Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, a United States. Department of State Trafficking in Persons report has revealed.
By Phyllis Mbanje
The country, which has been ranked as one of the worst affected by modern-day slavery, with about
99 600 estimated victims, has been battling to contain the problem which is also a global concern.
About 55% of trafficked people are women or girls, and 26% of them are children. Women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia are “subjected to forced labour, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the borders,” the report said.
It was noted in the report that “there are continuous accounts of Zimbabwean women lured to China and the Middle East for work where they are vulnerable to trafficking.”
The prevailing economic situation in Zimbabwe has placed many women and children in vulnerable positions where they are easily exploited using false promises.
A senior US embassy in Zimbabwe official this week made a clarion call for sterner action by individuals against persons and companies involved in human trafficking, among other measures to stamp the scourge.
“We as individuals can make a difference by being aware of our own habits, by understanding the background and practices of the companies we use when we purchase our clothing, our food,” said US embassy charge d’ affaires Jennifer Savage.
Speaking during a Food for Thought discussion on trafficking in persons on Tuesday, Savage said the US government was working in earnest with Zimbabwe to halt human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a $150 billion illicit industry and it touches millions of lives in the world. We must treat this as a problem not to be managed, but as a crime that has to be stopped,” she said.
Daniel Sam, of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), described human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery constituting human rights violations against the individual and the State.
IOM is working with other international partners at every level to attack the root causes of trafficking, to alert potential victims to lurking dangers, to take perpetrators off the streets and to empower the survivors as they rebuild their lives.
Samantha Munodawafa, a crime prevention and criminal justice officer at United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told the audience that the region had to contend with unique cases such as trafficking in body parts for albinos, girls being trafficked as a result of cultural beliefs, child labour and child marriages.
“No sector has been spared,” she said.