KENYA: Sex-trafficked women and girls also vulnerable to organ trafficking
As the needs for kidneys increase throughout the world the rates for kidney transplants also rises. In 2007, the cost in Russia for the sale of one kidney was set at approximately $25,000. In 2011, the total medical expenses for a kidney transplant procedure supervised by a medical team in a standard U.S. hospital is a staggering $262,900.
The situation for organ trafficking is strongly dependent on supply and demand.
“In the United States for instance, kidney donations between 1990 and 2003 increased by only 33% while the number of patients waiting for kidneys grew by 236%,” says author and Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
Currently Kenya has no enforceable law that regulates the transplant of kidneys or other internal body organs. There is also no reliable law that protects women, men or children from this kind of trafficking. Analysts have blamed the growth of illegal back-street clinics performing organ removal to the lack of laws in the country.
Located near the bottom of the list by German human rights group Transparency International with a 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index of 2.1, Kenya shares its position with Russia, Cambodia, Tajikistan and Congo-Brazaville.
Brought to the industry by a desire for financial gain corrupt government officials; organ brokers; airport officials; doctors and hospital personnel; police mortuaries and organ banks and repositories perpetuate the rise in the globalization of organ trafficking.
Recent 2011 improvements in corruption in Kenya have been visible though as judicial reforms aim to give stronger legal culpability to government officials causing some Kenyan leaders to face increased legal examination and accountability.
“Already, the country is in the process of extraditing a former Finance government Minister to the United Kingdom to face charges of money laundering,” says Judy Thongori, a family law attorney based in Nairobi.
Kenya’s new constitution is expected to come into full implementation in 2012 when the country holds its first election under the new system. With laws and policies on the table, lawyers say that justice inside the country will improve as new laws and the new constitution are fully established.
“Justice is still on since the constitution was promulgated last year. But we hope by next year, many of the pending cases will be solved fairly,” says Thongori. ”The new law gives hope to many Kenyans, unlike the previous one; it holds many leaders accountable for their actions.”
While numerous Kenyan women are trafficked outside of Kenya to provide human organs for organ transplants, many others are also trafficked into the country to provide live potential organ donors. Most women who become victims to these traffickers easily fall through the cracks, as many come to Kenya from conflict affected regions in and surrounding Somalia.
“Of late there have been so many migrants from Somalia who have been involved in all sorts of activities such as prostitution. Most illegal immigrants in the country come from war torn Somalia Republic,” continued Thongori.
In an attempt to slow the tide of trafficking, the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently working with respective countries to return trafficked children, who have been identified, back home to their families.
Organ trafficking is also an issue for children. According to the United Nations Convention Against Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Protocol, outlines the punishment for traffickers, especially for those selling women and children through exploitation.
“Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs,” says the protocol.
Consent of the victim is “irrelevant” says the Palermo Protocol. Transporting, harboring and holding a child for exploitation is considered by the protocol to be ”trafficking in persons” even if none of the usual means of trafficking are employed.
“We are doing what we can to make sure that many of these children return safely to their families. It is not an easy process since the laws in some of those countries mostly in Western Europe give a lot of requirements,” said an official in the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is not allowed to speak to the media. In the past few months, the country has deported hundreds of illegal immigrants to their home countries as a way to battle human trafficking and dealing.
But how many legal patient recipients for organ transplants are most of the women in Kenya?
“…the circulation of kidneys followed established routes of capital from South to North, from East to West, from poorer to more affluent bodies, from black and brown bodies to white ones and from female to male or from poor, low status men to more affluent men. Women are rarely the recipients of purchased organs anywhere in the world,” says Professor Scheper-Hughes.
A new Birth and Deaths Registration Bill 2011, which is still in review in Kenya’s transitional parliament, may be instrumental in tracking illegal crimes in the human organ trade, which can happen easily without consent or public knowledge after death.
For the first time a formal registration of all deaths and births in Kenya will be “compulsory,” which hopes to help with the problem of illicit human organ harvesting. The ‘cause of death’ is also required to be included on all death certificates and signed by a medical officer who has knowledge or who has been in attendance at the death.
Under the new law, those taking charge of the body after death, such as administrators of funeral homes or mortuary facilities or other institutions handling a body following death, will also be traced and named.
In June 2008, Ana Lita, Ph.D. Director of the AHA Appignani Center for Bioethics in NYC
talked about the crisis in the rising global need for organ transplants at the 17th World Humanist Congress held in Washington D.C. With rising needs come rising costs as organ removals for transplants are done illicitly The imbalance of supply and demand for medical procedures with transplants is mirrored in the increased profits of organ traffickers along with an increased supply of organs coming from those who are suffering from poverty. Conditions of greed and poverty contribute much to the illegal crimes surrounding the global black market for human organs.
On a September 2010 investigation, the Kenyatta National Hospital invited detectives from Kenya’s criminal investigations team to investigate whether more of the hospital staff were involved in the reported trade in human body parts from Kenyatta Hospital mortuary. While acknowledging that the man arrested, who was later charged with harming a dead body, was an employee the hospital sought to assure the public that this was an isolated case and not a regular occurrence at the facility. Since this video was produced hospital director and chief executive, Dr. Jotham Micheni, has stepped down on the expiration of his contract with the hospital. Sylvia Chebet reports for Kenyan CitizenTV in this 2:18 min 2010 report.
For more information on this topic:
- “011 Workshop – Human Trafficking for the Removal of Organs and Body Parts,” UN.GIFT and The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, Austria Center Vienna, February 2008;
- “2011 U.S. organ and tissue transplant cost estimates and discussion,” Milliman Research Reporting, April 2011;
- “Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs,” Joint Study – United Nations with Council of Europe, September 2009;
- “Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa – Research Assessment and Baseline Information in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi,” IOM – International Organization for Migration, May 2008.
WNN correspondent, Gitonga Njeru, is a Nairobi based Kenyan journalist who specializes in investigative reporting, human rights and science reporting. His news stories have been published by Reuters News AlertNet, The Guardian News and Africa Science News, along with The Daily Nation and The Nairobi Star Newspaper in Kenya. Njeru’s work has also been featured by Spore Magazine (Brussels) and Ooskanews (US) covering water, land and sanitation issues in developing countries. Njeru is an award recipient with The Fund for Investigative Journalism in Washington, D.C.
Some researched material for this story has been included by the WNN Editing team.
Additional sources for this story include UN.GIFT, CitizenTV Kenya, Council of Europe, KNHCR – Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, WIRED magazine, WHO – World Health Organization, CIC Kenya, Milliman Medical Research Reports, OIM – International Organization for Migration, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kenya and Radcliffe Quarterly.
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