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A new report by the U.S. Department of State says that the Ethiopian government does not fully uphold the minimum standards for the eradication of human trafficking despite making significant efforts to do so.
The Trafficking in Persons report states that while the government has maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement, it has mainly focused on transnational labor trafficking, neglecting local sex and labor trafficking.
Rural Ethiopian girls are routinely exploited as domestic servants while many are sold off as prostitutes at ages as young as eight years old. Boys are also forced into labor in traditional weaving, herding, guarding, and street vending.
The report further states that in 2014, the government did not prosecute sex traffickers, including those responsible for subjecting children to prostitution.
“[The government] also did not demonstrate adequate efforts to investigate and prosecute internal trafficking crimes nor did it support and empower regional authorities to effectively do so,” the report adds.
Last year, regional law enforcement institutions were trained to better identify trafficking victims. However, they still showed a lack of capacity to properly carry out investigations, effectively document cases, as well as collect and organize relevant data.
The report shows that during that same year, the government partnered with international organizations to train the police and other officials. 456 police officers, 115 labor inspectors and 139 judges were trained on child labor issues, and on the identification, investigation, and reporting of human trafficking.
“The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of public officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a significant concern, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year,” the report highlights.
Underlining the role of corruption in facilitating human trafficking, the report also claims that district officials accepted bribes to alter official ages on district-issued identification cards, enabling children to receive passports without parental consent.
“Passport issuance authorities did not question the validity of such identification documents or the ages of applicants,” the report stated.
Among recommendations made in the report, strengthening penalties for sex trafficking and explicitly defining human trafficking, including the trafficking of male victims, surface as major suggestions. It also called for nationwide improvement of the investigative capacity of law enforcement in order to ensure more prosecutions of internal child trafficking offenses.
According to 2014 United Nations data, globally, the most common form of human trafficking, representing 79 percent of all trafficking, is sexual exploitation, with children accounting for 20 percent of victims.