Poverty, sexism, and a lack of a security in East and Central Africa have led to an epidemic of trafficking throughout the region. The devastation of poverty is a primary push factor for trafficking in persons. Poverty leads people into accepting unsafe situations and persuades parents to sell their children into slavery. However, poverty is not the only cause. Societal discrimination against women leads to their increased vulnerability, as “social and cultural prejudices and the prevalence of gender violence [present] additional challenges to their effective protection from trafficking.”Women are left economically vulnerable through widowhood, and divorce, separation, or abandonment, and often are forced to migrate in search of wage labor where they must accept substandard employment in order to survive.

Those who migrate across borders, generally, are neither adequately informed about the conditions and risks of working abroad, nor are they informed of methods for safe migration. The lack of birth registration in many East and central African countries leads to unregistered children who then are targeted by trafficking operations. Children “who have no official recognition cannot be traced to their country of origin, and thus cannot easily be returned to their communities and rehabilitated.” Conflicts and disasters are also striking push factors for trafficking. Such environments create insecurity and instability leading to mass migrations. Organized crime takes advantage of the lack of rule of law in these situations and of populations that are unusually vulnerable.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report (2006), Uganda is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Girls, are trafficked within the country from rural villages to border towns and urban centers for commercial sexual exploitation and beggar cartels. The Government of Uganda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as stipulated by the Trafficking in Persons Report. Law enforcement efforts are minimal and the government offers little support to those trafficked for prostitution. However, the government has increased public awareness of trafficking through radio programs and trainings of police. The Report recommends that the government should prosecute perpetrators of trafficking, develop a mechanism for providing protective services to all trafficking victims, and take steps to pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law.

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