• The report, launched by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, says there has been a decline in investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, with some victims treated as criminals.
• It faults the government for the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act that allows the option of fine for perpetrators of sex trafficking offences.
The US State Department has put the Kenyan government on the spot for allegedly not doing enough to stopping human trafficking.
Washington says in a report released last Friday that Kenya at times treats human trafficking victims as criminals instead of rehabilitating them.
The Trafficking in Persons Report 20th edition shows that while Kenya has made significant efforts compared to the last two years, it does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The report, which was launched by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, places Kenya on Tier 2 of human trafficking, indicating a moderate prevalence of the vice.
Only Namibia in Africa made it to Tier 1 ranking.
Among the strides the country has made, according to the report, are a significant increase in the number of victims identified, utilisation of victim assistance fund and launch of a cyber-crime centre to investigate child sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking cases.
The others are enhancement of law enforcement coordination with other countries on trafficking cases, and improvement of efforts to regulate recruitment agencies and support and protection of migrant workers.
However, there has been a decline in investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. Some victims were treated as criminals, according to the report.
“The government also sometimes tried trafficking cases as immigration or labour law violations rather than crimes under the anti-trafficking law, which resulted in traffickers receiving less stringent sentences.”
The report also faults the government for crafting the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act 2010 in a way that allows the option of fines over imprisonment for perpetrators of sex trafficking offences, a provision it says remains incommensurate with other serious crimes.
The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 criminalised sex and labour trafficking and prescribed penalties of 30 years to life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Sh30 million or both.
According to the National (police) Crime Research Unit, the country remains the centre for human trafficking as an easy source of cheap labour and sex to other nations.
The unit's 2015 report showed that the most prevalent forms of trafficking in Kenya were labour and sex followed by child trafficking and trafficking for prostitution.
It identified poverty and unemployment as the main factors contributing to human trafficking.
- mwaniki fm