Imagine a world where by law, humans are accepted as property- implying one human could be owned by the other, and where the rights of the owned is in the hands of the owner. This was what actually persisted during the human slavery era, and thus according to historical anamnesis.
The emergence of the transatlantic slave trade was during the 15th century when Portugal, and subsequently other European kingdoms, were finally able to expand overseas and reach Africa (Adi, 2012). The Portuguese first began to kidnap people from the West Coast of Africa and to take those they enslaved back to Europe.
It was the demand for labour force to service the plantations of the Western countries of the pre-industrial era that culminated to high demand for human slaves in the days. Though there are no authentic records to substantiate, slave trade is acclaimed to have resulted in the transhipment of millions of millions of unaccounted for Africans to the European countries. This act of barbarism obviously posed a major effect on the growth of the African population at the time.
It is now estimated that in the period from 1500-1900, the population of Africa remained stagnant or declined (BBC history).
On historical archives, the fight against slavery started as early as the 15th Century, but it was the wake of the Pan-African consciousness and the rise of various Pan-African movements around the nineteenth Century that intensified the resistance by Africans for liberation. Pan-Africanism, an ideological response to the 1884/85 Berlin Conference, then became a catalyst to mobilize action by Africans in colonial territories in response to slavery, imperialism, colonialism and racism (BBC History).
These historical antecedents were what occasioned the rise of the likes of Marcus Garvey and other Pan-Africanists. The many strong voices, around the world, all contributed to ending slave trade in the twentieth century. It is however worth disabusing the elusive perception among many that seek to suggest that slave trade died right after the abolition of slave trade in the 19th Century.
Quite paradoxically, even worse and complex forms of it exist in recent times, and its uniqueness is that it permeates under unforeseen forces which have become a global burden to deal with. Instead, just like a camouflage, Slavery has now metamorphosed and continues to harm millions in almost every country around the world.
Is it not rather surprising to expose that in 2017, an estimate by the International Labor Organization (ILO), which affirms my earlier assertion of the rising threat of slavery, estimates that at least 40 million people are victims of modern-day slavery?
The Reincarnated Human Slavery
The 2018 US Trafficking in Person Report identified seven forms of the face of modern-day slavery including; sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labour, bondage labour or debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labour, unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. Well, whichever form that modern-day slavery exists, the underlying principle is that the lives of the enslaved are controlled by their exploiters; thus, they no longer have a free choice and they have to do as they’re told.
Among the many forms and causes of modern-day slavery by various accredited scholars and global sources, this article identifies “human trafficking” as synonymous to modern-day slavery and seeks to digest its pervasiveness in Africa and more specifically Ghana.
What is Human Trafficking?
The United Nations defines human trafficking as, “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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”.
The U.S. Department of State, on similar trajectory, makes it easily digestible with a simplified definition of Human Trafficking as the "act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion." Human trafficking affects the physical, psychological and emotional development of victims, hinders a nation’s development, undermines human resource development and promotes criminal conduct and corruption (Source: UNODC).
The Root Causes of Human Trafficking
As it is known in African Parlance, that, “there is no smoke without fire”, hence, it is therefore imperative to at this stage, unravel the root causes of Human Trafficking in Person. Indeed, there are more questions begging for answers on the propelling reasons that could be fueling this rising menace, which is highly pervasive across the world. The Center for Global Impact identified that Human Trafficking varies from country to country, but admits, it usually preys on vulnerable situations.
It emphasized that people in vulnerable and precarious situations are looking for a way out and, in their desperation, can fall prey to human traffickers. We see these in multiple circumstances; which broadly includes, but not limited to, the following; poverty, political instability, war-torn countries and social and cultural practices. These conditions create a toxic cocktail of vulnerability that makes it easier for traffickers to exploit their victims. Traffickers will usually target people who are susceptible to coercion into the human trafficking industry.
Unfortunate migrants, fleeing their homes either because of economic hardship, natural disasters, conflict or political instability. Persons under these displacement conditions are usually under emotional vulnerability, and frequently they do not have the financial support to protect themselves. These increases their vulnerability to abuse through trafficking.
In fact, the United States Department of Homeland Security affirms that, the demand for cheap labour, sexual services and certain criminal activities are among the root causes of trafficking, while poverty, the absence of economic opportunities, and social attitudes and norms are other contributing factors (Source: UNODC, United States Department of Homeland Security).
Global Prevalence of Human Trafficking
Despite increased international attention and resource commitment from states and other non-governmental institutions, the number of people falling victim to human trafficking around the world continues to grow exponentially.
The world is alarming and at a point of almost conceding defeat in finding a lasting solution to the menace. Whilst the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 40 million people were victims of modern-day slavery, the US State Department 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, however reveals that, globally, only 100,409 victims were identified by their community and not all were even liberated or successfully reintegrated.
These among other factors are glaring evidence that the world is no near winning the war on human trafficking. In response to these crises of human trafficking, the US and the UK have set the pace and passed laws to tidy up the supply chain (auditing the supply chain). For example, cocoa certification always from western countries is now a requirement, which aids in traceability.
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) is an illegal practice shaded in secrecy and is approximately impossible to measure in its entirety. However, The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons launched, as far as 2003, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides information, based on data gathered from 155 countries, portrayed Human Trafficking as “a crime that shames us all”.
The Human Trafficking Situation in Africa
Quite worryingly, the United States, in its 2017 Watch list, listed 13 African countries as among the 23 worst offenders for human trafficking, thus constituting over 56%.
The Human Trafficking situation is that gloomy as far as Africa is concern: The 2016 Global Slavery Index suggested an estimated 6.25 million individuals as being enslaved in Sub-Saharan Africa, making up 13.6% of the total global enslaved population. The most common forms of slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the same Index, are forced labor and marriage. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest share of child trafficking in the world. (2016 Global Slavery Index).
Meanwhile, the UN’s 2016 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically target 8.7, called for nations to, “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”. It is also estimated that 152 million children between 5 and 7 years are exploited to provide labor services. Out of this number, there are 20 million in Africa and 2 million in Ghana (ILO, 2017).
The Menace in Ghana
Ghana is no exception to the global challenge of Trafficking in Person, as it continues to be a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. It is quite worrying that the exploitation of Ghanaians, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than transnational trafficking.
There is also widespread prevalence of ‘Kayayei’ (female head porters) in urban areas, migrating from the three regions in Northern Ghana, who remain at risk to sex trafficking and forced labour. Similarly, issues of irregular migration, exploitative and illegal trafficking networks and the exploitation of young Ghanaian men and women in the Gulf States are increasing trends (MOH & Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, 1999).
It is therefore imperative, to at this stage, urge the state to intensify its efforts at collaborating with international and local development partners, including; the Civil Society organizations, the Media, Research Institutions and communities to create the needed awareness in combating this modern-day human slavery known as ‘human trafficking’.
My ultimate inspiration to write is to strive for social change.
The writer of this article aspires for available writing opportunities with any entity.
Name: Agee-Kum Anthony (Kostodian)