The Ghanaian public was thrown into consternation when it was announced that three young ladies had been abducted in Takoradi. It has been close to a year now and these ladies are yet to be found. A suspected kidnapper arrested for his involvement in the case is reported to be uncooperative making it difficult to locate the young women. While the various institutions in the country especially the Police Service is still grappling with this challenge, the media, reported in June this year that two Canadian students visiting Ghana as volunteers had been kidnapped in Kumasi. Then on July 18th, Joy FM a private local radio station aired a news report of six underage girls and a 26 year-old woman being trafficked to Lebanon. According to the story, Immigration Officials at Kotoka International Airport (KIA) detected that the documents on which these ladies were travelling did not have accurate information. Further, the ladies were unable to respond to basic questions about their travel. The Officials, after confirming their suspicion, detained the young ladies.

The issue of the three missing ‘Takoradi girls’ continues to hang on the shoulders of the Security Services who are expected to find and reunite them with their families. Their whereabouts till date remains a mystery with the safety of these hapless young women turned into a political tussle. It is reported that organized crime groups operating within and across borders often run trafficking networks. These networks are structured, organized, well-funded and operated beyond the reach of law enforcement.  Traffickers may place adverts on websites that young persons frequent offering glamorous jobs. They proposition girls online and arrange for secret meetings. People in positions of trust and respect, close relatives or people closely associated with victims may be used as intermediaries.

The incident of the Canadian girls and the young Ghanaian ‘immigrants’ to Lebanon; bring into sharp focus the need to sensitize the public about the human trafficking menace. July 30th each year is celebrated as World Day against Trafficking in Persons.  The annual commemoration is to remind humanity of the violation of the freedoms and rights of victims that are trafficked across the world and efforts to bring to justice traffickers while protecting and supporting the victims. Celebration of International Days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

 It is in line with this mission of the UN that NIMBUS Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which champions the rights of women and children with the aim of ensuring that women and children’s concerns are comprehensively mainstreamed into socio-economic and cultural frameworks is joining in the commemoration of World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The Foundation is collaborating with heads and administrative bodies of second cycle schools in the Labone and Osu catchment areas to sensitize/create awareness among students and staff of those schools on the menace of Human Trafficking to mark the day.

Human trafficking is a global challenge and no country is immune to it. Each year, millions of victims fall into the hands of traffickers, lured by fake promises and deceit. Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers. Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls. The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female. According to the World Day against Trafficking web page: “At any given time, an estimated 2.5 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. Men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers both in their own countries and abroad. Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.”

 Activities of human traffickers have been a major concern to world leaders globally, as their actions dent the image of their respective countries. The subject of Trafficking in Persons has been a major concern worldwide to every nation. In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge.

According to the 2019 US Dept. of State Trafficking in Persons Report, the Government of Ghana does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. In 2018, the government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Ghana remained on Tier 2. For example, the government of Ghana maintained vigorous anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2005 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2009, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The Human Trafficking Act prescribes penalties of a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent. However, the 2015 regulations for this Act, which are non-discretionary and have the force of law, provided specific guidance on sentencing depending on the circumstances; in general the term is not less than five years and not more than 25 years, but if a parent, guardian or other person with parental responsibilities facilitates or engages in trafficking, they are liable to a fine, five to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. By allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishments for sex trafficking were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Human rights are God-given rights that every human being is entitled to by virtue of being human. Therefore victims of human trafficking have their rights infringed upon by traffickers. Trafficked people are forced to work, often doing hard labour or prostitution, for no reward. They usually have their identity and documents removed from them and are warned of terrible punishments if they escape. Often they are taken to unfamiliar countries where they don’t know the language and have no way of getting help, some die and are never heard of again by their families and communities. These are a few instances of the effects of human trafficking menace on society.

It is our hope that participating schools will have knowledge of trafficking in persons and be advocates for change. Sensitizing students at that age is a way of ensuring that they are armed with the knowledge and power to effect change.

We make a passionate call on Government, Stakeholders, State Agencies, Security Services, the General Public and Individuals to as a matter of urgency put in more measures to curb human trafficking which is real in Ghana. NIMBUS FOUNDATION, JULY25, 2019

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