The statistics for missing children and people missing in South Africa are staggering.
According to missingchildren.org.za, 1200 children go missing each year. On the positive side, approximately 90% of these children are recovered in the first week from their disappearance. The sad side of this is that this leaves 10% of children who are never found, and whose bodies are never recovered.
Children are abducted for numerous reasons. Among the most common are sex-trafficking gangs, multi murders and adducting a child because you can’t have a child of your own. Often parents with this mentality end up either neglecting the child or downright abusing him/ her. (www.iol.co.za)
Parents also abduct children during or after bitter custody battles. Sometimes custody will have been awarded to the “wrong” parent, while sometimes a parent will abduct a child as they don’t want to pay child-support fees.
Child protection services estimate that 1 in three girls and 1 in five boys will suffer sexual exploitation at some point during their lives. While this is not all due to abductions, the sad fact remains that there are numerous mentally ill people on the prowl for a “sexual slave”. As a parent, this would make you want to lock your child up in a tower. What is even more frightening is that a lot of these abductions occur at the hands of someone the child or adult knew previously. Often abductors will pick out a victim, and purposefully get to know them and build their trust.
To protect yourself and your children from becoming a missing person statistic in South Africa, it is best to be hyper-vigilant at all times. These sick human beings prey on people who look vulnerable and weak. Always portray a sense that you know where you are going, and are comfortable and in control of who you are. Don’t wander, or look aimless or lost. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations, such as walking home alone, or being alone in an empty parking lot at night. Most of the cell phone network providers now offer a service whereby you can push a “panic button” on your cell phone, which will alert nominated friends/ family that you are in trouble, and where you are located.
Sadly, there are many South Africans who don’t have the financial means for such a service, or even to protect themselves from basic dangers. A recent case in South Africa has uncovered abduction for the purpose of “ukuthwala”. This is a practice where a “man and his peers set out to compel a young girl into marriage negotiations.” (This practice clearly went too far this time, and young girls were reported missing. To date, they have not been found.
This is a case of entrenched cultural practices being taken to the extreme, and resulting in criminal abduction, despite the original intentions, which may have been fairly harmless.
Human trafficking is another huge arm for abductions in this country. Again, due to the number of disempowered women in South Africa (both adults and children), our country is full of “easy prey”. It is also difficult to fight against this in the face of such poverty and desperation – a women living in squalor will jump at the opportunity of a better life, no matter how dangerous or unsavoury it may seem.
Missing people and children in South Africa is a huge issue – one that is often not given the attention it deserves amongst education, housing provision and AIDS. However, we need to fight together against this, and work to educate those most vulnerable to this horrific epidemic.