‘TRAFFICKING’ is a strange word. To the average person who is not sure of the meaning, it probably conjures up a scene of vehicles moving to and fro on a busy road, but there is a stark difference between vehicular traffic and the illegal trafficking that is taking place each day, and becoming more prevalent in Guyana. In the Cambridge dictionary, ‘trafficking’ is defined as ‘the act of buying or selling goods illegally’. This is one type of trafficking. However, trafficking in persons (TIP) is another act which is not only illegal, but, in some cases more akin to modern-day slavery.
There are various degrees of ‘trafficking in persons’, but a good example would be one where three women from a neighbouring country who are desperate for work and accommodation, were recruited as maids by a businessman. To begin with, he was kind to them, but it wasn’t long before he had them working in sub-standard conditions from 05h00 in the morning until 21h00 at night.
Their salary consisted of just enough money to cover their toiletry needs or nothing at all, and he fed them occasionally from left-over scraps. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the women were also totally subservient to his every whim and fancy, including his sexual demands. Unfortunately, they were unable to leave, because their ‘employer’ had their passports. In short, ‘trafficking in persons’ is when someone deliberately exploits another person, and subsequently violates their human rights.
Sometimes children get caught up in trafficking, because they are young and gullible, and do not know better. Their parents or carer might send them on the street to beg while they wait at home for the proceeds. Placing children in such a vulnerable position is against the law. Children begging on the street are at the mercy of every stranger or perpetrator who passes by. Who knows which one might be a child molester; a sex offender; a rapist, or worse.
Young girls (and boys) who have no guidance or sense of direction could find themselves caught up in trafficking as an older person (male or female) grooms them and then uses them to give sexual favours to adults. The child may feel grown-up and important, self-assured and desirable as he/she is ensnared into an illicit world by a cheap-talking parasite who does not have their best interest at heart. The victims are too young to understand that someone else is receiving the proceeds and benefiting from their naivety, while exposing them to danger and inadvertently marring their childhood.
Recently, a case was brought to the attention of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), where two girls were brought to a village by a man with a ‘no good’ reputation. All three inhabited a small shabby cottage situated at the edge of the village. Every day neighbours could see the girls washing clothes, sweeping the yard; shopping and cooking. And although they muttered among themselves, they did not ask the man any questions or interfere.
Then, gradually, different men began to visit the cottage regularly. That is when tongues began to wag loudly, and the gossip picked up momentum. As one car left, another would pull up, and the cottage and its surroundings became a thoroughfare for these jaunts; sometimes during the day, but mostly at night. Upon investigation by the CPA, it was found, as was suspected, that the girls were giving sexual favours to the male visitors as instructed and overseen by their male companion. One girl was only 15 years old, while the other was 17.
It may surprise you to know that one of the most common types of trafficking in persons is carried out by mothers. Some mothers are trafficking their daughters, and then turning a blind eye to the situation. They encourage sexual relations between their daughters and men, and use the profits for their own means. Sexual exploitation of a child cannot be justified, however. And more cases like these need to be highlighted, and parents tried and convicted for their selfish crime.
There have been cases where boys have been taken out to sea by fishermen, and their parent(s) send them; well aware that sexual activity will take place, but also knowing they will receive payment at a later date when their son returns home.
In Guyana, trafficking in persons is monitored by the Ministry of Social Protection, and there are designated establishments set up, where victims of trafficking can receive help, comfort and advice. If you feel a child is being trafficked or exploited in any way, do not hesitate to contact the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) on 227-4082 or the Counter Trafficking in persons’ (TIP) Unit at the Ministry of Social Protection on 227-4083.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the Childcare and Protection Hotline on 227-0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY, MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION