In the wake of increased globalization, women travelling out of Uganda in pursuit of better employment has become a common trend. One would argue that the rights to free movement, liberty, right to work, and all other human rights are enjoyed, as many of these women opt to travel at their own will.[i]
Unfortunately, upon arrival at their work stations overseas, many of these women are subjected to inhumane living and working conditions coupled with gross human rights violations.[ii]
Trafficking in general involves the recruitment of persons through fraud, abuse of power or vulnerability, for purposes of exploitation.[iii] Human trafficking has been described as a global problem affecting all countries across the globe and especially depriving vulnerable women of their dignity.[iv] In 2019, Uganda reported 477 females who were intercepted while being trafficked to foreign counties.[v] The alarming number of victims of human trafficking invites scrutiny into the existing Ugandan laws and policies and the extent to which they uphold women’s rights by protecting them from trafficking.
Trafficking of Ugandan women is notably on the rise in spite of the anti-trafficking, labour and migration laws, all of which are intended to protect these women.[vi] This begs the question whether the Ugandan laws and policies sufficiently meet the purpose of protecting women from trafficking while punishing and deterring traffickers from engaging in the act.
Many Ugandan women are continuously and naively trafficked to overseas countries and left at the mercy of their abusers where they experience forced labour, sexual exploitation, torture and slavery, among others.[vii] Traffickers have craftily manipulated the legal controls in place as the demand for and supply of modern day slaves increases in the lucrative “business” of trafficking, hence compromising the protection of vulnerable Ugandan women.[viii]
The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda imposes a duty on the State to protect women’s rights and guarantees freedom from torture, discrimination and the enjoyment of all other human rights.[ix] The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (PTIP) was enacted in a bid to curb human trafficking in Uganda, however, the number of victims of trafficking continues to sharply rise.[x]
There is thus need to implement and enforce the Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad) Regulations, 2005[xi] . Furthermore, the loopholes in Uganda’s trafficking laws and policies must be addressed in order to protect the Ugandan population form the ills of trafficking.
Cognizant of the criticism of African policies as being problem centered as opposed to solution based, it is important to examine the push and pull factors beneath the increased trafficking within the East African region.[xii] The need for increased gender sensitive financial policies as a means of empowering women has been noted as a possible avenue of protecting women from falling into the deceptive arms of traffickers[xiii].
The Palermo protocol of the UN recognizes international collaboration to detect and suppress human trafficking across the globe.[xiv]
It should be thus emphasized that labour exportation in itself can be lucrative source of income for many of Uganda’s youth, provided that safety and protection from trafficking is guaranteed. Parallel to this, there is need to adopt more robust laws and policies to address issues such as repatriation of trafficking victims, increased supervision of export companies and the licensing process, sensitization and tracking of foreign workers, among others.
[i] “Sold into slavery in Dubai Part 1”,The New Vision, April 4,2020.
https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1517775/undercover-journalist-sold-slave-dubai (accessed June 15, 2020)
[ii] Fiona David et al, “Migrants and Their Vulnerability to Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery and Forced Labour” International Organisation for Migration, 2019
https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/migrants_and_their_vulnerability.pdf (accessed June 19,2020)
[iii]UN General Assembly, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 15 November 2000
https://www.refworld.org/docid/4720706c0.html (accessed June 17, 2020)
[iv] UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, Human trafficking: People for Sale, 2017
http://www.unodc.org (accessed March 20,2020)
[v] “2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Uganda” U.S Department of State,2019,p.1
https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-trafficking-in-persons-report-2/uganda/ (accessed March 13,2020)
[vi] U.S Department of State, opcit,p.3.
[vii] “Undercover as a slave Part 2: Journalist in the dark of Dubai,” The New Vision, April 11,2020.
https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1517777/undercover-slave-journalist-dark-dubai (accessed June 18,2020)
[viii] “How girls are trafficked to the Middle East through Kenya, “The Daily Monitor, January 8, 2017. http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/How-girls-trafficked-to-Middle-East-through-Kenya/688334 (accessed June 19,2020)
[ix] Article 33 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
The PTIP act generally provides for trafficking offences, prosecution of offenders and protection of victims of trafficking.
[xi] “Unemployment, labour export and human trafficking?”Arise,2020
[xiv] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, 2000. United Nations General Assembly