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Women Traficking to the Middle East escalates

12.04.2024 | VOA


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The sentencing of a Zimbabwean to 30 years in prison for trafficking nine women to Oman in the Middle East has again brought to the fore the struggles the southern African nation is facing in an attempt to curb modern-day slavery.

Caroline Ziyanga, 42, was convicted by a Harare magistrate for working with traffickers in Oman to entice the victims by promising them jobs in Dubai with a US$800 monthly salary. However, the women ended up in Oman where they were exploited.

The state-leaning Herald newspaper says Harare had to send an Anti-Trafficking Ministerial Committee to Oman to push for the release of the nine. The paper says the government though had to “compensate” the employers who had enslaved the nine women as they claimed they had “bought them”. This is not an isolated case as Zimbabwe in 2016, repatriated 213 citizens who had been trafficked to the Middle East, mostly to Kuwait on promises of lucrative jobs only to end up being forced into prostitution and forced labor.

US Trafficking In-Person Report

The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report has described Zimbabwe as “one of the Sub-Saharan African nations grappling with a serious undercurrent of human trafficking. She has also turned into a source, destination, and transit for this scourge.”

Washington says traffickers have exploited Zimbabwean women in “domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking in Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Uganda, often under the guise of legitimate employment.” The State Department says Zimbabwe is a transit country for “migrants vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking victims, including Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians, and Zambians en route to South Africa.”

Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has previously admitted that human trafficking is a problem the government is grappling with calling it a “real and present danger.” Through tough legislations, Harare has vowed to deal with the crisis.”

But convictions are extremely rare. The latest case is only 7th such high-profile successful prosecution in decades including the domestic sex trafficker Witness Jichichi who was sentenced to 70 years imprisonment in 2022 after trafficking a married woman and staying with her without her consent for two months.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association executive director, Dzikamai Bere, told VOA Zimbabwe Service that Zimbabwe’s policing methods are also to blame for the low conviction rates. “We are a country that is notorious for torturing its accused persons until they admit to crimes and once those cases go to superior courts, they are thrown away because of illegally obtained evidence.”

Bere adds, “We have had several reports that show the role of corruption in affecting the state’s capacity for law enforcement, this is because the persons who are charged with implementing these laws and enforcing them are poorly paid. We have seen through the gold mafia (Al Jazeera’s report on the alleged looting of Zimbabwe’s gold) that our borders are very porous because of corruption. As a result, if we have gold coming out and lots of money coming in through those borders, the same problem reflects when it comes to the attempt to combat trafficking in persons, as these traffickers tend to take advantage of the porous borders.”

He says because of unemployment and ballooning inflation, the highest in the world, Zimbabweans are desperate to leave the country and are easily manipulated by human traffickers.

Government Response

Launching the Zimbabwe Anti Trafficking in Person National Actions Policy Plan last year, Chiwenga promised that Harare would strive to address the economic crisis. “ Our vision is that by 2030, as the country attains the upper middle-income status, and improved quality of life with better jobs, as well as increased incomes, our country will not be an attractive source and haven for perpetrators of human traffickers.”

But critics say this is difficult to attain as Zimbabwe like most regional countries is grappling with the effects of a devastating El Nino-induced drought. This is worsened by the reduced commodity prices as Harare relies on exports of platinum, diamonds and gold.

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