On the streets of Durban in South Africa, children are sold for muti and organ “donation”, used for sexual exploitation, cheap labour and even forced marriage.
Social workers have estimated that there were 28,000 child prostitutes in South Africa, some as young as 12 years old.
The Centre for International Policy’s Global Financial Integrity programme estimated last year that global human trafficking accounted for R230 million of illicit trade, only one third behind drugs and counterfeit goods.
Many of the factors behind the high incidence of human trafficking and especially child trafficking has been high levels of poverty, more children becoming orphaned and children lacking a responsible caregiver.
According to Barbara Ras, founder of the Atlantis Women’s Movement and a shelter for trafficked victims in Atlantis, says that traffickers especially target women and children from rural areas, and often lure them away under the pretext of jobs in the big city.
“These people are poor, there are no jobs, some parents are alcoholics and don’t take care of their children,” says Barbara.
“There’s a whole network of people involved – recruiters, taxi drivers, the person waiting in the city, etc. There are even women that help with the trafficking of children and other women,” she explains.
“Some girls are even sold from person to person – this problem is bigger than we realise and this came to light through the active work of the City’s Vice Squad.”
Currently, most offenders who are caught trafficking are charged with sexual abuse, rape and kidnapping. There has yet to be legislation implemented in South Africa to charge a person with human trafficking.
A victim of human trafficking is defined as someone who is being forced or being lied to and then moved (from their home) in order to be exploited for sexual purposes (rape, porn, prostitution), cheap labour or their body parts, among other purposes.
The Network against Child Labour estimates that there are 400 000 children working in South Africa.