Human trafficking – a cause for concern

Western Cape Social Development staff held a silent protest in St Georges Mall against human trafficking.Pictures: Bheki Radebe/ANA

The spate of human trafficking incidents shows that more children and young adults are prone to human trafficking in more ways than one.

Trafficking in persons as defined by the United Nations denotes the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception and the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payment or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

The elements of trafficking in persons include but not limited to recruitment (in the area where a person is staying) transportation, (from one area to another and where transport arrangements are already made on the victim’s behalf) and exploitation in a form of sexual (brothels, massage parlours, strip clubs, sex work on streets), labour (fishery, farms, construction), domestic servitude, forced marriages, removal of organs, Illegal adoptions and pornography

In most cases victims are forced to live out the purpose for which he/she was trafficked.  Those trafficked for labour trade are forced to work many hours a day of hard physical labour and those trafficked for sex are taken by brothel owners, pimps, massage parlours and strip clubs Women and children that are into sex trade are often beaten, raped and forced to take drugs.

Traffickers use various means to lure, capture and exploit their victims. In most cases victims are promised high paying or high profiled jobs with the chance to see and experience places they have only dreamt of.

Traffickers use false promises to lure victims  that are desperate to escape their impoverished circumstances, others are simply taken from shopping centres, bus stops and even schools.

According to an August, 2008 SA law reform report South African government and partnerships with non- government organisations contributed to some milestones in preparation to the TIP Act. This includes, amongst others;

·         Development of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Person Act No. 7 of 2013

·         Ongoing training, educating, awareness of  government, non-government and churches on the phenomenon

·         Ongoing public education, engagements as to protect them from being potential victims, causes and consequences of severe of trafficking in person

·          Establishment of task national and some provincial task teams to deal with this phenomenon

·         Protection of suspected victims of trafficking. Witness Protection Act makes provision for accommodation which are victim friendly

·         Rehabilitation programmes for survivors to rebuild survivors self-esteem reintegration to society

·         Provision for effective law enforcement measures such as specialised sexual offences court in all the provinces   

The Department of Social Development has dedicated short term shelters which also serve as safe houses where victims can be accommodated for 72 hours and accredited long term shelters where victims can stay until the case on the court roll is finalised. Shelters for adults have specialised services for trafficking in persons victims which caters for all their needs including dietary requirements, access to medical care, legal services, clothing and skills development programmes.  Services for child victims includes medical assessments, Child and youth care centre placement, treatment programme (detoxification) for victims who are substance dependant, statutory intervention, comprehensive psychosocial intervention, reunification/ repatriation services.

To fight the scourge concerted efforts are most needed and government is rallying towards that direction. Basic societal units such as families need to be aware and constantly preach the dangers of being people, particularly to children and young women. No one is immune to this heinous crime, but let us all at least try to be more vigilant.

Lorato Modisenyane is with the Gauteng Department of Social Development