Anyone who gives money or food to children living on the street in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, could face being jailed for up to six months or pay a $11 fine, as the result of a new law passed by the city.
The law is aimed at reducing and hopefully eliminating child exploitation, the BBC reports.
The Ugandan government estimates that the city has at least 15,000 homeless children aged between 7 and 17, with the BBC reporting that many of these children are victims of child traffickers who steal them from their villages.
Kampala’s mayor, Erias Lukwago, told the BBC that the law wants to protect children from traffickers who bring them to the city and make them beg.
"It's now a lucrative business for some individuals who procure these kids from various parts of the country and bring them on to the streets of Kampala,” he said. “It's a business. We want to bring that to an end."
The law change also bans the rental of apartments for sex work, as well as begging and petty trade by children.
Ugandan anti-trafficking platform Wetaase estimates that 21 million people — including children — are victims of human trafficking globally. In Uganda, trafficking is exacerbated by lack of employment and poverty.
The country is ranked number 162 out of 189 in the United Nations Human Development Index. The index measures quality of life based on access to education, health, economic opportunities, and gender equality, among other indicators.
The ban by the city of Kampala is part of ongoing efforts by the government to tackle human trafficking, especially child trafficking.
The 2009 anti-trafficking act, which criminalised sex and labour trafficking, recommends a lifetime jail sentence for people found guilty of child trafficking.