SA fertile ground for trafficking, especially girls
Report finds more than half of the children known to have been trafficked in the 4 years to end-2021 are from SA
Young girls are most vulnerable to human trafficking in SA, which is a source, transit and destination country for the criminal activity worldwide, according to a report produced in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The report, produced for the Laser Pulse Project, found that from January 2018 to December 2021 of 98 children identified of victims of human trafficking, 59 were from SA. Of the 754 adult victims from more than 30 countries, 445 were South Africans, it added.
“The collection of evidence from these sources indicates that human trafficking is indeed a serious, pervasive and systemic problem in SA that seamlessly intersperses with other crimes and social phenomena — including gender-based violence, prostitution, organised crime, missing persons, irregular migration, child abuse and labour disputes, to name a few,” the report reads.
“The most trafficked gender is young females, followed by older females.”
Findings from the research confirm that sex trafficking continues to account for most of both reported cases and prosecutions of human trafficking, while labour trafficking prosecutions are severely lacking.
“Victims and perpetrators of human trafficking are significantly undercounted in both research and practice. Extreme violence is meted out by traffickers, while places where exploitation occurs are embedded in communities and operate for protracted periods without any meaningful law enforcement intervention,” the reports adds.
“The prominence of consumer‐level demand for commercial sex was evident in potentially thousands of sex buyers who ‘used the services’ of adult and child victims of sex trafficking.
“Despite adequate laws to address this dimension of human trafficking in SA, sex buyers continue to exploit women and children with impunity. Several adult websites, some advertised on public roadways, are repeatedly implicated, yet none have been prosecuted.”
Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of an official centralised human trafficking database, and consistent problems with engagement at some levels, the research was able to produce several important recommendations that the government should prioritise to address this abuse of human rights.
Despite adequate laws to address this dimension of human trafficking in SA, sex buyers continue to exploit women and children with impunity. Several adult websites, some advertised on public roadways, are repeatedly implicated, yet none have been prosecutedLaser Pulse Project report
“SA is not nearly equipped or co-ordinated enough to deal with this crime as effectively as it should or could, and enabling factors such as corruption, complicity, and compromise of officials and other counter-human trafficking role players is a constant stark background to counter-human trafficking efforts,” the report says.
“The prevalence of children being exploited in the sex trade; marriage, often under the guise of traditional cultural practice; labour and domestic servitude; and other forms of exploitation are not reflected in available numbers.”
Gauteng has the most cases of human trafficking, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. About 400 victims were identified in the 79 human trafficking prosecutions that were ongoing in courts during 2021.
“A golden thread that weaves together the findings in this study is the vulnerability landscape of everyday South Africans, as well as international diasporas that visit or make SA their home. The findings that are discussed here affirm the consistency and coherency of historical and contemporary claims of human trafficking as deeply embedded in SA society,” the report says.
“Vulnerability and SA’s many-hued violence manifestations are seamlessly woven into the country’s human trafficking profile,” it adds.
The report recommends that the government should:
- comply with requisite policy guidelines related to the functioning of provincial human trafficking task teams;
- take action against noncompliance; and
- listen to the stories of victims to map out the trends and areas of weakness.
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