Kenya Counter Trafficking in Persons Bill: The Difficult Road

By Richard Ochanda


History of the Bill

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.  This plan centered on government ministries and had an opening for the civil society participation. It 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 a specific legal instrument. From 2008 to 2009, efforts were intensified to prepare a Kenyan bill to counter human trafficking in and out of the country. The organization that steered this process is known as The Cradle. The preparation of the bill was not easy as earlier versions of the bill were not accepted by the Attorney General. However, by December 2009 the refined bill had been forwarded to the speaker of the national assembly and it underwent the first reading. On the 15th of June it underwent a second reading as a private member’s bill. On the 6th of July 2010 the third reading was done 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. Our hope remains that the president signs the bill soon enough so that we may have a legal framework in which to prosecute human traffickers.

Rationale

The principal object of the bill is to implement Kenya’s obligations under the UN Conventions Against Transnational Organized Crime including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children and all other relevant international conventions to which Kenya is party. The Bill further seeks to establish the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons and to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers.

It outlines the offence of trafficking in persons and related offences. This will be very important as once this bill is passed onto a law, it will serve as an important reference to bring human traffickers to book and it could forbid child labour, forced detention for exploitative purposes such as labour and sexual exploitation of women and children. The bill is comprehensive enough in curbing various forms of exploitation that occur within the chain process of human trafficking here in referred to as recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring and receiving (RTTHR henceforth). Some of the past laws related to trafficking of children and women include the Immigration Act 1984, Penal Code 1985, Employment Act 2007, Sexual Offences Act 2006, Children Act 2001, Education Policy, Adoption Guidelines, Vision 2030, Children’s Policy and draft national policy on orphans and vulnerable children.

The existence of various bills meant that there was no particular reference frame for the offense of human trafficking. In Kenya bringing culprits of human trafficking to justice has always been an uphill task because of the lack of this legal framework. Stakeholders of the bill therefore, hope that the government will move swiftly to pass it into law.

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