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Ugandan women were used as slaves Reuters

A Ugandan parliamentary committee is investigating allegations that a security company recruited women to work in shops and then forced them into sexual slavery, after the government failed to prosecute.

The inquiry will focus on a company called Uganda Veterans Development Ltd (UVDL), which is accused of forcing 147 Ugandan women into domestic slavery in Iraq in 2009.

The women said the company had initially recruited them to work in shops on US bases in Iraq - attractive positions because of the high wages that were offered for the jobs.

On arrival in Iraq, however, they realised that they had been bought by human traffickers, who sent them to work as maids for Iraqi families.

In addition to being forced to work long hours, they received little food or water and many of them were sexually abused.

The Ugandan ministry of gender, labour and social development has set up a committee to investigate their claims, after the MP Elijah Okupa submitted a petition complaining that little had been done to prosecute those involved in the scheme.

Following the initial allegations, the government of Uganda had investigated 20 companies registered by the labour ministry, including UVDL. No further information was issued on the outcome of the investigations and the company's licence to export labour has since been renewed.

Of the 147 women sent to Iraq, 18 have been repatriated to Uganda and the rest remained unaccounted for.

"Ugandans should be able to know which labour export companies are genuine and which ones are fake," the Ugandan Daily Monitor quoted Okupa as saying.

"This is slavery. I cannot see my fellow Ugandans going through this treatment," Okupa said, adding: "We cannot allow this to continue."

Upon their return to Uganda, the 18 women who had been duped into the scheme filed a complaint against the firm that had recruited them.

When no action was taken, they then filed a case in the high court against the attorney general, the inspector general of police and the director of public prosecution for failing their constitutional duties to protect and defend Ugandan citizens.

Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, the victims' lawyer, said it was unlikely that either case would lead to the prosecution of those responsible.

In 2009, the government of Uganda enacted the Uganda Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act. No one has been prosecuted under it since then, despite the government conducting 16 ongoing investigations, according to the US State Department.