by Siviwe Zibi
Trafficking of women and children is a real issue in South Africa. It can be happening as close as next door without your knowledge. A child goes missing every five hours in South Africa, and 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, it is estimated that 30,000 children are being prostituted in South Africa and half of these children are younger than 14 years old, according to Missing Children South Africa (MSCA). The cases of missing women are being opened daily in our police stations.
This indicates that the lives of women and children are in danger on a daily basis. There is a dire need to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable members of society. Only 1% of human trafficking victims are ever rescued according to A21. These figures also indicate that the SAPS is not doing enough to find the missing women. With our accessible borders, easy entry, and inconsistency regarding protecting women and children who bear the brunt of the abuse, hearing the news of missing person is a disturbing norm.
Human trafficking in South Africa occurs as a practice of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation among imported and exported trafficked women and children. Human trafficking is the result of a combination of several factors, including gender inequality, economic instability, and political conflicts.
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. Human trafficking exists because people are vulnerable to exploitation as a result of poverty, lack of education and desperation. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery.
WHAT CAUSES HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking varies from country to country, but it usually preys on vulnerable situations.
People in vulnerable and precarious situations are looking for a way out and in their desperation can fall prey to human traffickers. We see these in multiple different circumstances.
- Leaving a place of poverty to gain wealth
Many victims want to get out of their situation so they risk everything to leave the place that makes them stuck in poverty. This gives the human traffickers bait to lure victims to move to a different country. Traffickers lie, promising jobs and stability in order to recruit their victims. Upon their arrival to another country or province, they begin to control the victims. The practice of entrusting poor children to more affluent friends or relatives may create vulnerability. Some parents sell their children, not just for money, but in hope that their children may escape poverty and have a better life with more opportunities.
- Political conditions
Political instability, militarism, generalised violence or civil unrest can result in an increase in trafficking as well. The destabilisation and scattering of populations increase their vulnerability to unfair treatment and abuse via trafficking and forced labor.
- Social and Cultural practices
Many societies and cultures devalue, abuse and exploit women and girls, creating unsafe living conditions for these women. With little opportunities for upward mobility and with little value placed on women and girls, they are more vulnerable to human trafficking.
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIM
- Always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
- Avoid walking alone, women have been forcibly kidnapped while walking on the street.
- Act swiftly if suspicious and don’t trust easily.
- Use social media wisely.
- Trust your instincts
- Be wary of very attractive work opportunities.
- If you are offered a very attractive work opportunity outside your country, make sure you ask lots of detailed questions and get convincing answers.
- Contact the embassy of the country before you travel, and make sure you register at your national embassy as soon as you arrive in the country of your work.
- Seek advice and guidance from people with occupational and legal experience before taking the job.
- Ensure you leave your address and telephone numbers with family members and friends before you travel these details shall be ascertained before traveling.
There is also an urgent need to raise public awareness about the realities of human trafficking, especially among populations most at risk, such as schoolchildren, undocumented migrants and young women on the transit routes from rural areas to the cities. Many of the aspiring models end up in brothels. Areas identified as hot spots for missing women and children should be targeted for specialist interventions.
The search for missing University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana enters its fifth day we hope she will found safe and sound.
To report suspected cases call South African National Human Trafficking Rescue helpline: 0800 222 777