Friday, October 24, 2008

Age conflict seen in laws that relate to child trafficking

Guyana - Participants at a forum on human trafficking are questioning whether the age of consent under the Criminal Law Offences Act and the age a person is still considered a child under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Act are in conflict after reviewing some case studies.

In her feature presentation Chrissey Mueller, Pro-gramme Co-ordinator for the US-based, International Organisation for Migration told the forum that there is a key difference between adult trafficking and trafficking of children; trafficking of adults involved mobilisation via particular means which resulted in their exploitation. Child trafficking on the other hand, only required the children to be mobilised and exploited.

Mueller identified methods of mobilisation as including recruitment, transportation, transferring and harbouring. She said too the means applied to mobilise such persons included the use of threats, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception and abuse of power; and exploitation included forced labour, slavery, servitude and removal of organs. Mueller also said when prosecuting an adult for child trafficking the criteria of means (use of threats, coercion, abduction etc) need not be present. She also submitted that adults who organised children to beg were engaging in trafficking. In this regard even parents can be prosecuted though Mueller suggested that the best way to deal with such a situation may be to direct the mother to a social service agency which would be better equipped to offer assistance.

A conflict arose during an interactive session when case studies were presented and Mueller used an example of a 17-year-old girl being recruited by a group of individuals who own a brothel who then freely decides to engage in sex for money. The participants questioned whether the owners of the brothel could be prosecuted for trafficking in persons since under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005; a child is defined as someone under the age of 18 whereas the Criminal Law Offences Act states that a girl can consent to having sex at 16.

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand said too many people are ignorant about what constitutes human trafficking and although she acknowledged that there were several practices which bordered on exploitation; these cases could not be identified as cases of trafficking in persons. The minister said too the rate of trafficking in persons in Guyana was much lower than it has been portrayed by the US State Department as government continues to make great strides in tackling the issue since it first appeared on the Tier 3 Watch List in 2004.

Manickchand told the forum that for the past two years Guyana has been on the Tier 2 Watch List which means that TIP is seen as a problem in the country and though government has been trying to address it, its efforts have been slipping.

Manickchand opined that since being ranked Tier 3 a very negative perception has been attributed to Guyana as that rank indicates that human trafficking is seen as a major problem in the country and that the government is making little effort to combat it.

As regards cases of human trafficking, the minister said the authorities were trying to prosecute those suspected of perpetrating this crime. At the same time, she acknowledged that more could be done to ensure that persons at high risk of being trafficked were protected. Manickchand also said that government needed to engage the US government on conducting a full investigation into human trafficking locally as so far no concrete evidence has been presented to the government to confirm that the rate of trafficking in Guyana was high. The minister said she was convinced that if the US conducts its investigation, her views would be validated.

According to a recent report from the US State Department, Guyana is a “source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.” Further, it said that Amerindian girls are trafficked to brothels near the mining camps and to coastal areas for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. “Young Amerindian men are exploited under forced labour conditions in mining and logging camps. Some women and girls trafficked into brothels in the interior are from northern Brazil,” it added.

The forum was hosted at the Cara Lodge Hotel two Fridays ago.

Author: Mark McGowan
Source: Stabroek News

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