Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Thorn, a non-profit organization focused on eradicating child sex abuse revealed that more than half (63%) of participants in a survey said they were sold online.

ghana trafficking

Human trafficking in Ghana has grown exponentially over the course of several decades – so much so that it has been noted and reported to nations across the world. According to the United States Department of State, which has created a “watch list” to monitor trafficking in Ghana, “the exploitation of Ghanaians, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than the transnational trafficking of foreign nationals.”

Even more harrowing is another factor facilitating trafficking: the Internet. The Eban Centre for Human Trafficking Studies (ECHTS) has concluded that numerous online platforms have been created for the recruitment and selling of Ghanaians. Advancements in technology, according to ECHTS, has made it almost impossible to track down perpetrators.

“The Dark Web, a fast-evolving frontier of Human Trafficking activities in Ghana and neighbouring West African Countries, nearly guarantees anonymity to its users through the use of multi-layered encryption technology,” said Chris Mensah-Ankrah, a director of research and development at ECHTS. “At each layer, the user’s internet protocol address, the identifying address of a computer, is encrypted and passed to another volunteer server to create the next layer.”

Mensah-Ankrah further explained that because of the complexities of cyber route processes, users typically never know who exactly they are communicating with. Websites like Backpage, Craigslist and Facebook lure users to easily access the services of escorts and prostitutes, using false names and photos to hide underage exploitation.

A study conducted by Thorn, a non-profit organization focused on eradicating child sex abuse, revealed that more than half (63%) of participants in a survey said they were sold online.

“The situation may be more severe in Ghana due to the porosity of the cyberspace, rising number of children assessing the internet, impersonation, forged documentation, especially passports, ineffective border control and lack of enforcement of Children Protection laws and Anti-Human Trafficking Laws,” said Mensah-Ankrah.

The United Nations defines trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

While ECHTS recognizes that the path to a trafficking-free Ghana will take time, there are small incremental steps that can be taken to, at the very minimum, alleviate the dire circumstances affecting exploited men, women and children.

First, they recommend that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ministries of Communication and Technology develop online protection programmes that would guard children against danger zones on the Internet. Tools like age restriction notices and parental guidance resources would combat illegal cyberspace traffic.

Next, ECHTS advises that Ghana become more proactive in tracking human trafficking numbers using surveys and other statistical agencies. Doing so would help the country (and neighbouring states) “understand how traffickers are using the internet to recruit and sell victims,” said Mensah-Ankrah.

He continued: “Inter-government collaboration is required for international, national and domestic law and accountability of internet usage. Anti-trafficking groups need to be included in the discussion for internet governance as they can contribute to the profiling of traffickers.”

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