Trafficking in the Pacific: reports on the rise

13/11/2010 13:44

The first official trafficking case has been reported in the Kingdom of Tonga, reflecting a broader emerging trend in the Pacific.

Often called modern day slavery, trafficking involves the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others. This can be any kind of labour, including sexual exploitation.

The US Embassy Trafficking in Persons 2010 (TIP) report revealed that trafficking in the Pacific is reflecting worldwide trends: more cases are being reported and a significant gender bias exists, with the majority of cases directly involving women and children as victims.

Several Pacific countries including Fiji and Kiribati are designated as tier two watchlist, which means that the Governments of these nations are not complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, US based legislation that aims to set a minimum standard to eliminate human trafficking.

In Tonga, the Police charged two people with human trafficking, which involved the recruitment and transportation of women from another country under false pretences, who were then coerced into prostitution. The case is still pending although charges have been dropped against one of the two people citing a lack of evidence.

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) in Tonga is quick to point out the sexual trafficking incident in Tonga is not isolated, with reports of sexual assault on the increase. Cases have also been processed involving incest with minors and rape. WCCC Research Officer, Louisa Samani said “This increase in reports may be due to increased criminal activity, or an increased understanding that sexual assault is not acceptable. Despite this increase, the majority of sexual assault and trafficking continues to go unreported.”

Seminal research on the unreported status of sexual assault in Tonga is currently beign undertaken by WCCC. The centre aims to identify high risk areas which require more access to services and increase the level of understanding about sexual assault as a crime. Samani indicates that there are many reasons to explain why sexual assault is not reported to authorities “with cases such as incest or rape, which are highly taboo in our culture, victims may feel frightened or embarrassed. The perpetrator may also be protected within the community, especially if they are a family member or a known person to the victim.”

WCCC is currently accepting submissions to the report – if you know about any cases of sexual assault, trafficking or any situation that you believe may be linked to sexual assault in Tonga, please contact the centre wccrisiscentre@gmail.com.