Despite statistics showing a downward trend in the number of registered human trafficking and child abuse crimes, there is still lack of awareness among the population to ensure the vices are reported as and when they happen, Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza has said.
The two vices, along with Gender-Based Violence, formed part of President Paul Kagame’s remarks as he presided over the commencement of the Judicial Year at Parliament a fortnight ago.
During the event, the President challenged all stakeholders in the judicial sector to work toward curbing the vices from the communities.
Speaking in an interview, last week, Muhumuza said when one compares figures from last year with the present, it shows a decline in the number of cases registered.
However, the prosecutor-general added that this does not necessarily mean awareness is satisfactory, especially on the crime of human trafficking.
Police say victims of human trafficking are often tricked by traffickers on false promises of good jobs abroad or scholarships only to be taken as slaves and work as maids or destitute casual laborers, he said.
Such cases, Muhumuza said, could even be prevailing in neighbourhoods but because people are yet to fully grasp what constitutes the crime of human trafficking, end up not reporting them.
“It is everyone’s’ responsibility to help prevent this crime as it affects mostly youngsters, the masterminds and traffickers are often difficult to trace, because they normally follow a certain chain of command,” he said.
According to a report from prosecution, the cases reduced from 51 last year to 32 in June this year, while according to Muhumuza, the rate at which convictions of culprits are secured in courts has also been increasing.
According to the Penal Code, any person who abducts or causes to be abducted, arrests or causes to be arrested, detains or causes to be detained, transports or causes to be transported any person in order to make them slaves, sell them as slaves, force them into begging, illegally adopt them on payment of a consideration, is reliable to a jail term of between seven and 10 years and a fine of between Rwf5 million and Rwf10 million.
The law adds that if such acts are committed at the international level, the penalties could get harsher since the imprisonment can extend from 10 to 15 years while fine would shoot to more than Rwf20 million.
Rwanda National Police spokesperson Celestin Twahirwa told The New Times that mechanisms put in place are already working and that sooner than later the crimes of human trafficking, child abuse and other related offences could be completely contained.
“What we are trying to do is enforce and enhance available mechanisms of prevention, so that we are able to receive timely information and ensure instant action before things escalate,” he said.
“The structures in place now can help trace and share information with other institutions such as directorate of immigration and other regional police, such that if one suspect manages to sneak out of one country they can be arrested in another country and be repatriated.”
Twahirwa said Police have other preventive mechanisms that can help in the prevention of minors crossing borders without the permission of parents and or custodians.
Civil society urges more effort
Meanwhile, members of civil society organisations, on top of decrying low awareness, insist the Government should do more in terms of reintegration of victims of human tracking.
Ninette Umurerwa, executive secretary of Haguruka, an umbrella of women activists, said affected people have, according to their perception surveys, been finding it difficult to reintegrate upon their rescue or when they want to regain the ordinary life they used to live.
“What we have seen is that it was difficult for them to reunite with parents and or communities, since they encounter a lot of stigma, while others, especially girls, are branded sex workers, people even harass them claiming that they went for lucrative affairs, therefore, they should not have come back, all these are challenges that need to be addressed holistically,” she said.
On the other hand, Umurerwa added, it would be good to equally have judicial provision whereby suspects have to pay damages for the victims who mostly risk all their belongings in search for better jobs abroad.
Umurerwa called on the Government to establish as many transit centres as possible to prepare victims before reintegration into society while parents should as well be sensitised on how to psychologically treat affected people.