Namibia finally moves to pass the anti-human trafficking law

By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek – After years of procrastination, Namibia has finally moved to enact a stand-alone legislation against human trafficking in the country.

The new law that is now in Parliament comes seven years after the country adopted and ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and additional protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in humans, especially women and children in 2010.

Lucia Witbooi, Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, tabled the Combating of Trafficking in Person Bill in the National Assembly on Thursday, 9 November.

Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the two countries in Southern Africa with no stand-alone legislation that seeks to curb human trafficking.

In 2015, Namibia was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, a ranking system comprised of three tiers created by the US Department of State to measure progress on monitoring human trafficking on a global scale.

The second tier includes countries that have not yet fulfilled their obligations for the minimum Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) standards, but are actively trying to get there.

The tier also has a sub-section, the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’. This is inclusive of countries that claim they are trying to comply with the TVPA standards, but the evidence seen within their countries is to the contrary.

Namibia was fingered in a US State Department Trafficking in Person’s Report in 2015, which classified the Southern African country as a source, transit and destination for human trafficking.

It pointed out children from the minority ethnic groups – the San and Zemba – were the major victims of forced labour on farms or in homes and, to a lesser extent, were exploited in prostitution.

Local non-governmental organisations have also claimed incidences of women being prostituted aboard foreign vessels off the Namibian coast, some of whom are suspected to be victims of human trafficking.

Teenagers, mostly from Angola, have been lured to Namibia on promises of better lives, but many end up doing menial jobs, including street vending in the capital Windhoek and other urban centres as well as commercial farms.

Several Angolan teenage boys that are involved in street vending confirmed to The Southern Times in June 2017 that they were brought into the country to sell basic wares, including boiled eggs, corns, recharge vouchers, and confectionaries at road junctions by their Namibian masters.

The issue of child trafficking also came to public attention following the arrest of a Russian national for sexually violating teen girls at the port of Walvis Bay.

Alexander Krylof (56) is alleged to have committed the sexual acts with five girls from last year until June this year. Three of the victims are school learners at Walvis Bay and the resort town of Swakopmund, while two are school dropouts.

He is appearing along a Namibian woman, Anna Katrina Engelbrecht, who is said to have recruited underage girls for Krylof. Their case was postponed in the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court to 14 November for formal bail applications.

In another case, a six-month-old baby girl was reportedly stolen at Epupa settlement in the Kunene region while sleeping in an open space with her mother in May this year.

The baby is yet to be found. However, three suspects – a male and two female have been charged in the Opuwo Magistrate’s Court for theft, human trafficking and kidnapping.

While tabling the new legislation, Deputy Minister Witbooi, speaking on behalf of Minister Doreen Sioka, said the Combating of Trafficking in Person Bill provides for the prosecution of the perpetrators of human trafficking.

It further provides appropriate penalties and measures for protection and assistance to victims of trafficking. Furthermore, the new legislation trafficking prescribes penalties of maximum R1000,000 or 30 years imprisonment for those convicted.

Repeat offenders are liable to a fine of up to maximum R2.5 million or a maximum 50 years of imprisonment.

Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare defines trafficking in persons “as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of a person / persons by means of force or the threat of force”.

Sioka said the new Bill “is of the great importance to the protection of human rights in Namibia and I am humbly requesting this august house to give it a full support”.

The Combating of Trafficking in Person Bill is the result of collaborative effort between the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration; Ministry Justice; Ministry Finance; Ministry of Safety and Security; Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, and the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Meanwhile, the absence of a stand-alone law on human trafficking does not mean Namibia was not doing anything against the illicit business of human trafficking said to be worth US$150 billion and enslave about 24.9 million victims globally.

Minister Sioka noted that human trafficking offenders are prosecuted under some provisions “though not comprehensive pertaining to aspects of human trafficking”.

The includes the Prevention of Organised Crime Act of 2004;  the Childcare Care and Protection Act of 2015; the Combating of Immoral Practices of 1980; the Combating of Rape Act of 2000; the Immigration Control Act of 19993 and the Labour Act of 2007.

The leader of opposition in the National Assembly, McHenry Venaani, has welcomed the introduction of the new legislation. He has described the Bill as a move in the right direction, while emphasising that there is need to sensitise people about human trafficking and some of the cultural practices that fuel trafficking in persons.

“There is cultural trafficking in this country where parents are giving away their children to their wealth family members without their consent and  in most cases these children will be used  for domestic servitude, agricultural labour, and livestock herding,” said Venaani, the president of Popular Democratic Movement.

November 2017
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