Addressing the session Child Trafficking in Africa: A Global Challenge activists said that children’s rights have been abused during conflict situations in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda Burundi, Liberia and Angola among other war torn countries.
“These children have completely lost their years of school and they need help to grow in a normal childhood,” said Salome Nakibugwe, director Uganda Women Network (UWONET). She added: “Child trafficking and child labour are two sisters child abuses that move hand in hand and are a terrible experience for the children.”
Other than child sex tourism, child trafficking and child labour are human rights abuses that limit children’s freedom and rights to grow as proper citizens.
The fact that they are in captivity tends to retard their growth both physically and mentally.
This situation is quite clear in Northern Uganda which has been affected by civil war for the last 20 years. Nakibugwe says that girls from Iteso, Acholi, Langi and Karamajong communities have been traumatised by the 20-year war because they have been taken over as wives by the rebels when they are barely into their teens.
“They have been exposed to all sorts of abuses. These girls have been turned into child prostitutes where they are transported to the streets in Kampala to beg for money,” Nakibuge said.
Being in the streets does not guarantee their safety as they are exposed to sex predators putting then at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies.
There are those children who are taken from the villages and forced to work on big farms or as domestic servants. It also emerged that there are industrialists who prefer employing children because they are cheap labour.
As the world gathers in Nairobi to seek social justice to the poor and oppressed, there is need for all stakeholders to address core issues affecting children’s rights particularly in war torn countries where their rights are continuously abused.
While governments have stipulated the age when one can be called an adult, many parents ignore this fact and hence the reason why many children are exploited.
Paul Oriale from Kenya says a child is a child until the age of 18. “There are parents who see their children as a burden hand them over to child traffickers as a fee,” said Oriale.
To curb the issue of child trafficking stakeholders must join hands with the governments to strengthen laws that protect children.