Considered as relatively wealthier than other countries in the sub-region, Gabon is a destination and transit country for trafficked persons from the West and Central African sub-region.
Reports say boys and girls under the age of 18, predominantly from Benin, Mali and Togo, are lured into Gabon with promises of employment opportunities.
With the alarming cases of child trafficking in Gabon, a UN human rights experts today urged the country’s government to adopt measures to tackle trafficking in children from West and Central African States.
UN Photo/Mark Garten
Factors That Exacerbate Child Trafficking
UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said Gabon must address traditional and cultural factors that exacerbate the problem of child trafficking.
“I am confident that Gabon can become a model for other countries in the region and beyond in the fight against trafficking.”
– Ms. Ezeilo
On her visit to Gabon, she said although the Government has adopted legislation to combat human trafficking, significant gaps remain.
She added that a number of challenges must be addressed by the Government if it is to succeed in effectively combating trafficking in persons and protecting the human rights of trafficked victims of all ages.
Gabonese Laws Only Protect Children Under 18
The Special Rapporteur stressed that current Gabonese laws provide protection only to victims of trafficking under the age of 18.
Some forms of abuse including labour and sexual exploitation, slavery and removal of body organs are unfortunately not covered, she noted.
She urged the Government to expand the scope of trafficking to explicitly widen the forms and scope of protection to both trafficked women and men as per the Palermo Protocol aimed at preventing, suppressing and punishing trafficking in persons,” she said.
According to Ms. Ezeilo, most common forms of trafficking in Gabon are domestic work for young girls, servitude, and to some extent forced and early marriage, while for boys, work in the informal sector including auto mechanics and hard labour are common.
Supply and Demand Drive Trafficking
Reports say the root causes of trafficking include poverty and traditional practices, especially in West Africa, of sending children to live with relatives and demand for domestic workers by wealthy Gabonese families.
The UN Special Rapporteur is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that two-thirds of the victims of $32 billion global industry in trafficking in persons are women and children.
The UN estimates that more than 2.4 million people are currently being exploited after being trafficked by unscrupulous human smugglers.
UNODC estimates that in Europe alone, trafficking is worth an annual $3 billion, with around 140,000 people trapped in a vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across the continent.