DURBAN, 13 April 2015 – At least 93 people were trafficked into and within South Africa over the 12 month period from January to December 2014 for unjust purposes ranging from sexual exploitation to forced labour, forced marriage and body part trafficking. This is according to data drawn from the latest LexisNexis South Africa Human Trafficking Awareness Index™, a knowledge management tool released periodically by this leading provider of content and technology solutions.
The report showed that 77 (or 82.7%) of these were adults while 17 (or 17.3%) were children. More than half (58% or 54 people in total) were victims smuggled into the country with the end purpose of exploitation. A quarter of all victims were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
In this third such study by the firm, Dr Monique Emser, a passionate counter-trafficking researcher and activist, analysed human trafficking-related news using the organisation’s extensive Nexis® database of searchable news articles. Mpumalanga and Gauteng had the biggest single incidents, with cases including 30 foreign nationals being found without proper visa documentation in a house in Tonga in Mpumalanga, and 24 Ethiopian men found in Braamfontein who were thought to have been transported through Zimbabwe. These cases highlighted the increasingly blurred lines between migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
Dr Emser said: “While the LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index ™ can only speak to reported cases of human trafficking in the media, it does fill a very important gap in knowledge management surrounding the prevalence of human trafficking in South Africa and the African region.“The Index provides a global analysis of trends and developments relating to the modus operandi of traffickers, victimology, prosecution of cases, and interlinking phenomena,” she added.
Child (Commercial) Sexual Exploitation (CSEC) CSEC trafficking is a reoccurring theme linked to wider issues pertaining to rampant sexual exploitation and violence inflicted against children in South Africa. Predominantly domestic and
intraregional, it is a serious problem despite the relatively low number of victims detected and assisted. Said Dr Emser: “In the two CSEC cases profiled in the report, the victims were between 10 and 16 years old, and had been trafficked from impoverished rural areas – one from the Eastern Cape, and the other from Mozambique to Mpumulanga. Both cases shared a number of similarities.
The girls were recruited by women who not only procured them to be abused but had a role to play in controlling them. The perpetrators of sexual abuse and rape were middle-aged businessmen living in relatively remote areas of the provinces concerned. Both are indicative of small, local,opportunistic trafficking operations involving a small number of victims, little organisation and recruitment or facilitation by an intimate partner or someone from their own community who they thought could be trusted.
“Repeated rapes, physical and psychological abuse inflicted over a period of months, and even years, mean that these children require intensive psychological support services before and after being reunited with families or guardians,” she said.
Forced Marriage, Ukuthwala and Harmful Traditional and Cultural Practices
Early and forced marriage – and the associated instances of sexual assault, underage lobola and pregnancy – are practices driven by gender inequality, poverty, harmful traditional or religious practices, failure to enforce the law and lack of knowledge of particular laws and rights.
An investigation carried out by the Commission on Gender Equality found that most of the ukuthwala marriages have occurred in the Eastern Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal. The Jezile case in the Western Cape, and discussions around whether violence is an accepted part of ukuthwala, symbolise the tension between cultural ideals and cultural practices.
Said Dr Emser: “Research and statistics show that early and forced marriage contributes to driving girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They are more likely to experience illiteracy and poor education, increased mortality, poor sexual health and a higher risk of abuse".
Forced migration within the African region increases the vulnerability of men, women and children to becoming victims of human trafficking and other forms exploitation and abuse. South Africa, as one of the more stable and prosperous countries within the sub-region, is an attractive destination for refugees and migrants. Many take great risks and transit through third countries illegally in hopes of reaching South African shores, and during this stage of their journey are actively complicit in their illicit transit.
“However, what is becoming increasingly apparent is that upon reaching destination countries, like South Africa, they are often held against their will, or in debt bondage, and subsequently exploited,” explains Dr Emser.
The three LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index™ reports are available to download via the LexisNexis Rule of Law microsite at www.lexisnexis.co.za/ruleoflaw. This microsite is a comprehensive information centre where role players can also download the country’s first ever Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation Compendium which now also includes the new Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (TIP Act) which is due to be signed into law.