Uganda is home to approximately 43 million people and a very young population, with an average age of 15 years old. Think about that for a minute, 43 million people with the average age being 15 to 16 years old. That is what makes such a beautiful country so poor. There are so little opportunities for such young people to earn an income. Little money for many to even earn a basic education, no college or training school and very little hope. They are exactly the ones that are preyed upon because they are easy to persuade- the old adage if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. For the desperate kids though, all they can see is an opportunity of money and employment offered to them.
Because of where Uganda is located and its beauty, it is an important destination for international tourism and trade. The routes for trucks coming and going is a hub here. It is easy for truckers to get people out of the country, especially because many young girls make their living off of the truck drivers and can form a trust with some that are just grooming them to get more girls to traffic. Tourism also doesn’t help. People that come for the sole purpose of taking someone for what they can get out of them. In 2019 laws had to be changed for adoption and”legal” rights over children that actually had families here. It previously was changed to the adoptees staying three years before adoption. In 2019 that was changed to one year. Before there were any laws, a person could come and inside a month take a baby or child back to their country. Many times the families were either ignorant that their children were missing, often the were either given money for a lie other than the fact their children were being adopted by foreigners. Or “brokers” would tell families that the children had an opportunity to go to the best schools here in Uganda, while taking money from (mostly Americans) people that believed they were adopting an orphaned child. And not all adoptions were for loving families. Many were adopted or sold off to groups who used these children as either work or sex slaves.
When we think of human trafficking we often first think of only sex trafficking. While this is highly prevalent, there are almost as many or the same in the trafficking and selling of children and vulnerable people as “slaves”. Used to make money off them by sending them out to work – sometimes not even bad jobs – but keep all of their earnings and their passports so that they have no choice but to depend on their kidnappers and associates.
Recently there was a man who recorded a confession and was later arrested because he said over the last twenty years he had been illegally trafficking children for the equivalent of about $14,000-20,000 USD. Over twenty years that may not sound like a lot to an American but when you consider that many were probably sold for just a few dollars you will then look at it differently in terms of the amount he could have sold off.
The 2020 Police Annual Crime Report indicates that a total of 666 persons were victims of Trafficking in Persons compared to 455 victims in 2019. Of the 666 victims in 2020, 497 were victims of transnational trafficking – many from trucking, import/export “business covers” and the many ads for great paying jobs under excellent conditions as hotel maids, models, mechanics and the like.
It was just in 2009 that the 2009 Anti Trafficking Act criminalised sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 15 years imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to life imprisonment for those that involved children.
Human trafficking has become a major problem in Uganda. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report from 2020, estimates determined that traffickers are currently exploiting 7,000 to 12,000 children through sex trafficking in Uganda. The report also outlines how human trafficking in Uganda primarily takes the form of forced physical labor and sexual exploitation, both in the male and female population. I personally, see ads all the time on FB or through the newspapers for jobs overseas. Usually “no experience needed” and sound like good jobs. These are mainly in middle eastern countries. It is so sad to make because I know how desperate these young people are.
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” 2 Corinthians 11:14
There have been some actions and investigations, not enough, but it takes more manpower and police when you consider how many countries border Uganda and the total of flights coming in and going out each day.
Last month, anti-human trafficking detectives arrested a woman accused of defrauding 200 girls of over Shs 90 million in fake job promises. (Approximately $255,000 USD) She was trying to lure girls from various parts of the country on promises of securing for them jobs in Kampala city. The victims had been exploited under “Alliance in Motion Global Uganda Limited”. The girls told police that they were charged 450,000 each in order to secure jobs that would pay them between Shs 650,000 and Shs 1 million per month. There are many stories of people being asked for large amounts of money that they have to borrow or make in “any way possible” to get the money in hopes of a good paying jobs that will support themselves and more times than not these young girls already have at least one child.
Also in March 30 females all from Burundi were found locked inside a house in Uganda. These people were trafficked here and were going to be given to shady labor exporters to illegally take them to Arab countries”.
There have been many groups of woman and girls stopped either at the Entebbe Airport under suspicious circumstances with tickets or visas that were going to middle eastern countries. Or at the borders of Kenya and Uganda. Since 2018 both countries are trying to work together to stop trafficking at the borders.
I know this isn’t just a Ugandan problem. It is a worldwide problem; it’s the vulnerable, desperate and isolated people that are the most targeted. And though it is happening more and more in the States, third world countries have previously been the biggest targets. Especially a country like ours, Uganda, where the population is mostly teen agers that have babies early and most of young girls only other option is to be married off to the highest bidder to what he will give to her family. So the promises made to them by unscrupulous people sound much better than the other options.
When we go to talk to the girls for Hope for Girls we do talk about the risks of trafficking. One thing we’ve found, even in the educated young ladies is that Americans are all good. I think the reason for this is the times they are in contact with either mission groups or people that come to help and assume all Americans have their best interests in mind.
So it is very easy for an American to sway these young ladies. We tell them that there are people in this world that consider women, girls and sometimes even boys as property. Some people steal girls and women for many reasons, not just sex or slavery but sometimes as drug mules. They lie to get them and by the time they realize they are in trouble it is too late for them to escape. Or they are just taken by force – kidnapped.
We tell them some of the lies people will tell to trick them into coming with them, offering money or other rewards. School fees are something everyone needs because although government schools are available and “free from tuition” many can’t even afford .50 notebooks or $5 uniforms. And in many rural areas the teachers don’t care, or don’t even show up. So many children go to boarding school. So a lie like this would definitely get a child or parents attention and desire.
Another thing we tell them to watch out for is the offer of a ride or food. Promising a job in another place, promising to pay their parents so that they can be taken for a better life or threatening to kill, or worse, a family member.
Anyone is vulnerable and anyone can be a trafficker. We tell them to be safe before taking any offers. Talk first to someone they trust and see if they can check it out. Usually adults are more suspicious and can guide a young person.
We teach a little self defense and tell them if at all possible don’t be put at night alone. My daddy always said “nothing good happens after midnight”! We tell them to implement the buddy system and try and travel in groups. But most importantly watch out for each other.
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. John 10:10