PRESS STATEMENT ON THE SALE OF A NINE-YEAR-OLD CHILD BY A 63-YEAR OLD MAN

BACKGROUND


On 27 February 2018 at about 7; 25 am, the media reported of a 63-year-old man arrested for allegedly selling his nine-year-old grandchild for Ghs100,000 at Osu in Accra. The man named Medaho Agbodzi, asserted that he is not financially capable of meeting the needs of the little girl as he is responsible for ten (10) more, which included his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

According to the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Mrs Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the CID gathered intelligence that a man was offering his nine-year-old granddaughter for sale on February 22, 2018.

According to media reports the Director General of the (CID) of the Ghana Police Service together with officials from the Unit initiated surveillance on the suspect while he was contacted by a man who had expressed interest in the sale of the girl. As stated by the media the two men negotiated the price of the little girl and settled on Ghs100, 000 as the purchase price and agreed to meet at a location at Osu to seal the deal.

In the process, the buyer informed the police about the transaction and they laid ambush for the suspect. Agbodzi the suspect was arrested by the police. The police handed over the girl to the supposed "buyer" and took possession of the girl.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Mrs Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, indicated that additional information gathered by the police showed that the victim lived with the maternal grand aunt in the Volta region. The grand aunt is reported to have demanded Ghc 50 from Agbodzie to enable her to buy the victim's school uniform and other material needs. The grand aunt became angry and handed over the girl to Agbodzi when he could not provide the money.

We condemn without reservation, human trafficking and slavery in general and "Sale of a Child" in particular. However, a prosecutor is obliged to ensure that the basic principles of fair and impartial trial procedures are observed. These fundamental procedural rules are recognized by law and place a heavy burden on the prosecutor to prove the case with credible evidence and beyond reasonable doubt.

Globally, human trafficking is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. In Ghana, the Human Trafficking Act, Act 694 as amended prescribes penalties of a minimum of five years of imprisonment. The 2015 regulations for this Act provide specific guidance on sentencing depending on the circumstances; in general, the term is not less than five years and not more than 25 years, but if a parent, guardian or other person with parental responsibilities facilitates or engages in trafficking, they are liable to a fine or a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years, or both. Also, the 1998 Children's Act (Act 560), the 1960 Criminal Act (Act 29) and the 1960 Criminal Procedure Act (Act 30) exist to help combat human trafficking.

Simply put, human trafficking is when someone stands to gain from someone else's exploitation. The actual act of exploitation need not have occurred to be considered trafficking; simply, motivation or intent to exploit for gain must be present. Act 694 specifies that when children are trafficked, the consent of the child, parents or guardian of the child cannot be used as a defence in prosecution under this Act, meaning that for children, the consent of the child, parent or guardian does not justify the exploitation. For children, trafficking is defined by the action (i.e. recruit, transfer, harbour or receipt) and purpose (i.e. sexual exploitation or forced labour). The national legislation is aligned with international normative framework.

Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).[1]The sixth Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS 6) estimates that there are more than 8.6 million children between the ages of five and 17 in Ghana. Over 1.8 million (21.8 per cent) of them are engaged in child labour and over 1.2 million (14.2 per cent) are engaged in hazardous child labour. Research have shown that most victims of child trafficking are from poverty stricken homes. Although poverty is generally recognized as one of the causes of child trafficking, locating and defining it has been problematic.[2]

To understand human trafficking, it is necessary to investigate the role poverty plays. Rather than restricting the discussion on poverty to its measure, research on trafficking needs a broad concept of poverty that covers deprivation of capabilities and opportunities. In the case of the suspect, the decision to sell the grand-daughter may have risen as a result of deprivation of capabilities and opportunities. To trace the roots of child trafficking networks, it is crucial to understand how poverty renders victims of trafficking vulnerable.


EVIDENCE GATHERING


In Ghana, many cases of human trafficking lacks evidence for prosecution.According to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, the crime of human trafficking consists of three elements:
(i) Acts such as transport, transfer, harbouring, receipt of a person, by?
(ii) Means of deception, coercion, abuse of a position of vulnerability and others for the
(iii)Purpose of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, removal of organs.

The means listed in point (ii) are irrelevant in case of children trafficking, the possible consent of a child being considered irrelevant, regardless of the circumstances in which it may have been expressed. Therefore, in cases involving children, two elements (acts and purpose of exploitation) are sufficient to determine if a case constitutes trafficking in children. Trafficking in persons can also be seen as a process, usually consisting of the three stages of recruitment, transport and exploitation.


RECOMMENDATIONS.


In many countries, backlogs in the courts or with over-burdened law enforcement personnel delay prosecutions and slow the delivery of justice. Many governments lack adequate personnel to handle time-intensive trafficking cases or face high personnel turnover of those officials with experience to prosecute them. Significant delays in prosecution can discourage victims from testifying or pursuing a case, or may have the practical result that the individual is no longer in the country or available to assist law enforcement or testify at trial. Worse, these delays can allow traffickers to continue exploiting, threatening, or intimidating victims, including survivors whose testimony is necessary to achieve a conviction.

Witness and Victim Protection: Claims of corruption of victims and service providers are often ignored as a source of information and not acted upon in investigations. This may discourage reporting of cases. Victims may also be hesitant to report corruption for fear of reprisals from the corrupt officials involved and/or their exploiters. Specific protection mechanisms need to be in place for victims who would like to report human trafficking.The use of pro-active investigative techniques for corruption within anti-trafficking operations that have a large organized crime element may help to remove pressure from victims as the sole source of information. Pro-active investigation techniques should be used to corroborate hints given by victims.

Disciplinary and Judicial Responses: Supervision, discipline, and accountability are key in preventing and combating the occurrence of corruption among staff who have the responsibility to investigate, prosecute trafficking in persons, or protect victims, as well as front-liners from police and immigration/customs/border control. The violation of codes of conduct should entail sanctions.

Awareness-Raising and Training of Relevant Public Officials: exposed and vulnerable staff may not always be fully aware of their potential role relating to trafficking in persons and the consequences of their misconduct within a criminal chain.Specific anti-trafficking training needs to be delivered to public officials who come in touch with victims of trafficking. Training courses for law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners would preferably be interactive, linking anti-trafficking to the daily tasks and functions of the trainees. In order to create synergies between anti-trafficking measures, trainings should have a multi-agency approach.

In Ghana, the Children's Act of 1998 (Act 560), requires that every parent has rights and responsibilities whether imposed by law or otherwise towards his child which include the duty to - protect the child from neglect, discrimination, violence, abuse, exposure to physical and moral hazards and oppression; provide good guidance, care, assistance and maintenance for the child and assurance of the child's survival and development; ensure that in the temporary absence of a parent, the child shall be cared for by a competent person and that a child under eighteen months of age shall only be cared for by a person of fifteen years and above. except where the parent has surrendered his rights and responsibilities in accordance with law. Parents failure to do so may result in a fine or a jail term

Further, there is the need to increase efforts to ensure Attorney General's Department prosecutors review human trafficking case dockets and lead the prosecution of human trafficking cases. Provide support for government-operated shelters for children and adults and training of staff in victim care and increase efforts to regulate the activity of licensed and unlicensed recruitment agencies and investigate and prosecute agencies suspected of participating in human trafficking

Finally, we call on the government to increase funding for the Human Trafficking Fund and the operators of the fund should be creative in developing other sources of generating funds to sustain governments activities in combating human trafficking.

Eban Centre for Human Trafficking Studies

NOTES:


[1]http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html

[2]Ruggeri Laderchi et al (2003) however indicate the importance of clear definition of the term "poverty" by arguing that its clarification and definition is very vital because different definitions imply the use of different indicators for measurement and this may result to identifying different individuals and groups as poor and require different policies in reducing poverty.