Ministry of Labour, says agents qualify for registration only if they are Kenyans or, if foreigners, possess valid travel documents. They must also have a registered business name with a known physical address, and must possess a certificate of good conduct.

However, even after recent cases of trafficking this year, the government is yet to halt the operations of these rogue businesses, and insists that anyone recruiting a Kenyan employee for a foreign job must give a detailed description of the job, the terms of reference and the duration of employment before departure.

Kenya does not have laws designed specifically to curb human trafficking. The courts use the Children’s Act (2001) and the Sexual Offences Act (2007) to mete justice against offenders in this category, even though observers say the penalties are way too lenient. This even after Kenya ratified the UN Protocol to Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons in 2004.

By signing this agreement, member states commit themselves to make local laws against the crime. But there is hope. Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo-Mabona’s Counter Trafficking in Persons Bill has already gone through the third reading Parliament and, if passed, will help Kenya comply with the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC).

The Bill seeks to illegalise, among others, forced labour, bonded labour (forcing one to work for you as payment to what they owe you) and sexual exploitation. “Anyone who will be found recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion… for the purpose of exploitation will be guilty of a punishable offence,” it reads in part.

This is expected to complement provisions in the Children’s Act and the Sexual Offences Act. It will mean, for instance, that no parent will submit their underage children to work on plantation farms or in people’s homes for payment. It will also mean that no one can ferry another to another place, with the promise of employment, only for the trafficked person to be underpaid, overworked or raped as this would amount to ‘exploitation’.

Penalties

Ms Odhiambo-Maboma proposes that the penalties range from a million shillings or 10 years in jail to up to Sh10 million or 15 years in the slammer, but has allowed further amendments to make the penalties stiffer — up to 30 years in jail or Sh30 million in fine. “We focus more on elements of the crime. That is, two or more people working in an organised manner to effect exploitation,” Ms Odhiambo-Maboma says.

Many victims of human trafficking have claimed that agencies recruit them under a certain agreement but enter into a different one with employers. In turn, employees do not enter any agreement with their employers and, if they do, the signature or the beneficiary is the agent.

Article 3.9b of the Bill proposes that, where a person trafficked is harmed or dies, the persons involved will be punished. Under the current situation, agents usually vanish as soon as the deals are done.

Previous Older Entries