Forced Labour in Kenya

A new study has been written by HAART Kenya in cooperation with Anni Alexander as a Master’s thesis for Aalborg University in Aalborg. See abstract below:

Click on the picture to download the research.

Click on the picture to download the research.

Human trafficking is the recruitment and exploitation of a person often involving deception or coercion. People are trafficked for three main reasons: (commercial) sexual exploitation, forced labour, or organ removal. Sex traffickinghas been researched extensively in the past two decades and has also received a lot of attention in the media, and so this research focuses on human trafficking for forced labour.

The study is geographically limited to Kenya, which has a high unemployment rate and struggles to deal with human trafficking. The research question is: why are men and women being trafficked for forced labour in Kenya and what are their experiences?The research focuses on experiences of human trafficking and the issues with prevention, and uses gender as both a methodology as well as a theoretical framework to guide the research planning and analysis. In addition, there is a special focus on intersectionality.

20 people were interviewed for this research. This includes 12 victims of trafficking (VoTs) and eight key informants. Out of the 12 VoTs, eight are female and four are male. Key informants include staff from organisations that work on human trafficking and/or migration as well as people that work on the grass roots.

It was found that VoTs are motivated to migrate for labour due to the high unemployment rate in Kenya and low wages; they felt unable to earn enough money in Kenya to support themselves and their families and sought out opportunities elsewhere. VoTs showed agency in the migration decision and made the decision to migrate either by themselves or with their family.

While the VoTs made the decision to migrate, they did not consent to being trafficked. They were deceived by recruiters to accept offers of work who used the VoTs’ lack of knowledge to lure them. VoTs were most commonly deceived about the amount of salary but at times also about the type of work and location of work. There is some evidence that those with higher education levels, especially women, are more likely to be deceived about the type of work available.

It was also found that VoTs suffer from different types of exploitation once trafficked. This includes lack of food and rest, being overworked, coercion and threats, and physical and sexual violence. Female VoTs are more likely to face sexual harassment and violence than male VoTs. There is evidence that Kenyan women who migrate outside of the region to the Middle East might suffer from sexual violence not only because of their gender but also because of their race; their experience of sexual violence is thus an intersectional one.

VoTs reported issues with distrust with their families and the community. Other people did not believeVoTs had returned from working abroad without money. However, women reported this issue less, and there is evidence that the fact the local media reports cases of women being trafficked to the Middle East helps families believe female VoTs. VoTs themselves showed distrust towards authorities and were reluctant to report their cases to the police. They cited corruption and inaction of the police force as reasons for this. Those that did try to report their case to the police were turned away.

There is evidence that gender plays a role in the experiences of VoTs. In addition to female VoTs being more likely to suffer from sexual violence, they experienced more control. Furthermore, gendered norms and cultural practices dictate what type of employment VoTs are recruited for; women are generally recruited for house work and men for manual labour such as construction work.

It was found that lack of access to information contributes to human trafficking; victims are unaware of the dangers. Furthermore, as people from the lower classes have less access to media and to information and women in that social group are generally less educated than men, lower class women might be at a greater danger of being trafficked. An awareness campaing that takes into consideration issues with access to information, gender, and intersectionality is needed to curb human trafficking.

Certain policy changes could reduce human trafficking for forced labour in Kenya. Regulating out-migration could reduce human trafficking without reducing labour migration. This could include monitoring employment agents or suspending them. Also, a single entity that either handles out-migration or monitors employment agents should be created. Additionally, bi-lateral agreements between Kenya and destination countries or a regional (East-African) agreement similar to that of the Colombo process could reduce human trafficking by regularising labour migration.