By Daniel Chigundu
THE United States (US) has applauded Zimbabwe for making significant efforts in trying to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but says supporting legislation needs to be consistent with international laws.
Addressing the media at the official release of the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, political affairs official in the US Embassy Krista Fisher said Zimbabwe has made great achievement in its handling of trafficking issues, especially with the way they handled the Kuwait trafficking case.
“The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore Zimbabwe was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included increased efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking crimes.
“The government coordinated with Kuwait to repatriate and refer to care 121 female trafficking victims, and also repatriated five victims from Sudan. It conducted training-of-trainers for police on victim identification interview approaches.
“…despite these achievements the government did not convict any traffickers during the reporting period. It did not amend the 2014 TIP Act, which was inconsistent with international law.
“Prosecutors used non-trafficking laws to charge cases that were potentially trafficking due to lack of training on application of the anti-trafficking law,” she said.
The 2017 TIP report covers the period from April 2016 to March 2017.
According to the report, Tier 1 is for countries or governments that fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, Tier 2 countries that do not meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 3 is for governments that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards are not making significant efforts to do so.
The prevailing economic hardship in the country has been identified as the major cause people are falling in the trafficking trap as they seek greener pastures around the whole.
It is estimated that more than two million Zimbabweans are working in the diaspora doing various jobs that ranges from working on farms up to white-collar jobs in big corporates.
Zimbabwe’s 2014 TIP Act defines trafficking in persons as a movement based crime and does not adequately define exploitation. The Act criminalises the involuntary transport of a person and the voluntary transport for unlawful purpose into, outside or within Zimbabwe.
However the US said focus on transport and the inadequate definition of exploitation leave Zimbabwe without comprehensive prohibitions of trafficking crimes.
The TIP report also said the penalties being subscribed by the country’s various laws are not stringent enough to prohibit trafficking in persons in the country.
“Zimbabwe’s Labour Relations Amendment Act prohibits forced labour and prescribes punishments of up to two years imprisonment; this penalty is not sufficiently stringent. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act prohibits and prescribes penalties of up to two years imprisonment for procuring a person for the unlawful sexual conduct, inside or outside of Zimbabwe; this penalty is not sufficiently stringent when applied to cases of sex trafficking.
“The Act also prohibits coercing or inducing anyone to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with another person by threat or intimidation, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of one to five years imprisonment.
“Pledging a female for forced marriage to compensate for the death of a relative or to settle any debt or obligation is punishable under the Act, with penalties of up to two years imprisonment. These penalties are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape,” read the report.
According to a trafficking profile, Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country from men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.
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.
Zimbabwean men, women and children are subjected to forced labour in agriculture and domestic service in the country’s rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and surrounding towns.
Family members recruit children and other relatives from rural areas for work in cities where they are often subjected to domestic servitude or other forms of forced labour, some children particularly orphans are lured with promises of education or adoption.