Heavy punishments for offenders will help curb human trafficking, stakeholders say

August 03 2022

Stakeholders have reiterated the need to make human trafficking a risky venture for anyone to invest in, as one of the best ways to curb the vice.

This is very chilling crime. Human trafficking shouldn’t be something we tolerate any further. The vice has continued to flourish because we haven’t made it risky enough to be a human trafficker. Going forward, it should be extremely risky for anyone to engage in human trafficking,” said the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority Managing Director, Fred Bamwesigye during celebrations to mark the international day on human trafficking on Saturday at Entebbe Airport.

The day is held annually and this year’s commemorations were held under the theme, “Use and abuse of technology.”

The Uganda CAA boss said there is need for concerted efforts to ensure anyone who wants to participate in human trafficking thinks twice before joining the business, adding that this can be done through harsh punishments to offenders.

“Quite often efforts by airport stakeholders to clamp down on the vice have culminated into arrests of these perpetuators.  They are handled within the due process until taken for prosecution and even conviction in court but have always ended up getting very light sentences and penalties like attracting fines as low as shs300,000,”Bamwesigye said.

“It is disheartening to realize that after investing a lot in apprehending the culprits they end with such light punishments and within a few days, they return to start from where they ended and carry out the same crime. This sometimes demoralizes the efforts of airport stakeholders and everyone involved.”

Bamwesigye noted that because of the “small” punishments, the offenders of human trafficking become more hardened beyond redemption.

He noted the need to rethink actions to help stop the crime of human trafficking.

The State Minister for Works, Musa Ecweru said human trafficking is real and not something imagined, noting that many Ugandans and people around the world have fallen victim to the vice.

He however said the temptation for people to join human trafficking is high due to its profitability.

“I have learnt that the business of human trafficking is extremely lucrative and therefore the temptation to perpetuate is bigger than the efforts we put in to fight it. That puts us back to the drawing board. We have the laws and personnel but it takes diligent and honest people to make a difference,”Ecweru said.

He said Uganda has found itself in a catch 22 situation where there are so many youths who are unemployed and are easy to be trafficked.

“We have a very young population and one that is looking for a future in form of jobs. That level of vulnerability I what the perpetuators are exploiting.”

Technology aiding trafficking

The chairperson of the board of directors at the Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons in Uganda(CATIP-U),Dr.Annete Kirabira said  that whereas technology has been of great importance to mankind, it has on the other side been used to fuel crime like human trafficking.

“Technology has provided easy access to a much larger group of potential victims because traditional physical and geographical limitations no longer exist. Traffickers are currently using technology to profile, recruit, groom, control and exploit their victims as well as using the internet, especially the dark web to hide illegal materials stemming from trafficking and their real identities from investigations, “Dr. Kirabira said.

She explained that many victims of human trafficking are targeted and recruited via social media and online dating platforms where personal information and details of people’s locations are readily available.

“Sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation are taking place virtually and photos and videos sold further on different platforms to customers worldwide, resulting into even more money for the traffickers at no additional cost.”

“Traffickers are using technology to control their victims remotely and sometimes without having ever met them in person. They threaten to release intimate photos or videos of them to families and friends if they don’t comply to their demands.”

Dr.Kirabira noted there have been little efforts to make use of technology to help in combating the crime of human trafficking yet the global nature of human trafficking requires well prepared, resourced and capacitated teams to combat it.

Call to action

According to the State Minister for Works, it is high time the misconceptions by members of the public that human trafficking mostly takes place via air transport and is from one country to the other.

“There is a lot more domestic human trafficking undertaken within the country using other modes of transport. Awareness campaigns will be key in sensitizing the public, especially youths and secondary school children who are major targets of traffickers,” Minister Ecweru said.

The chairperson for the board of directors at CATIP-U, Dr.Annete Kirabira said it is high time government did something to make the use of technology safe as a way of combating human trafficking.

“We call upon government to improve safety standards in the cyberspace including developing systems , acquiring tools and capacitating law enforcement agencies to detect online criminal activities of recruitment, grooming, control and exploitation of victims,” Dr.Kirabira said.

She also urged government to expedite the enactment of the witness protection law to enhance the protection of victims and witnesses participating in the criminal proceedings of human trafficking to prevent re-traumatization.

Dr.Kirabira asked government to operationalize digital reporting channels including toll free lines as an ICT tool under the coordination office for the prevention of trafficking in persons to ease reporting of cases by the public.

Adopted from: The Nile Post July 31, 2022

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