Kenya passes law to protect against human trafficking

It’s hoped that improved support for victims will lead to a greater number of convictions

Kenya’s parliament has passed a law that will provide greater support to victims of human trafficking and will make it easier to secure convictions for perpetrators.

The Victim Protection Bill provides improved support to victims of crime, including the provision of a place of safety, food, medical treatment, psychosocial support and police protection. The Bill also establishes a fund to assist and repatriate victims.

Although Kenya passed a law in 2012 to counter human trafficking, the country has been on the US Department of State’s Tier 2 watch list for trafficking for the past three years for failing to make serious efforts to combat the crime. Since the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act became law, there have been few prosecutions due to the high threshold of evidence required to make a conviction. Very few victims have been willing to give evidence due to the trauma they have endured. However, those in favour of the new law believe that once victims are able to undergo counselling, with the help of funds the government will set aside, they will be in a position to address the court more confidently with the assistance of a lawyer.

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In October 2013 human rights experts from the UN, the Council of Europe (COE) and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) jointly called for global cooperation in the fight against transnational human trafficking. This joint statement follows a report filed by the UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, urging the international community to focus on the human rights of trafficked individuals when criminalising, as well as a statement by the European Commission regarding its plans to end human trafficking in Europe.

Human trafficking, a multibillion-dollar industry which has trapped some 21 million men, women and children in forced labour, occurs across the globe but is most prevalent in regions of conflict. The European Commission identified key risk factors as poverty, gender inequality and social unrest.

This article was first published by JURIST