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20.06.2005 Regional News

Hajia calls for expedite action on human trafficking law

GNA

Elmina, June 20, GNA- The Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, (MOWAC) Hajia Alima Mahama has called on Parliament and other stakeholders to speed up the legislation process to combat human trafficking, to boost the promotion of human rights in the country. This she said was imperative, since the consolidation of the Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29), did not make specific reference to the term trafficking, thereby enabling traffickers to act with impunity and indulge in the worst forms of exploitative labour, without being punished.

Hajia, Mahama, made the call when she opened a two-day workshop for members of the Parliamentary Select committees on Gender And Children and Employment And Social Welfare, and some representatives of allied non-governmental organisations and the Ghana Immigration Service at Elmina. The participants discussed the draft bill on human trafficking that was laid before parliament last Friday. The workshop was jointly organised by the MOWAC, UNICEF, International Organisation on Migration and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). She observed that it was a common practice for parents who are poor to give their children to richer relations to be cared for, without the consent of these children.

" This old age practice has degenerated into children being sold or mortgaged by their parents under false pretences," she said. Hajia Alima said MOWAC supports any individual or organisation that focused on freeing children and women from any form of bondage. She said the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy was ensuring that vulnerable groups do not become victims of trafficking as a result of increased poverty. She enumerated various interventions made by successive governments to stem the practice in the absence of a requisite law, such as the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and the establishment of her sector ministry.

Mr Eric Okrah, of the ILO, noted that child trafficking was predominant in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions and the coastal areas of the country, while most of the victims are under 20. He said human trafficking was also brisk in most countries in the West African Sub-Region, where the victims are exploited for sexual, domestic and commercial purposes.

Mr Okrah said research conducted into the practice showed that people fell victims to the practice due to economic factors, dysfunctional family systems, lack of educational opportunities, gender discrimination and deep-rooted inequalities. Mr Okrah said victims of human trafficking were treated as criminals abroad, even by some of the country's embassies, while others are arrested and n jailed or deported arbitrarily. He expressed concern that although there was a law against 'trokosi', which involves the keeping of young girls as hostage to atone for the sins of their families, the practice still exists and no one has been arrested and prosecuted.

Mr Tunese Amusu, Director of Legal Services at Legal Resources Centre, an organisation committed to the promotion of human rights, urged the participants to deliberate on how the proposed human trafficking fund was going to be accessed by victims. He observed that the trafficking bill was weak in proposing concrete steps to prevent trafficking. It also failed to address the root causes of human trafficking or indicate if special courts should be set up to deal specifically with traffickers.

Dr Raymond Atuguba, Executive Director of the Centre, called for similar workshops for stakeholders that would be tasked with the implementation of the trafficking law when enacted. During an open forum, the participants were unanimous in the observation that poverty was the main factor for human trafficking. Some of them suggested the need to incorporate the country's traditional and cultural practices into the law.

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