BY MIKE TUA
HUMAN trafficking issues are a big problem and challenge not often reported in the Solomon Islands that needs strong awareness and education as some people might not be aware of what is going on.
Cody Yerkovich, the Gender Technical Advisor from the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA) told SOLOMON WOMEN.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, and harboring of people through force, fraud, or deception, intending to exploit the most vulnerable like women, girls, and children for profit – for example, they can be subjected to forced labor, slavery, servitude, and prostitution. The people who engage in the human trafficking business are called human traffickers.
Cody said that human trafficking not only affects women, and girls but also boys in the Solomon Islands.
“Yes! It’s a big issue – it’s one that’s not got enough research, focus, and attention and certainly not enough media attention.
“And I think that’s where education aspects come into play – like having a strong education awareness programs whether it can be rolled out in schools or other programs and more awareness.
“By understanding the gender aspect of human trafficking in the Solomon Islands is important.
“And I don’t want to dismiss men on this issue because that’s a global problem that literally impacts all of us regardless but in the Solomon Islands the stakes are higher for women and girls and that does come down to customary law, it is due to specific belief systems and practices where women are second classes here, so the importance of gender mainstreaming and rolling out an education system or awareness that focuses on women empowerment on the community, village, and church or whatever but that needs to happen,” Cody said.
She said most of the time, I would say that a lot of trafficking of women and children here is not reported.
“So, whatever statistics we have they don’t exactly represent what is actually happening here or taking place here so again this is another problem so awareness, education, and then we can start moving from here,” said the Gender Technical Advisor.
She added that it is important for us to be aware of those issues, not on the national or international levels, but what affects our people here.
“It’s a big issue because in the Solomon Islands, we are sitting in a position where it’s not only a hub for trafficking but we are a pass-through hub or region for trafficking, so many people who are trafficked through here like ships have people trafficked on-board moving or pass through vessels.
“It’s happening here for a very long-long time and I think it will continue to get worse with what is happening in the country in terms of industrialization, globalization, and more foreigners coming into the country.
“Trafficking is a business and it is a multibillion-dollar business globally for a reason – it’s all about money – we cannot end trafficking tomorrow but we can start by teaching our girls and boys what it is and what it means and what can happen if they sell their body for sex or exploitation.
“We need to tell them that your body belongs to you. Empowering girls to know and understand what is ok and what is not ok – we will create or nurture strong women and girls if we have strong awareness, and they will be less likely to be tempted or forced into these situations and become victims or survivors.
“But again the struggles are real; people are really struggling in so many areas and yes climate change has a big impact on them too with resources that are disappearing; people need money so I think it’s important more than ever to really role out some strong awareness around this issues in schools and rural communities,” Cody told SOLOMON WOMEN.
According to a study conducted by the American Bar Association in 2014 surveyed 406 women and men over four Provinces in the Solomon Islands including Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, and Western. 8 communities within each Province were surveyed.
“Cluster random sampling was used to determine the survey respondents, who were asked to answer a survey containing both quantitative and qualitative questions.
“According to the attitudes and beliefs, it shows sympathy for victims did not appear strong, with 49% of respondents agreeing that victims of trafficking should be held responsible for what happens to them.
“52% of respondents were unfamiliar with the term ‘human trafficking’; 24% agreed that children are at fault for getting involved in commercial sex related to trafficking. Over one in five respondents believed that forced commercial marriage is part of their culture
“Almost one in four Solomon Islanders did not know where to go for help if they were a victim of trafficking. 39% of respondents said that victims should seek help from the police. However, of the trafficking cases personally identified, 44% did not tell anyone. Of the remaining people that did tell, the highest percentage (38%) told friends.
“Of the people that did not tell, most did not because of a fear of causing problems or reprisals (43%) or a belief that it was not their business (34%). Reasons for not reporting trafficking cases do however vary from Province to Province, the majority of rural areas where trafficking victims reside do not have immediate access to police.
“Solomon Islands has diverse patterns of trafficking – internal and transnational; organised and small-scale; and through sex, marriage and labour. Examples include:
• Trafficking of girls and women internally in Solomon Islands for sexual exploitation, forced marriage or to work as domestic servants (house girls/women) – including in logging camps and on fishing vessels;
• Trafficking of Asian females for sexual exploitation;
• Trafficking of men into Solomon Islands from other countries such as Asian countries to work in logging camps or fishing ships.
“Much of the trafficking appears to occur in and around logging camps and fishing vessels. The fishing vessels may be domestic or part of a foreign fleet. There are reports that boys and girls are taken out to foreign and local fishing vessels by their parents for commercial sexual exploitation with fishermen in exchange for fish,” the study stated.
On a similar note, the Project Advisor of Solomon Islands, Hagar International, Nerrelle Vaekesa said that it is not easy to detect forms of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the country.
“Child trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Solomon Islands operates in a fragmented and informal manner influenced by certain social practices which facilitate an environment wherein children are at risk of labour-based and sexual exploitation.
“Cultural practices and values contribute significantly to the informal trafficking and exploitation of children.
“Gender power relations involved in the recruitment of girls for transactional sex with logging workers. Girls are pressured into accepting offers from their male peers acting as Solair.
“Denying an offer from boys in this context implies challenging the male authority and a possible consequence could be the isolation of the girl from the peer network which can have serious implications in remote communities,” she noted.