Monday, March 15, 2010

Trafficked Malawian girls sell sex abroad

Malawi is a source, transit, and destination point for women and children trafficked for sexual purposes locally and to brothels abroad, particularly in South Africa, a 2009 Human Rights Report on Malawi released March 11 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton indicates.

The Country Reports on Human Practices posted through Facebook by the US Embassy in Lilongwe also shows that victims trafficked to South Africa were typically between 14 and 24 years old and were recruited with false offers of marriage, study, or employment.

The report which credits Malawi with respecting human rights despite some problems involving the police and mob justice, provides specific and detailed pictures of human rights conditions in 194 countries around the world.

Among many other things, it says there were no political prisoners or detainees in Malawi but perpetrators of past abuses were occasionally punished, but investigations often were abandoned or were inconclusive.

It also notes discrimination against gays while crediting Blantyre Child Justice Court Magistrate Esmie Tembenu with continuing to lead a program to remove children from prisons and put them into reformatory centres.

It also notes no protective services available to Malawian trafficking victims returning from other countries in the absence of anti-trafficking legislation.

The report describes traffickers involved in land border trafficking to South Africa and Tanzania as long-distance truck drivers, minibus operators and local businesswomen, who also travel regularly to Tanzania, South Africa, and other neighbouring countries to buy clothing items for import.

Children and a smaller number of women from Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, and Zimbabwe were also trafficked to Malawi for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

“International trafficking was done on valid travel documents obtained through unlawful means. The country's easily forged passport was used regularly by traffickers.

“The government continued attempts to remedy the misuse by recalling the passports and issuing a new type with enhanced security features. Trafficking occurred at both unmonitored crossing points and official points of entry,” partly reads the report on the US Department of State website.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government officials in separate interviews confirmed putting in place measures to stop human trafficking.

According to a report on the internet identified as the South African Police Service (SAPS) Criminal Intelligence Division, more than 300 crime syndicates are operational in South Africa.

Some are suspected to operate brothels equipped with their own airstrips, helicopter pads and the latest electronic link-ups for businessmen. A number of local girls are believed to be working as high-class prostitutes in South Africa earning a lot of money.

Others are smuggled in and out of Malawi through border posts especially Mwanza. However, the annual US report on Malawi says the law does not “prohibit specifically trafficking in persons, and women, children, and men were trafficked to, from, through, and within the country. The government attempted to combat trafficking using existing laws.”

The report also shows that children were primarily trafficked internally for agricultural labour but also for cattle herding, domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and to perform menial tasks for small businesses.

“Some convicted child traffickers were sentenced to prison or required to pay fines; however, trafficking was usually treated as a misdemeanour, and perpetrators often paid only a small fine,”

The Police and the Ministry of Gender, Child Development and Community Development are also credited with handling cases brought to their attention and providing some services for victims, including counselling and reintegration assistance.

It said the ministry repatriated victims to their home villages, children were resettled with their families and most offenders were fined.

Gender, Children and Community Services Minister, Patricia Kaliati in an interview confirmed arrests and government strengthening Malawi’s borders and sensitizing citizens about the dangers of human trafficking.

“We are strengthening borders to stop human trafficking, people have been arrested for trafficking those working in gardens. We are putting measures and sensitising people under funds from Plan Malawi by putting billboards explaining how trafficking is bad as we approach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” said Kaliati.

She explained how her ministry’s is removing beggars, street children and girls from drinking places as a measure to also stop trafficking. Kaliati said those manning borders should make sure people are not leaving the country without valid reasons.

Maxwell Matewere, executive director for the Eye of the Child in a separate interview disclosed his organisation has handled nearly 40 cases involving trafficking to South Africa, Zambia and Mchinji.

He said massive awareness and civic education about the evils of human trafficking is needed and those living around border areas should be on the lookout.

Matewere said proper checks are also needed when issuing tickets and that safe homes ideal for protecting victims would require appropriate legislation through an act of parliament.

“Like in Lilongwe government can identify a centre and provide security. There is no security for us when handling such cases and victims are treated as illegal immigrants and not victims of trafficking. We need trained expertise to handle organised crime because mafia like elements are highly sophisticated,” said Matewere.

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star. this space.