Long legal processes slow down war on human trafficking in Kenya

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TACOMA, Washington – Kenya is recognized as a major destination for people subject to forced labor and sex trafficking according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although the causes and persistence of human trafficking are varied, a potential explanation for the high cases of trafficking in Kenya may be due to labor migration and development models and the susceptibility of people crossing borders to be deceived by “employers”.

The 2010 Anti-Trafficking Act criminalized both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, with sentences of 15 years in prison and / or a fine of at least 5 million Kenyan shillings (US $ 49,120). Since the law was implemented in 2010, many have criticized the Kenyan government for corruption and for allowing traffickers to obtain fraudulent identity documents. It should be noted the potential for individuals to exploit corruption in the system in order to employ bribes to avoid conviction. In 2018, a number of NGOs and other international organizations established training for prosecutors and judicial officials and other government judicial bodies in an attempt to address this alleged corruption.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2020: Kenya

The 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department claims the Kenyan government has done significant progress in eliminating trafficking; however, the report says the government is failing to meet the minimum standards required to demand the complete elimination of trafficking. In its efforts to improve the situation, the Kenyan government identified a higher number of victims, used the victim assistance fund and launched a cybercrime center to investigate allegations of sexual labor and abuse.

The government of Kenya has also stepped up its collaborative efforts with NGOs and various foreign governments, helping to reach more victims of trafficking. This report also details that the government has implemented the National Action Plan against the Sexual Exploitation of Children 2018-2022 and has worked to reduce the demand for sex work, demonstrating progress in the fight against human trafficking in Kenya.

Despite these efforts to mitigate the impact of human trafficking, the government of Kenya continues to label some victims of trafficking as criminals, which in turn limits their access to resources and funds for victims. The government also failed to try all trafficking cases under the anti-trafficking law and instead tried some as immigration law cases, resulting in less severe penalties for the perpetrators. The report notes that the government “maintained uneven protection efforts” – “The quality of victim care varied depending on the victim’s age, sex, nationality and place of residence.”

Lack of government services

In 2018, the Kenyan government funded the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking. This fund seemed like a step in the right direction to help victims in a fairer way, but authorities did not distribute funds to victims of trafficking throughout 2018. Along with this lack of distribution of funds, the identification of child victims of trafficking has been stronger. than trafficking in adults. While identification of child trafficking is crucial, any weakness in identification skills could force adult victims to wait unnecessarily longer before receiving help.

Kenya must provide “adequate shelter and other basic needs” and “psychosocial support” under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2010. Kenya lacks sufficient public services, such as shelter and equitable distribution funds to victims, which means the government is unable to fully adhere to the guidelines it signed in 2010. Systemic gaps in trafficking procedures, such as where to comfortably accommodate victims, mean delays for Kenya in the fight against trafficking in general.

Legal proceedings in Kenya

Noordin Haji, Director of Public Prosecutions, speculates that the lack of state-run shelters is due to heavy reliance on nonprofit organizations to provide temporary housing and security for victims of trafficking. Kenya actually arrests many victims, which can further traumatize them, moving them from one dehumanizing situation to another. Without a legislative framework and government-provided shelters, there are fears that procedural hurdles could lead to victims being rejected from non-government shelters.

Mohamed Daghar, researcher for Enhancing Africa’s Ability to Counter Transnational Crime (ENACT) urged Kenyan government officials to create and maintain legal and procedural frameworks to address the factors that contribute to the likelihood of a person becoming a victim of trafficking. This advice suggests that victims can and should be reached before they become victims, in the hope of addressing broader systemic issues that affect some populations in Kenya at increased risk of being trafficked. . Consistently securing these government frameworks as well as the provision of basic services, such as shelter and counseling for victims, can help Kenya regain ground in the war on human trafficking.

-Tatiana Nelson
Photo:Unsplash

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