RED FLAG

Human trafficking rises in Kenya but fewer culprits jailed

The country so far not reported any case of illegal trade in body parts.

In Summary

•The report notes in 2019, Kenyan government reported identifying 853 trafficking victims, up from 400 in 2018.

•The victims trafficked in Kenya are mainly subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation, the reports say.

Kenya has not reported cases of organ trafficking yet.
Kenya has not reported cases of organ trafficking yet.
Image: COURTESY

Although cases of human trafficking in Kenya are rising, there is a significant decrease in convictions, two reports by the United Nations and the US Department of State suggest.

The victims trafficked in Kenya are mainly subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation, the reports say.

Perpetrators risk 30 years to life imprisonment or a fine of not less than Sh30 million.

However, only three people were convicted of human trafficking in 2019, compared to seven in 2018, says the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report: Kenya, by the US Department of State.

The report notes that in 2019, the government reported identifying 853 trafficking victims, up from 400 in 2018.

Separately, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime also points out the low number of prosecutions and convictions.

“Many countries in Africa and Asia continue to have very low numbers of convictions for trafficking, and at the same time detect fewer victims,” UNODC says in the latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

In 2014, at least 143 males were trafficked in Kenya, the number rising to 309 in 2015, 67 in 2016 and 283 in 2017. No females were reported trafficked in 2014, but that rose to nine in 2015, 187 (2016)  and 69 (2017).

“Detected victims of trafficking in persons between January 2014 and September 2017 were citizens of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi,” the UN report says.

Human trafficking report

It notes the limited numbers of detected victims and few convictions do not necessarily mean that traffickers are not active in the country.

“In fact, victims trafficked from subregions with low detection and conviction rates are found in large numbers in other subregions,” it says.

“This suggests that trafficking networks operate with a high degree of impunity in these countries.”

Kenya has a comprehensive legislation in Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, 2010, to fight the crime. The law makes consent irrelevant and even covers removal of body parts and organs.

The country has so far not reported any case of illegal trade in body parts. The UNODC report says in Africa, only South Africa has reported that crime in the last six years.

In the last one month, online reports blamed the rise in cases of trafficking for body parts on Covid-19-related job losses.

However, the UN body has not released a statement or statistics on the same since the July 30 World Day against Human Trafficking.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, a special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the pandemic could trigger growth of the crime.

“The impact of the pandemic confirms that the trend is still - and even more today - towards increasing severe exploitation,” she said on July 30 last year.

UNODC says many countries have legal frameworks, but the political will to enact them has been “completely absent”.

Kenya also has separate laws to prevent trafficking on body organs. For instance, the law says cells, tissues and organs should only be donated freely, without any monetary payment or other reward of monetary value.

The prohibition does not preclude reimbursing reasonable and verifiable expenses incurred by the donor.