APPOINTMENT OF A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY TO INVESTIGATE THE INCIDENCE OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS IN GUYANA
Ms. Selman: I rise to support the motion standing in the name of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Mr. David Granger, a motion which calls for the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the incidence of trafficking in persons in Guyana.
Let us be clear on one thing and it is this: we, on this side of the House, are very clear about the distinction between exploitation and trafficking in person. When we speak here on trafficking in persons, we observe the distinction between these two serious offences. We wish to make it very clear that we are not confused about the differences of the two offences.
I want to remind this honourable House that Article 3 (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking in persons as:
“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of the position of vulnerability or of the given and receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of the person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs;”
Human trafficking is an international crime which affects millions of men, women and children every year. The United Nations (UN) estimates that nearly four million individuals are trafficked each year with a disproportionate number of children and women in sex trade.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimates that as many as 50% of all trafficking victims worldwide are children and that as many as two-thirds of those children are at some point forced into the sex trade. Two children are sold every minute. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are tricked, kidnapped, sold or extorted each year across international borders. The United States alone will have between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals trafficked across its borders each year, according to the Department of Justice, and nearly 200,000 US citizens trafficked within those very borders, mostly children being bought and sold in the sex industry.
I wish to urge the Government of Guyana to institute mechanisms to improve information gathering and sharing on human trafficking in Guyana. We have a duty to overcome this knowledge crisis. We will be fighting the problem blindfolded if this were not to be done. I call on the private sector and the public at large to join us in the fight against trafficking in persons.
More must be done to reduce the vulnerability of victims, increase the risk to traffickers, and lower demands for the goods and services of modern day slaves. We have to increase public awareness of human trafficking and rally all Guyana to fight it.
It is my humble submission that by demonstrating our commitment to the plight of trafficking victims, more people will be moved to take action against trafficking in persons and, by extension, modern day degradation. Victims of sex trafficking are frequently beaten, raped or even killed for any reason. Child victims have high mortality rate due to the poor treatment they receive.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) reinforces its abhorrence at the crime of trafficking in persons and I wish to express our sympathy with the victims of trafficking. Trafficking is nothing short of modern day slavery, a violation of every human and constitutional right. Article 140 (1) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana prescribes that:
“No person shall be held in slavery or servitude.”
Article 140 (2) prescribes that:
“No person shall be required to perform forced labour.”
The State of Guyana is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted by General Assembly Resolution 5525 of 15th November, 2000, and to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. Notwithstanding that we have signed and ratified the Protocol, translating it into reality remains problematic since very few perpetrators are convicted and most victims are never identified or assisted.
Let me, at this point, on behalf of A Partnership for National Unity, commend the Guyana Women Miners Association for its role in bringing public attention to the crime and in rescuing girls who found themselves victims of this modern day degradation.
Trafficking in persons in Guyana is a stark reality. It represents acts of naked aggression, particularly against young girls and women and especially Amerindian girls in the hinterland regions. It is also worthy to consider that human trafficking does not affect only one demographic group and there are multiple forms of trafficking. While women and children are the most visible and openly exploited victims of trafficking in labour and sex trade, men and workers from third world and developing countries can also fall victims to false promises, extortion, and threats from criminal elements.
While so many are striving to make sure that no more or children or women are sold into slavery, there is still a real problem out there and the only way to combat it is to acknowledge that the problem exists.
As Members of the National Assembly, we have a responsibility to take the necessary steps or actions which will save the less fortunate tomorrow. Something must be done and quickly. This subject is not pretty and it is not to be taken lightly. For some time now, this scourge has been creeping up like a thief in the night. Our hearts break for these young women and children. We do not want to turn a blind eye to this injustice. We want to shine a bright light on what is going on and provide ways to do something about it.
The Motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition is quite laudable and worthy of support from all sides of this House. I, therefore, call on all Members of the National Assembly to join APNU in saving and helping to restore the lives of these innocent victims by giving their full support to the Motion.
Thank you. [Applause]