By Lilian Saka Kiefer
Exploitation of human beings through forced labour, human trafficking or commercial sex is a growing development problem across the world, and more so in Southern Africa. This exploitation exacerbates poverty and human suffering, thereby widening the inequality gaps. It robs its victims of their human dignity and denies them opportunities to productively contribute to their own livelihoods, and that of their households and communities.
Poor Southern African countries are in most cases source countries as well as transit countries human trafficking and forced labour. Trafficking and forced labour can be either internal and external. Internal trafficking and forced labour finds victims trapped in farms, homes, hotels and other places working in menial labour or serving as prostitutes or sex slaves within their home country. External trafficking is whereby one” exports” people to foreign places where their labour is required.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also defines forced labour as all work or service which is done by any person and for which the said person has not offered themselves voluntarily.
A major challenge in tackling modern slavery is that in most cases, people are deceived and fed lies that cause them to voluntarily offer themselves for service, only to later find themselves trapped in forced labour. In addition, the practice of forced labour and modern slavery has become so sophisticated and more disguised, such that these conventions are in some circumstances in adequate.
Therefore, the problem tends to be under-diagnosed and under-addressed. Modern day slavery and forced labour is coated in regular terms and branded like regular and acceptable work, until people are trapped in and have to avenue to seek help. Complementing this core reason are the facts that there is inadequate capacity of state agents and stakeholders to address the problem. Additionally, low knowledge levels among citizens, who are potential victims of human trafficking and forced labour, leads them into falling prey to traffickers and/or agents of forced labour.
If left unchecked, human trafficking and forced labour threaten the global community’s security, development as well as the attainment of the sustainable development goals. It is therefore critical that efforts must be mobilised to effectively contribute to ending human trafficking and forced labour, specifically focusing on the following factors:
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is galvanising efforts to accelerate communication initiatives in ending human trafficking and forced labour. By raising awareness among citizens and motivating policy makers to accelerate commitment to developing laws and policies that will end this vice, PSAf hopes to see a reduction in numbers of people falling victim to forced labour and trafficking.
The author is the Executive Director of Panos Institute Southern Africa. For feedback, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.