Human trafficking in South Africa is a huge problem that does not get much attention. There are many forms of trafficking with the most common being the sexual enslavement of women and children. The perpetrators are known to consist of both South African citizens and individuals from outside of the country.
There are thought to be almost 30 000 child prostitutes in South Africa who are under the control of human trafficking rings. These rings are sophisticated, well organised and operated by very large groups of individuals. Without a doubt, there is not enough being done to stop this horrific activity and too many individuals suffer at the hands of these criminals.
How does human trafficking work?
Many individuals, including men, women and children, are taken from their homes and forced into some form of slave activity or have their organs harvested and sold on the black market. Many men are forced into working in agriculture or in other industry as slaves, many women are forced into domestic servitude and many women and children are forced to work as prostitutes or are sold as sex slaves to individuals. The majority of the enslaved are individuals from poor, rural areas where there are not many job opportunities, very bad education systems and with parents and families who do not care for them.
Often, individuals are lured away from their homes by the promise of good jobs in the cities or by the perpetrators treating them well. The individuals are often naïve and desperate for a way out of the endless circle of poverty. The perpetrators treat them well, offer them nice things like clothes and toys, feed them well and make them many false promises. The individuals are then drugged, beaten, often raped and threatened and then taken far away from their families.
An account of a child sex trafficking ring explains how children are kidnapped, drugged, raped and then have photographs taken of them. The photographs are used to blackmail them and their clothes and shoes are taken away so that they cannot run away. Once they are addicted to the drugs they are then forced onto the streets to work as prostitutes or kept locked up in brothels. The sex trafficking rings are made up of a large number of people who work together to gain the trust of potential victims, threaten and subdue them and arrange for ‘customers’ to use or buy them.
Why is there so much human trafficking?
Experts believe that there are several reasons why South Africa has such a high rate of human trafficking. Because there is such a high rate of poverty in the country, there are thousands of people who are uneducated, naïve, underfed and desperate to escape their situation. Because there are so few systems in place to look after these people, their disappearances often go unreported.
The policing system may also be to blame. Because the human trafficking rings are so sophisticated and organised it is likely that they have bribed police officers for their silence in the past.
Many South Africans have been kidnapped and removed from the country with ease. Many experts blame the border control in the country for this.
There also does not seem to be a good track record for prosecuting human traffickers who have been caught. Cases have been dismissed because of a lack of evidence, usually because of the victim’s unwillingness to speak up. It is believed that many of the perpetrators have threatened the victims and they are terrified of being found and taken back to the trafficking ring. In many cases, this has happened because the perpetrator feels that the victim knows too much.
What can be done about it?
It is important to always be vigilant about your own safety. Never trust anyone you don’t know. Get away first rather than waiting around to ask questions. If you feel unsafe, trust your instincts. Report any suspicious activity you see. There are a great many prostitutes under the age of 12 working throughout South Africa and if you should see someone who looks too young to be on the streets at night, report it.