Hopolang Phororo (HP), Director of International Labour Organisation, Country Office for Namibia and Zimbabwe was interviewed by Her Zimbabwe’s 2016 Blogging Fellow, Sharon Sigauke (SS)
SS: Human trafficking has been with us for a long time but it seems to have become more pronounced in Zimbabwe this year, what could be the cause?
HP: Trafficking is an illegal activity and hence not captured in official statistics or processes until it is discovered or reported to authorities. For Zimbabwe, it’s not that it has not been there, but we just did not know it was happening; it was discovered and it came out in the media. Trafficking is mainly facilitated by the existence of information asymmetry between would be migrants and traffickers. As you would recall, the more it was reported the more people knew about it and a lot more people are coming out.
There are growing incidences of Forced Labour and Human Trafficking in the world. While globalisation has brought new opportunities for movement of people and products, access to economic opportunity, investment and markets, it has also created opportunities for coercion, abuse and exploitation, which are harder to follow across borders and remain hidden in the informal economies feeding into global supply chains.
An ILO 2012 Global Survey on Forced Labour revealed that 20.9 million people are exploited in forced labour globally, with 3.7 million in Africa alone. This figure translates to a prevalence rate of 4 out of every 1000 inhabitants. Further, 18.7 million (90 per cent) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises, and the remaining 2.2 million (10 per cent) are in state-imposed forms of forced labour. Among those exploited by private individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million (22 per cent) are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million (68 per cent) of forced labour exploitation. Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year: two thirds of the estimated total (or US$ 99 billion) comes from commercial sexual exploitation, while another US$ 51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities. Impoverished African countries are destination, transit zones or the point of origin of trafficked people.
A study carried out by the ILO in 2015 on trafficking in the SADC region showed that some people are forced into the trafficking chain because of primarily poverty and deprivation, conflicts and war situations persistent unemployment, gender discrimination, lack of information and education, which make neighbouring cities, regions or countries attractive destinations. This is exacerbated by harmful socio-cultural practices and absence of deterrent legislation and policy.
In addition, three main factors in opportunity, poverty and profitability – easily create a breeding ground for human trafficking.
SS: Who is the most affected and why?
HP: Studies show that women and children are the most vulnerable due to restrictive cultural norms which subjugate and devalue them, exposing them to numerous forms of exploitation. Those seeking opportunities and particularly, women are exposed to many other abuses, like sexual exploitation.
Children are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including all forms of slavery or slavery like practices such as their sale and trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom including forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict; child prostitution and pornography; illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs.
SS: What are the social and economic effects of trafficking on women and the nation?
HP: The effects are long term and may show up at the physical, mental and social levels. Trafficking has a harrowing effect on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of the victims. Beyond the physical abuse, trafficked women suffer extreme emotional stress, including shame, grief, fear, distrust and suicidal thoughts. Victims often experience post-traumatic stress disorder and with that, acute anxiety and depression.
Trafficking promotes societal breakdown by removing women and girls from their families and communities. It fuels organised crime groups that usually participate in many other illegal activities including drug and weapons trafficking and money laundering. It negatively impacts local and national labour markets due to the loss of human resources.
From the physical abuse and torture of victims to the psychological and emotional trauma to the economic and political implications of unabated crime, the impact on individuals and society is clearly destructive and unacceptable.
SS: As ILO, what is your role in addressing trafficking?
HP: The ILO approaches human trafficking in the context of its mandate in the world of work and specifically, the work on forced labour and child labour. In the absence of a clear cut definition because of the multi-dimensional aspects of trafficking, currently, terms such as “forced labour”, “human trafficking”, “slavery and slavery-like practices” or “contemporary forms of slavery” are often used interchangeably to refer to the forms of labour exploitation and abuse that occur due to forced and involuntary work. The ILO and its supervisory bodies have made a significant contribution to the development of norms and standards in relation to forced and child labour. Through these standards, the ILO has sought to provide protection to vulnerable workers who may have been trafficked for labour purposes. Zimbabwe has shown its commitment to combating trafficking and forced labour by ratifying these conventions. It has further initiated the ratification process for the Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, which comes into force in November this year.
The conventions require ratifying states to provide the necessary and appropriate direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration. It also requires states to ensure access to free basic education and wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training for children removed from the worst forms of child labour. Zimbabwe, since its ratification of the various conventions, has adopted into law the principles in the convention and most recently made changes to the Labour Act, with regards to raising the age at which a child can begin to work.
The ILO Conventions on forced and child labour are:
- The Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29);
- Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105);
- Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138);
- Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, No. 182
- Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention,
They give guidance to the ILO and its members’ responses to mitigate both forced and child labour, as well as human trafficking.
Statistics on the number of women in both practices, within the ILO perspective, are yet to be determined. All SADC members have ratified the ILO Forced Labour Conventions and the almost universal ratification of these instruments reflects that freedom from forced or compulsory labour will achieve the status of a universal international human rights law.
SS: Which other organisations are you working with in addressing human trafficking?
HP: International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC and relevant government Ministries, such as the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Women Affairs, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, under the coordination of the Anti-trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee
SS: Do you have any policies in place specifically tailored to assist women who have been victims and would be victims?
HP: The enactment of a legal framework on trafficking in 2014 has helped; with perpetrators now being able to face prosecution for trafficking, as compared previously to just the criminality in the processes of trafficking. We are working with other UN agencies to come up with holistic responses, aimed at improving migration management and the re-integration of victims, such as counselling and economic empowerment interventions. Some of the policies being supported by the UN include those on the Diaspora, Labour Migration, Migration and Development and Immigration.
SS: How do you think these policies are contributing in curbing human trafficking?
HP: Whilst we may not be able to ‘curb’ trafficking, we may give reasons for women, in particular, to stay at home because as already mentioned, trafficking is mainly poverty driven. Such policies will help to create local opportunities for vulnerable people thus discouraging irregular migration and the risk of being trafficked. They will enable the sharing of accurate information about migration and migration management in destination countries.
SS: What can be done to prevent the trafficking of women by authorities and general members of the community?
HP: Whilst the practice may not be stopped, it is important to engage in advocacy and public awareness programmes on the opportunities and risks involved in migration.
SS: What have been the common traits in trafficking that women should be on the lookout for?
The ILO has developed indicators to identify when forced labour is present. Examples of such indicators in forced labour situations are:
- Restriction of movement
- Physical and sexual violence
- Intimidation and threats
- Retention of identity documents
- Withholding of wages
- Debt bondage
- Abusive working and living conditions
- Excessive overtime
Main image, Hopolang Phororo. Image taken from www.spike.co.zw