CARITAS Zambia executive director Eugene Kabilika says the sanctity of human life and the inalienable dignity of every human being should constitute the starting point and focus of every initiative to combat human trafficking.
In a presentation on the role of civil society in complimenting government efforts to combat human trafficking during the the virtual dissemination meeting on the review of the anti-human trafficking Act, Kabilika said human trafficking is a terrible abuse of the dignity and human rights of men and women, girls and boys.
He said transatlantic slavery was a centuries-long international trade in people and their labour that lasted 300 years.
“About 25 million Africans are believed to have been stolen from Africa. Since the end of this evil trade in 1888, one would have thought that the enslavement of human beings would be impossible. Alas, it is back in the form of human trafficking,” he said. “Indeed, the economic roots and structure of the two forms of exploitation reveals that modern trafficking in human beings is as interconnected with, and central to, contemporary domestic and global economies as the transatlantic trade and slavery were to their contemporaneous economic systems at the time (Karen. E. Bravo).”
Kabilika said Caritas Zambia uses the Palermo Protocol definition of human trafficking, which in article 3, paragraph (a) defines trafficking in persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, 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.
He said exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
Kabilika said for the most part, Caritas Zambia, a faith-based organisation, accept the definitions set forth in the Palermo Protocol while introducing the basic conviction that human trafficking was both criminal and seriously sinful because it constituted coercion or abuse leading to exploitation that harmed the dignity of a person.
He said Zambia was an example of a country where internal trafficking was more common than cross-border.
Kabilika said for the past five years, the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) report had consistently indicated that while Zambia was a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, most trafficking in fact happens within the country’s borders.
He said according to the 2019 TIP report, human traffickers have been exploiting domestic and foreign victims in Zambia’; have been exploiting victims from Zambia abroad; have been exploiting women and children from rural areas in domestic servitude or forced labour in agriculture, textile production, mining, construction, small businesses such as bakeries, and forced begging; jerabo gangs force Zambian children to engage in illegal mining to load stolen copper ore onto trucks in Copperbelt Province.; truck drivers exploit Zambian boys and girls in sex trafficking in towns along the Zimbabwean and Tanzanian borders, and miners exploit them in Solwezi too; domestically, extended families and trusted family acquaintances facilitate trafficking and Zambians from the depressed rural areas in the Western Province are coerced into forced labour in Namibia.
He said traffickers lure Rwandese women to Zambia with promises of refugee status, coerce them into registering as Democratic Republic of the Congo nationals seeking refugee status in Zambia, and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking and threaten them with physical abuse and reporting them to immigration officials for fraudulent refugee claims.
Kabilika said Chinese traffickers bring in Chinese women and girls for sexual exploitation in brothels and massage parlour in Lusaka.
He said traffickers use front companies posing as travel agencies to lure Chinese victims and coordinate with Zambian facilitators and middlemen.
Kabilika said Chinese nationals were increasingly exploited in forced labour in Chinese-owned companies in the construction, mining, and service sectors.
He said the role of CSOs in fighting trafficking included raising community awareness on the nature and effect of human trafficking; promoting community economic development activities as part of the efforts to prevent trafficking in persons.
He said Caritas Zambia’s approach to combating trafficking in persons was based on Catholic social teaching, which mandated it to protect, preserve and promote human dignity.
Kabilika said in doing so Caritas Zambia focused in four main areas that include defending the rights of all people, improving livelihoods to reduce trafficking risks and work with the government and other CSOs to share information that may lead to the prosecution of traffickers.
He said on economic and social accountability, the programme focused on influencing policy and legislative changes so that they responded to the needs of the people, especially the poor.
“It also focuses on changing people’s attitudes towards development. Structures, such as cultural, economic, political and social, with which the people interact in many instances, hinder the actualisation of their social economic and cultural rights and so need transformation. This way incentives to traffic in persons for economic reasons reduces,” he said.
And Kabilika said the Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation Programme (LCCAP) promoted equitable access to food and safe water for the poor and vulnerable.
He said this was being done through empowerment of communities to enable them challenge attitudes, systems and institutions that impoverish them.
Kabilika said the programme also empowered communities with skills to engage in climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives that would assist them to build resilience so as to reduce vulnerability and contribute to reduced negative impacts of climate change.
Kabilika said the Conflict Transformation and Peace Building Programme (CTPBP) called for the awakening of God’s people to a further understanding of their call as Christians with regard to social justice, leading to a greater awareness of human rights and consequent duties.
He said it formed a critical conscience which empowered them to challenge and act to overcome unjust situations in their communities.
Kabilika said to achieve the goals of the focus area, Caritas Zambia carried out activities to safeguard children and vulnerable adults and had trained paralegals that carry out community awareness on legal matters as well as accompany victims of abuse and helps them access justice.
He said Caritas Zambia also works with CSOs that belong to the Paralegal Alliance Network (PAN), Legal Aid Board, courts and the Ministry of Justice to promote justice.
“Human trafficking is a terrible abuse of the dignity and human rights of men and women, girls and boys. The variety of its forms, the heterogeneity of its victims and its many types of perpetrators make it a very complex problem. Such complexity requires a multidisciplinary approach in order to understand the phenomenon and its causes, to identify the processes and persons involved in it – victims, perpetrators, and consumers (knowing or unwitting) before appropriate responses can be shaped,” said Kabilika. “From a Christian viewpoint, the sanctity of human life, from conception until natural death, and the inalienable dignity of each and every human being, should constitute the starting point and the central focus of every initiative.”