Second Lady, Samira Bawumia has called on law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators of child trafficking and forced labour in the country.
The wife of Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia said it is not enough to sensitise the citizens about the issue when the perpetrators are not prosecuted when apprehended.
“When people are prosecuted, it will serve as a deterrent to others,” she said.
Mrs Bawumia made the call at the launch of a baseline study on child trafficking and forced labour on the Volta Lake by International Justice Mission (IJM) last Thursday in Accra.
Human trafficking is an international problem that affects millions of people across the world. In West African countries especially Ghana, internal trafficking of children remains one of the biggest challenges.
The United Nations International Childen’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that hundreds of children are trafficked from their villages to work in the fishing industry.
These children, the UN agency has observed, are compelled to work in hazardous conditions. They work long hours and are sent to untangle nets under the water.
Mrs. Bawumia said child trafficking is a major problem with a prolonged history that has to be brought to an end through the legal means.
“Some of the children are as young as four years old. Most of them are denied their basic human rights such as the right to education, medical care, adequate nutrition and freedom from servitude,” she said.
“The law provides that every child should be allowed to go to school; it is compulsory for every child. So any activity that impedes that is wrong”, she said.
On her part, Gender Minister, Otiko Afisa Djaba, said the Volta Lake is a major fishing ground in Ghana with an estimated 22,000 children working in the fishing industry.
She said some of the children who have been trafficked to work on the lake are as young as six years and are made to work long hours at the expense of their education, physical development and their general wellbeing.
The Gender Minister indicated her readiness to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to arrest the menace.
IJM Field Office Director, Kaign Christy said child trafficking and forced labour on the lake is a “vast and brutal” phenomenon that requires a multifaceted approach to address.
Although he acknowledged the problem is vast, he said it can be surmounted if criminals are made to face the law.
Senior Attorney of IJM, Ama Dzifa Amankwah said the findings, contained in the study, conducted in 2013 and 2015, revealed that 21.3 percent of the children that were observed were 6 years old or younger.
The study revealed that more than half (57.6 percent) of the children working on the southern part of the lake were trafficked into forced labour.