Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

  • In Nairobi's sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city's 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade
  • Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs

NAIROBI: Brutal images of a woman cowering as a man beats her and of a terrified girl in chains sprayed on the walls of Kenya’s Mathare slum bring a hidden crime into view — human trafficking.
The graffiti scenes in the capital’s second largest slum are part of a series of pictures, paintings and poems curated by the charity HAART Kenya to get people talking about modern slavery.
“Trafficking is all around us but people just don’t see it,” said Winnie Mutevu, a project officer with the charity, which supports survivors, many of whom were kept under lock and key and sexually and physically abused.
“A simple picture or graffiti showing one of the many forms of slavery can be a powerful way to catch people’s attention.”
Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery, according to the US State Department.
Children — mostly adolescent girls — are often trafficked from Kenya’s impoverished villages to towns and cities for domestic labor, sex work, street-vending and begging due to poverty and lack of access to secondary education.
Human trafficking is particularly rife in poverty-stricken slums, said Kissmart Bakra, a musician from Mathare and an anti-trafficking ambassador for HAART Kenya.
“When you’re poor and unemployed, it’s easy to be tempted by someone selling you a dream job,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from a corrugated iron shed in Mathare. “But if the job seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
In 2015, the charity enlisted the help of painters, street artists and musicians like Bakra to create representations of human trafficking, culminating in an annual exhibition.

FALSE PROMISES
High fertility rates, coupled with rural poverty and land scarcity, drive more than 250,000 Kenyans into cities each year, according to the World Bank, which predicts that the majority of Kenyans will live in urban areas by 2033.
In Nairobi’s sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city’s 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade, sometimes simply in exchange for food, according to charities.
Many slum dwellers who have migrated to Kenya — East Africa’s largest economy — from neighboring Uganda and Tanzania looking for jobs are “ideal prey” for traffickers, Bakra said.
“Their families often don’t know where they are so no one checks in or follows up on them,” he said.
HAART Kenya gives free trainings to slum residents to teach them about the risk of trafficking as many are often “completely unaware of their rights” and are easily duped by recruiters, particularly if they are people that they know and trust.
“Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs,” Mutevu said.
“Having never heard of trafficking, most victims do not even realize they are being exploited,” she said, adding that the art project had also made the police and government officials more aware of the problem.
Kenya must also better equip law enforcement to “outsmart traffickers,” said Patricia Nduta Gituanja, chief immigration officer at Kenya’s interior ministry.
“Traffickers are getting better at covering up their tracks, for example, by using technology,” she said at a workshop on trafficking run by the German state development agency GIZ and the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Nairobi.
Modern technology, from messaging apps to cryptocurrencies, is fueling the modern-day slave trade by enabling traffickers to ensnare more victims, expand their illicit empires, and outfox law enforcement, experts say.


Indian airport protesters block woman activist’s plan to enter hill temple

Hindu activists protest as activist Trupthi Desai (unseen) arrives at Cochin International Airport on November 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 35 sec ago
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Indian airport protesters block woman activist’s plan to enter hill temple

  • Thousands of demonstrators have protested against the Supreme Court’s decision, and conservative Hindu groups prevented about a dozen young women from entering the temple last month
  • “Desai has come as an activist. She has come to create trouble at Sabarimala. We will not allow this,” said 55-year-old Rajeswari Amma, a worshipper of the Sabarimala

KOCHI/NEW DELHI: Thousands of protesters blocked all the exits at a southern Indian airport for more than 14 hours on Friday, stopping a rights activist from heading to a Hindu temple to defy a centuries-old ban on most women entering.
Campaigner Trupti Desai said she had decided to retreat for now to avoid a confrontation, but promised to return to Kerala unannounced in her next attempt.
Widespread protests broke out in the state after India’s top court ordered authorities in September to lift a ban on women or girls aged between 10 and 50 from entering the temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year.
Conservative Hindu groups say the restriction is meant to bar girls and women who might be menstruating, which they say would defile the temple’s inner shrine.
Desai arrived with a group of women at Kerala’s biggest and busiest airport in the city of Kochi, at 4.30 a.m. (2230 GMT Thursday) and said she planned make the 155km (100-mile) journey to the Sabarimala hill temple and enter it on Saturday.
But protesters massed around the exits and police advised her group not to try to get through because of safety concerns.
“We are returning not because we are afraid, but because the police advised us that the situation could spiral into a deeper law and order situation. We do not want to create that,” Desai told reporters.
“We booked taxis three or four times, but drivers said they were threatened their vehicles would be vandalized if they offer us a ride,” she said.

“RIGHT TO PRAY“
Hotels had also been reluctant to offer rooms because they feared they would be attacked, she added. “This kind of bullying and hooliganism are unacceptable,” Desai told Reuters.
Desai has led a successful campaign to give women the right to enter the inner sanctums of three temples in the western state of Maharashtra under the slogan “Right to Pray.”
“Desai has come as an activist. She has come to create trouble at Sabarimala. We will not allow this,” said 55-year-old Rajeswari Amma, a worshipper of the Sabarimala deity from Aluva, about 12km (7.5 miles) from the airport.
Thousands of demonstrators have protested against the Supreme Court’s decision, and conservative Hindu groups prevented about a dozen young women from entering the temple last month.
The court has set Jan. 22 to hear nearly 50 petitions seeking reimposition of the ban. Until then, its earlier ruling allowing women entry stays in force, it said.
As a result, the state government, run by the Communist Party of India, and legally bound to follow the court, finds itself at loggerheads with devotees and opposition parties who want the ban to continue until the court review.
The temple administration plans to file a petition with the top court requesting more time to implement its order, Travancore Devaswom Board president A. Padmakumar told reporters.
The hillside temple, nestled in a forest in the Western Ghats mountain range, reopened at 5 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Friday and will remain open for more than two months, with a three-day break in December. (Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Martin Howell and Andrew Heavens)