World Day Against Trafficking In Persons: A Reflection of Tanzania’s Anti-trafficking Act

The prosecution of trafficking perpetrators in Tanzania remains very low, with records showing that mostly a single or two, take place annually.
Edwin Mugambila30 July 20215 min

As we commemorate the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons today, July 30, 2021, it is pertinent that we do a reflection of Tanzania’s Anti-trafficking Act since its more than a decade since its enactment and implementation.

Enacted in 2008, the law addresses trafficking in persons within, to, from, and through Tanzania.  It is aligned with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially to Women and Children known as Palermo Protocol, a core international legal framework to combat trafficking in persons globally.

The Act comprises three necessary components of counter-trafficking legislation, which are prevention of trafficking in persons; protection to victims of trafficking in persons; and prosecution of traffickers. It mandates a maximum sentence of 20 years to trafficking perpetrators with an option of the fine of Sh5 million to Sh150 million.

Human trafficking situation in Tanzania

Human trafficking has taken root in Tanzanian culture for two primary reasons. First, throughout Tanzania’s history, parents have sent their children to live with extended family members to strengthen familial ties and enhance their children’s education or skills development. For a variety of reasons, including urbanization, poverty, and the breakdown of familial ties, this system is now regularly abused; children living with relatives are often exploited for labour, domestic services, or prevented from attending school. 

Second, poverty often causes Tanzanians to seek occupational opportunities outside of their communities of origin, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers.  Over 50 per cent of Tanzanians live off $1 per day, which is below the national poverty line, and a majority of trafficked persons originate from the poorer areas of Tanzania. Domestic trafficking is believed to be more prevalent than transnational trafficking in Tanzania, and most reported victims are children.

Girls from Manyara, Ngara, Iringa, Tabora, Mbeya Kagera, and Singida are recruited by recruiters to act as sex workers in the cities of Dar es salaam, Mwanza, Arusha, and Zanzibar. Once these girls arrive at their destinations, they are not compensated as promised and are often forced to exchange sexual services for shelter. Girls and women from the northern regions of Tanzania as well as other poverty-stricken regions are frequently trafficked to metropolitan areas to work as domestic servants. 

Thousands of children between the ages of twelve and seventeen have been and are being trafficked to Dar es salaam to work in the domestic servitudes, casinos, nightclubs, and massage parlours. The children, mostly boys, are required to work extremely long hours under dangerous conditions, often in exchange for as little as approximately $10 paid per month. 

The parents of these children frequently do not know where their children are sent to work, making reunification difficult, and often do not recognize the dangerous conditions under which their children work. Girls are also trafficked, though to a lesser extent, to the fishing sector to sell and smoke fish, work in fishing community households, and be sexually exploited by fishermen and older trafficked boys in Mwanza. 

Prevention, protection, prosecution

Tanzanian authorities have achieved most of the preventive goals and tasks set forth in the Anti-trafficking Act, including establishing the anti-trafficking Committee and Secretariat in 2011. The Secretariat advises the government on policy matters, including the need to amend the Anti-trafficking Act, construction of shelters for victims of trafficking in persons as well as enacting of national guidelines for the establishment and management of safe houses for victims of trafficking in persons and survivors of violence. 

While trafficking awareness has generally increased thanks to capacity building sessions that the secretariat has been organizing with various stakeholders on trafficking in persons in Tanzania awareness remains low among potential victims and traffickers, particularly in rural areas. Translating the Act’s basic provisions into Kiswahili and other local instruments and distribute them widely will go a long way to increase awareness around the crime.

When it comes to protection, though the law requires the Judiciary to give compensation to victims this has remained to be a myth as magistrates have been reluctant to enforce this requirement. The government also has not been able to establish shelters for victims of human trafficking. Currently, there is only one government-owned shelter in Unguja, Zanzibar and one shelter in Kigoma. But civil society organizations have been filling the gap left by the government especially in the areas of rescue and rehabilitation.

Police and the judiciary have arrested and prosecuted some perpetrators of human trafficking, but given the extensive and pervasive nature of human trafficking countrywide, the prosecution has not reached its full potential. For example, though there’s no national centralized database to show the actual number of human trafficking prosecuted annually, records in some courts show very few prosecutions, mostly a single or two, take place annually. 

In 2017, there were 12 cases reported to the police; five in court proceedings, two convicted, one acquitted, one closed by police, and three remain under investigation. In 2018, there were 11 cases reported to the police; two in court proceedings, one convicted, none acquitted, two closed by police, and six under investigation. In 2019, there were three cases reported to the police; one in court proceedings, none convicted, none acquitted, none closed by police, and two under investigation. From 2020 to June 2021 there were three cases reported to the police, all under investigation.

Funding crisis 

A close analysis of the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking in Tanzania reveals that the overarching problem facing the efforts is limited resources. Preventive measures such as education are less costly, while protective measures such as shelters involve great expense, with prosecution falling somewhere in between. 

Consequently, it is paramount that funding becomes the primary concern for the government. It is thus important for the secretariat to endeavor to operationalize funding by seeking financial support from every source possible. 

Because the will to eradicate human trafficking is strong amongst stakeholders in Tanzania, as evidenced by the implementation of many of the Act’s provisions over the past thirteen years, sufficient funding will enable government actors to fill the remaining gaps in implementation. 

Edwin Mugambila is the Executive Director of local anti-human trafficking watchdog, Tanzania Relief Initiatives based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. You can reach him through his e-mail address which is info@tritanzania.org or through his mobile number  +255 659 577 955. These are the writer’s own opinions and they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for inquiries.

Edwin Mugambila

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