Child trafficking in the spotlight
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Abby, a 14-year-old girl from a poor family, was walking in the street when a man approached her and told her that she is beautiful. He said that he could open doors for her to become a world famous model who will earn lots of money which will enable her to support her family. She was flattered and, with a promise of a better life, she accompanied him. He promised her a well-paying job in a big city and said that he would take care of all her documentation. Before she knew what was happening, she was in another city. But instead of modelling, she was being held captive, facing daily abuse at the hands of her trafficker. She was drugged and forced into prostitution. Nothing came of the promise of becoming a world famous model earning huge amounts of money. Abby's story is not unique - she is one of thousands of children worldwide who end up in a hell of drugs and prostitution as victims of one of the world's most evil and shameful crimes: human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a global problem and thousands of people are trafficked every year. Traffickers target anyone who can be exploited, in their own country or abroad. It is also common knowledge that some migrants are more vulnerable than others, such as those from countries with a high level of organised crime or countries affected by conflict.
Goliath (2016) argues that human trafficking is considered to be one of the top three sources of profits for organised crime syndicates. During the 8th annual Intelligence Strategies and Crime Prevention for Law Enforcers conference, hosted by the Intelligence Transfer Centre (ITC), Lt-Col Govender from the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) (the Hawks) mentioned that this crime generates an estimated turnover of between US$32 to $157 billion annually. According to the United States's State Department, approximately 600 000 to 800 000 people are trafficked across borders every year. The United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2016) reckons that 79% of all detected trafficking victims are women and children. Although most detected victims are women, children and men now make up larger shares of the total number of victims than they did a decade ago. For the purposes of this article, though, our focus will be on children as victims of trafficking.
When a child (or an adult) is coerced, forced or deceived into prostitution or forced labour, s/he becomes a victim of trafficking. Some are lured into this form of modern-day slavery by someone they know and trust (eg parents trapped in poverty who force their children to sell their bodies), while others are tricked into this situation by false promises of their dream job. Traffickers often promise their slaves freedom if they pay a debt, but this debt never goes away and keeps the child as a slave, year in and year out (www.thefreedomchallenge.com/just-the-facts/#profit).
Human trafficking versus human smuggling
Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations, in Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol, as follows: "Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar or slavery, servitude or the removal of organs." It is important to note that trafficking can occur either within the borders of a country or across international borders.
Govender (2017) notes that human smuggling, on the other hand, is a crime involving the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a country of which that person is not a national or a resident. Human smuggling affects almost every country globally. When it comes to smuggling, it's worth noting that migrants consent to being smuggled as they are being helped to cross a border illegally. The smuggler usually does not abuse/exploit the smuggled person and their relationship ends the moment the smuggled person reaches his/her destination. Smuggling always occurs across international borders.
The same definitions are applicable to children. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2007) provides a short definition of child trafficking by saying that "a child has been trafficked if s/he has been moved within a country, or across borders, whether by force or not, with the purpose of exploiting the child". In South Africa, section 4 of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013 explains the concept of trafficking in persons while section 18 specifically deals with the victims, which include children. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 deals with human trafficking in general, while the Children's Act 38 of 2005 specifically deals with trafficking in relation to a child (also see the paragraph dealing with legislation below).
How big is the problem?
In an article published in October 2013, The Times claimed that as many as 30 000 children are trafficked in South Africa, while a similar article appeared in the Pretoria News confirming that at least 30 000 children are trafficked and prostituted annually in South Africa and that 50% of them are under the age of 14. The figure of 30 000 originates from an IOL report about "internal trafficking" in South Africa, which was published in 2008 (Wilkinson and Chiumia, 2013). According to www.thefreedomchallenge.com/just-the-facts/#profit, the average age of a modern day slave is 12 years old. During an international training session which was presented to members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units of the SAPS in November 2016 in Johannesburg, this average age was confirmed by Lt Chad Gremillion from the Louisiana State Police's Special Victims Unit. He confirmed that the average entry age into prostitution and pornography in South Africa is 12 years. It can be accepted that the main reason for this early age of entering into the "sex trade" is human trafficking.