Every single day, in hundreds of countries around the world, human trafficking is taking place. It is estimated that globally, around 21 million people fell victim in 2018, and South Africa is no exception. Human trafficking is defined as “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” While there are many important things to know about this kind of illicit activity, here are the top 10 facts about human trafficking in South Africa.
Top 10 Facts about Human Trafficking in South Africa
- Trafficking in South Africa is on the rise. At a press conference in 2018, Lt. Col. Parmanand Jagwa, the Hawks Gauteng coordinator of the illegal migration desk, and deputy director Rasigie Bhika said that human trafficking was a “growing activity” in the region. In response to the rising numbers, the U.S. Department of State released a report criticizing the government’s methodology, noting that “the government made little progress in prosecution of traffickers connected to international syndicates, which facilitated sex and labor trafficking with impunity throughout the country” and that “the government did little to address reports of official complicity in trafficking crimes and efforts by officials.”
- Girls are more likely to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Overall, 55 percent of human trafficking victims are women. Additionally, 43 percent of victims were used for sexual exploitation, and 98 percent of which were women and young girls.
- Boys are more likely to be trafficked for street vending, food service and agricultural purposes. Around 45 percent of all trafficking victims in the country are boys and men.
- South Africa is considered to be on the “Tier 2 Watchlist” for human trafficking. The U.S. Department of State has several methods to track the levels of ongoing trafficking in a given country. There are four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist, and Tier 3. These standards are outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Tier 1 represents countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, and Tier 2 represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The Tier 2 Watchlist is the same level as Tier 2, but these countries have increasing levels of criminal activity. The lowest level is Tier 3, which represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
- It is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, according to UNICEF. Traffickers “recruit” children and give them fake identification documents and are most likely part of a network of organized criminals. Additionally, due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, many children are left without parents and in poverty, making them more vulnerable to these diseases.
- Traffickers do not fit a single profile. They can range from strangers to a relative or close friend, especially in cases of child trafficking. They can also pose as significant others and try to convince children to leave to “start a new life.”
- South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for victims of human trafficking. Source countries are those which supply the victims of the crime, transit countries are mediums/stopping points which the victims travel through and destination countries are the final locations to which they are brought. South Africa is all three.
- Ninety-five percent of victims experience violence in trafficking. This figure represents both physical and sexual violence and applies to both men and women.
- Some victims are forced into drug addiction. Law enforcement in South Africa reported that traffickers drugged victims to coerce them into sex trafficking. At the same time, some government-run shelters denied victims of human trafficking because of drug addiction.
- The NGO Love Justice International is working to make conditions better in South Africa. The group has 44 different transit monitoring stations around the world in areas where trafficking is likely to occur. The NGO focuses on monitoring and spreading the message to reduce human trafficking and help victims escape.
– Natalie Malek