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Human Trafficking in South Africa

 Human Trafficking in South Africa

human trafficking in south africa

Human Trafficking: The New Slave Trade

"Modern slavery" sounds like a paradox. Haven't our societies moved past the days of slave trading centuries ago? Yet, despite international laws against slavery, there are still over 40.3 million enslaved people worldwide, contributing to a U.S. $150 Billion industry. Regardless of nationality, victims are stripped of their identity, physically and sexually abused, held in makeshift jail cells and forced to take heavy doses of illegal drugs. The average human trafficking victim is 13-years-old. Many victims get promised a better life, romantically seduced or sold by their families, while some are abducted outright.


Global Human Trafficking Statistics:

  1. 40.3 million people are victims of modern-day slavery. (International Labour Organisation)
  2. Most trafficking victims are girls between 5 to 15 years of age. (UNICEF) 
  3. 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. (UNICEF). 
  4. It is a business that makes 2000 Billion Rand every year ($150 Billion). (International Labour Organisation) 
  5. 161 Member states of the U.N. are involved in Human Trafficking (www.FreetheSlaves.net)

The New Slave Trade 

Human Trafficking in South Africa

South Africa is known for its high crime rate, and child trafficking is a significant contributor. Currently, 28 000 to 38 000 children live as prostitutes in South Africa (National Centre for Justice and Rule of Law). Traffickers target informal settlements and rural areas. Victims are recruited and transported to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Durban. (International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 


West African crime syndicates operate in Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. Young boys are increasingly lured into sexual exploitation and used for pornography, while black South African females are trafficked into the sex trade. (IOM) 

The Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo are "recruitment hotspots" for victims of trafficking. (IOM, U.S. Research report, Die Burger)

How is human trafficking possible?

For an illegal practice, the human trafficking industry is massive and consistently growing.  Gangs and organised crime run most trafficking rings. But, often, it is smaller rings of people, such as brothel and strip club owners, pimps, taxi drivers and even family members.


Trafficking involves tricking vulnerable victims. Women of all ages get offered promising jobs away from their homes. The community allows the trafficker to take these girls because they think it is an excellent opportunity. Girls believe they will get nice clothes, jewellery and expensive gifts. Some traffickers put adverts in newspapers promising good jobs, training and accommodation. Unfortunately, the opportunity offered to the girls does not exist. 


Girls and women are transported to another city or across borders to another country. Once victims arrive, they have to give traffickers their passports for safekeeping. With no proof of legal travel and a fake job, the girls are too afraid to seek help from the police. So now victims are trapped and forced to work as prostitutes for the traffickers. If they refuse, they are physically forced or drugged into submission. The trafficker will even take away food and water, and even when she starts working as a prostitute, the money she makes is never enough to pay back the trafficker. 


Victims are never allowed out of the trafficker's sight, and it becomes nearly impossible to seek help. Soon enough, the scared exploited and abused girls' only solution is to take drugs to forget what is happening to them. 

What can I do to stop human trafficking?  

  1. If you are in danger call the National helpline: 0800 222 777
  2. Educate your community on how to avoid being trafficked. Invite Traffick Proof (021-689 4480) or Stop Trafficking of People (081 720 7181) or Straatwerk (021 9308055) to present anti-trafficking awareness presentations to your school, church or community group.
  3. Report Prostitution to the Vice Squad, a unit of the Cape Town Metro Police, explicitly tasked with cracking down on the exploitative practice of prostitution. Over the last few years, they have conducted numerous raids on brothels in the Cape Town area and have helped to uncover several cases of trafficking and child prostitution. In addition, they have been able to shut down some brothels for not having a business licence. 
  4. Shelters take in trafficked victims, and child prostitutes get returned to their families where appropriate.
  5. Prostitution is still illegal in South Africa according to the Sexual Offences Act, although S.A. police rarely enforce this law. If you suspect that a house in your area may be operating as a brothel, or your neighbourhood is affected by prostitution, please report this to the National Freedom Network Helpline: 0800 222 777
  6. Volunteer at or support the work of Vileli in Tzaneen, run by Stop Trafficking of People. Vileli is a drop-in centre and skills training programme, which assists victims of prostitution to exit the industry.
  7. S-Cape runs a shelter for victims of trafficking in the Cape Town area. You can support them by volunteering, giving skills training to the residents, donating toiletries, cleaning products, or food such as rice and sugar. Through partnering with other organisations, victims will be repatriated or reintroduced into society. 

To support or volunteer at S-Cape's shelter, contact: S-Cape Home 021 788 8207 contact@s-cape.org.za www.s-cape.org.za. 


Join Stop Trafficking of People at The Point this week, where you will be able to learn about the human trafficking issue in South Africa, help us spread awareness and scan to donate to our cause.