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January-February 2011
Vol. 36, No. 1

Kenya: Anti-trafficking law passed

Counter-trafficking specialists say a law recently passed in Kenya which, for the first time, legally defines and recognizes trafficking in persons as a crime, will help protect the vulnerable and assist survivors, while serving as a deterrent to perpetrators. President Mwai Kibaki signed the legislation into law in October. Conviction carries a 30-year jail term or a US$370,000 fine. (IRIN, Dec. 8)

“This legislation represents a significant new tool for Kenya in counter-trafficking law enforcement,” Tal Raviv, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in a statement.

Claris Ogangah Onyango, deputy director of the Federation of Women Lawyers, told IRIN: “It will now be possible to institute proper charges, sustain successful cases and obtain deterrent sentences [for] all those involved in the practice.”

Tony Odera, a lawyer at CRADLE, an NGO that works on children’s issues through legal representation, said many cases had been reported in the past but lack of a clear definition of trafficking had made prosecuting suspects complex. “The new law will provide a comprehensive legal framework that would address issues pertaining to human trafficking,” Odera said.

Previously, trafficking offences fell under a variety of legal statutes: the penal code, children’s act and sexual offences act.

Some poor parents and older persons are said to have forced children into prostitution. CRADLE estimates that about 1,500 minors frequent “sex spots” at the Kenyan coast.

In northern Kenya, conflict and drought have made the area fertile ground for those seeking cheap labor, young wives, even cattle raiders. Ahmed Set of the Islamic Foundation told IRIN, “It is good that we [now] have a harsh way of punishing those people who ferry young children from remote parts of the region to work as herders [or] maids.”

According to a June trafficking in persons report by the U.S. State Department, Kenyans voluntarily migrate to the Middle East, other East African nations and Europe in search of jobs, where they are exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels, and are forced to do manual labor, including in the construction industry. Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani women also reportedly go through Nairobi en route to work in Europe’s sex trade.

Most of those trafficked are lured by bogus recruitment agents. Fake newspaper and internet advertisements, false marriage proposals and deception by friends and relatives are used in internal trafficking for purposes of domestic or sex work, Alice Kimani, IOM’s counter-trafficking project officer, told IRIN. She said, “The lack of funding for research on the magnitude, the hidden and clandestine nature of this crime and the fact that it is only in the recent years that people have begun to understand the issue has made it difficult to document the crime, in addition to the fact that there are still no reporting mechanisms that have been set up, and lastly not all victims seek assistance so there is no way of knowing how many are actually trafficked.”

IOM has assisted the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies (KAPEA) in developing a recruitment code of conduct to prevent trafficking.

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