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Challenges to fighting Internal Trafficking in Zambia

Discussions on human trafficking, which can be described as trade in human beings, make a distinction between cross-border and internal trafficking. As the name suggests, cross-border trafficking happens when a victim is transported to another country and exploited there while internal trafficking occurs within that country’s borders. In some countries, cross-border trafficking is more widespread while in others, internal trafficking is.

Zambia is an example of a country where internal trafficking is more common than cross-border. In the past five years, the US Department Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) reports  have consistently indicated that while Zambia is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, most trafficking in fact happens within the country’s borders.  According to the 2015 report, victims of internal trafficking are mostly “women and children from rural areas exploited in cities in domestic servitude or other types of forced labour in agriculture, textile, mining, construction, small businesses such as bakeries, and forced begging. Zambian children may be forced by jerabo gangs engaged in illegal mining to load stolen copper ore onto trucks in Copperbelt Province.” The most vulnerable among Zambian children are orphans and street children although children from affluent families in the villages are also targets because for affluent families in the villages, sending children to town for work is a status symbol. Some children victims, both boys and girls are reported to be subjected to sex trafficking in Zambian towns bordering Zimbabwe and Tanzania with traffickers being truck drivers while others are exploited in the mining industry by miners in Solwezi District. The report further highlights the point that internal trafficking continue to be facilitated by family members within the extended family and acquaintances who enjoy trust from such families.

Response to the problem of human trafficking is done at different levels which include prevention, protection and prosecution. In response to fighting general human trafficking, Dialogue for Development (D4D) a Programme under the Religious Sisters of Charity, has in the past two years been raising awareness reaching thousands of people and facilitating dialogue meetings on human trafficking so that there is a better understanding of it for more protection.  Stressing internal trafficking during discussions on human trafficking in general has been very important. One reason for this emphasis is that when asked about what constitutes human trafficking, the people’s responses usually focus on people being taken from their country and exploited in another country. Beyond this, there are numerous challenges that fighting internal trafficking in Zambia pose, thus particular emphasis on it is needed. These challenges include:

The thin line between human trafficking and caring for relatives within the extended family
Caring for relatives within the larger extended family is a significant feature of Zambian traditional life. Children particularly are placed in homes where the family feels they would be cared for. However, in some households, children are treated like slaves, working up at 5 a.m. to begin house chores and working throughout the day up to 10 p.m. Often girl children are subjected to such treatment. Such long hours of work means no school for them plus many other things a child should enjoy. In the era of HIV and AIDS with large numbers of orphans placed in homes, communities get used to seeing such treatment. Therefore, when human trafficking happens within this context, communities would not be able to differentiate it from the ill treatment of children they would have witnessed in some households. It is also very unlikely that the communities witnessing exploitation will challenge that particular family as they would consider the matter as an issue within the family.

General vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities such as poverty and lack of education are also significant barriers to fighting internal trafficking. For example, forced marriage is recognized as a form of child trafficking by the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act because sometimes children are forced to marry for their family’s economic benefit. According to the National Gender Policy 2014 (p 7), “Zambia has one of the highest child marriage prevalence in the world. On average 2 out of 5 girls are married before their 18th birthday. It is worth noting that of these married girls 65 percent have no education while 58 percent have only primary education as compared to17percent of girls with secondary education.”  Those children forced to marry are often from poor households because it rarely happens that a child from an affluent home is forced to marry. Sometimes parents who are materially poor are forced to make undesirable decisions such as forcing a child to marry because there are no resources to help them complete their education. When forced child marriages become widespread, society begins to think it is a norm. Thus, to argue according to the Law that such a practice constitutes human trafficking becomes a huge challenge and to report that child trafficking in this form is occurring in a particular village so that legal action is taken becomes difficult.

Withdrawal of Trafficking Cases
Internal trafficking cases as earlier mentioned tend to be facilitated by people known to victims. Therefore, when they are reported to civil Authorities for prosecution, victims for various reasons which include fear of breaking family relations, withdraw the cases. Lack of legal action in this context does not send a clear message that would deter would be traffickers. Thus, case withdrawal poses a challenge to addressing internal trafficking.

Moving Forward

  1. Address Exploitative Situations: There is need to speak out against exploitative situations even when such exploitation does not constitute human trafficking. Being indifferent to such makes it seem acceptable, therefore when exploitation in the context of human trafficking happens, it would be considered as a normal thing that happens to people who are poor and desperate. Thus, when discussing human trafficking, it is equally important to stress exploitation of people in different contexts.
  2. Dialogue:  Providing spaces for dialogue in different contexts can help in addressing internal trafficking. It is important that there is continuous discussion at all levels to enable more people to have deeper understanding of human trafficking and how they can contribute to addressing it, within their own contexts.
  3. Advocacy: Advocacy forms an important aspect of addressing human trafficking. While it is important to raise awareness, it is equally important to lobby communities and relevant institutions not to take advantage of the vulnerability of the people and subject them to slave-like conditions particularly with regard to their provision of cheap labour. Beyond this, there should be advocacy for policies and initiatives that help to lift the poor from less human conditions.

Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC