National Press SPECIAL REPORT

Clerics, Laity in Lango Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking, Calls For Public Attention.

In a determined effort to combat the growing threat of human trafficking, clerics and other members of the laity in the Lango region of Uganda have pledged to raise awareness about the channels and dangers associated with this inhumane practice.

Last year, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda issued a pastoral letter entitled “Break the York,” highlighting the challenges posed by human trafficking and describing it as “Humanity against Humanity.” The religious leaders were entrusted with the task of utilizing their various platforms to battle this vice.

The 2023 Trafficking in Persons report reveals alarming statistics, indicating that in 2022, the Ugandan government reported investigating a staggering 1,200 incidents of human trafficking, marking a significant increase from the 421 incidents reported in 2021.

Of these reported cases, at least 526 involved exploitation within Uganda, 63 involved exploitation abroad, and the rest encompassed unspecified forms of trafficking.

According to the report, the government initiated prosecutions against 728 alleged traffickers in 589 cases in 2022, compared to prosecuting 537 individuals in 403 cases in 2021. The situation calls for urgent and collective action to combat this inhumane act.

During a gathering entitled to raising awareness about human trafficking in Lira Diocese, clerics and church leaders pledged their commitment to fighting this vice and using their platforms to disseminate crucial information.

The pastoral letter, “Break the York,” emphasized that 91% of victims of human trafficking are children and women who are ensnared in this modern form of slavery while seeking jobs and a better life. Sadly, they often fall victim to forced labor and sexual exploitation, particularly in Middle Eastern countries.

Vincent Mbusa, a counselor with the Sisters of The Holy Cross, cautioned, “They bring all lies that make it seem so appealing that everyone would like to go, but they don’t disclose their real interests like cheap labor. You will go, and they will overwork you without rest.”

Meanwhile, the Vicar General of Lira Diocese, Rev. Fr. Valente Innocent Opio, called upon the public to unite against this distressing vice. He stressed, “It is not something that we hear about happening far away in other countries or distant parts of Uganda, but it is a reality within our midst. We must be vigilant and do everything within our means to stop this evil of human trafficking.”

Survivors of human trafficking suffer deep psychological distress, including depression, memory impairment, fear, guilt, and shame. Some are even rejected by their families due to the burdens and losses they’ve experienced.

However, the St. Bakhita Anti Human Trafficking network, an initiative of the Holy Cross Sisters based in Fort Portal, is providing psychosocial support and rehabilitation to victims of human trafficking.

 Over the last two years, they have successfully rehabilitated more than 200 victims through skills training and counseling, offering them a chance to rebuild their lives. They are urging other religious leaders to join in the fight against human trafficking.

In 2009, a national legislation referred to as the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009 was enacted, and subsequently, its regulations were adopted in 2019.

This legislation provides for the prohibition of trafficking in persons, the creation of offenses, prosecution and punishment of offenders, prevention of trafficking in persons, and the protection of victims. It forms a crucial part of Uganda’s legal framework in the fight against human trafficking.

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