Skip to main content

report on trafficking in south africa

Contrary to general opinion, trafficking does not only relate to sexual exploitation.  Trafficking encompasses the trade of people for purposes of slavery, forced labor, sexual exploitation, & in some cases, body parts.

In South Africa, most cases happen as vulnerable  & poor women & children  fall victim to promises of better lives.  While most trafficking involves adults, young girls are forced into domestic labor, young children ( girls & boys) are sent onto the streets to sell things,  & young girls are forced into becoming sex workers.  Some are forced into it by parents, others by syndicates. There is often a pimp involved. Trafficking is also becoming more sophisticated, through the use of the internet & social networking sites.

In South Africa, the first anti-human trafficking bill, The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking Persons Bill,  is currently under discussion, & it is hoped to be signed into law by the end of the year. The bill addresses issues such as the obligation of  internet  service providers to report sites  that perpetuate trafficking by posting false recruitment information online,  & t the provision of ‘compensation for care, accommodation, transportation, return & repatriation of the victim of the offence’.

In the Western Cape, starting with the World Cup, funding has been made available to raise awareness around the issue.  A major problem has been that awareness among victims, the authorities, & civil society is not great.

The most extensive initiative in the Western Cape is through the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Athlone.  The centre also has 2 satellite offices in the Karoo –Beaufort West & Murraysburg  - hot spots for recruiting young people because of easy access to the N1 & being a major truck route, people are trafficked out of these towns to the city.

The work involves working with children teaching them life skills & about the realities of ending up in a city without skills or resources. They also partner with tertiary centres to provide young people with other options to help prevent them being lured by traffickers.

The programmes also focus on training others to recognize trafficking, & what to do when they come across it.  At this point, training programmes are offered to police officers, relevant NGOs, shelters & faith-based organizations. In the past , trafficked women who escaped their captors were often turned away from police stations because the police didn’t know how to deal with them. Shelters fear for their safety where syndicates are involved,  institutions cannot  always meet language or dietary requirements, & are concerned about who will be responsible for repatriation. Where women work as sex workers, they are often fed drugs, & shelters insist they detox before taking them in. Future initiatives will also focus on a repatriation & reintegration plan.

In Cape Town the UJW has a representative on the City Sub council, as well as the Ward forum ,the latter in the “Interests of Women’ portfolio .While we do not have a vote in terms of new policy, it allows us to have input when local initiatives are planned, as well as keeping us up to date on new policy discussions & progress.  We are also building a relationship with the Saartjie Baartman Centre. The Centre was one of the beneficiaries of our Rape kit initiative. Our  Women’s Resource Centre runs a support group for refugees, through the Mary Tall Centre in Salt River .

While all the women at the center came to South Africa as refugees, because of the difficulties in obtaining the correct paperwork to live and work here legally, they are often subjected to the same realities as trafficked women.  The Life Skills course offered aims to give them a safe space in which to face their daily difficulties, and coping mechanisms and options in moving their life forward are discussed and examined.  The plight of these women was highlighted at a very successful ‘Voices from Africa’ function held in Stellenbosch last year.

Areas where the Union of Jewish Women of South Africa could play a part are awareness raising, and lobbying the appropriate government departments.