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Only greater vigilance can prevent child trafficking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matipa Mwamuka   
Tuesday, 07 July 2015 15:10

On Sunday the 5th of April, the return of a missing 15 year old en-route to join the religious extremist group of the Islamic State(IS) made headlines in the local newspapers. What has spun off or emerged from the series of events that took shape has focused largely on Islamic fundamentalism and how it has affected South Africans. Unfortunately many people of this faith have come under scrutiny at the possible alignment with this radical fundamentalist group. The main issue to be questioned here with this particular incident is not IS’s influence with Muslims in a South Africa context, or religious groups but is one concerning children’s rights and the abuse of their vulnerability for the purpose of furthering political motives.

Exactly one year ago on the 14th of April 2014 over 100 girls were abducted from Chibok in Nigeria by the Boko Haram militia, the majority of who have still not been returned to their families, but have suspected to being subject to forced marriages. Unlike the girls in Chibok the 15 year old in Cape Town, was recruited and was lured into leaving her home in Cape town to IS to fulfil a “romanticised” idea of joining ISIS and living in the state. Whilst IS is often aligned with fundamentalist attacks and human rights abuses, the mention of this incident is devoid of the fact that children such as this 15year old have become targets for recruitment and indoctrination, which would eventually lead to some form of exploitation to advance religious and political motives. What is most alarming is that children have become pawns or commodities and very often used as bargaining tools where socio-economic political and religious conflicts exist.

The abuse of children’s vulnerability emerges in that very often they are abducted, recruited under false pretences resulting in exploitation of some sort whether it involves, forming part of the militia as child soldiers in conflict situations, forced into early marriages or to engage in forced labour, or are commercially sexually exploited. Although the 15 year old Capetonian girl was rescued this could have ended up as a potential child trafficking case where this circumstance or the end result could have been exploitation. Many reports have highlighted how very often disillusioned teenagers are lured via social networking sites to join the “perfect” Islamic state where religious ideals can be fulfilled but in actual fact the reality is that on arrival most are forced into marriages and military training which highlights the abuse of vulnerability and exploitation that abounds in such situations.

One could argue this young girl’s agency and consent; however Child trafficking by definition according to legislation is the movement of children for the purpose of exploitation. Consent is not a prerequisite for a minor( Prevention and Combating of trafficking in persons Act 2013) . With this in mind the reality in South Africa is that unfortunately many cases or instances which could result in child trafficking go unreported and undetected. The Lexis Nexus report of 2015 highlights that from December 2014 to date, 76 cases were reported of suspected trafficking in the country and of the 76 only 17 involved children. If we are not aware of the crime then we will not define it as such and report it as such.

Although the details of the case are yet to be interrogated fully, what does emerge, is despite the fact the young girl consented to travelling abroad to join the IS, she was exposed to much vulnerability, firstly as an unaccompanied minor who was recruited and lured most probably under false pretences which would have resulted in exploitative practices. Both the Children’s Amendment Act(2005) and the Prevention and Combating of trafficking in Person’s Act 2013 (which is yet to be implemented), make provision for protective measures to be put in place to protect children and prosecute exploitative crimes committed against children. The recent amendment to the Immigration Act which will also only be fully implemented in July 2015, makes a proviso for all minors travelling across borders, to have proof from parents or guardians travelling, possibly assisted the relevant officials in detecting that the unaccompanied minor lacked the permission and documentation from her parents to travel alone and thus saved her in the process.

The unfortunate reality is that despite children’s vulnerability many children are moved across border and internally within South Africa’s borders with little or no detection. The amended legislation will be important as far as minimizing the risks of moving minors across borders. However, internally moved recruited minors still remain vulnerable to child exploitation. It will take on going training of civil society, government as well as non-governmental stakeholders to be able to effectively identify report and refer trafficking related cases. Most importantly beyond training, this incident and many unreported ones, highlight that the onus is on parents, guardians and families to ensure that the protection of children and minimizing vulnerability, starts in the home. We have become a relationship deprived society and very often leave technology as a means of communicating within the family unit; it is at that point that children turn to social networking sites and forms of technology to build and establish relationships, leaving them vulnerable to a host of predators. Legislation cannot unfortunately be the panacea for preventing the exploitation of children. Guardians and caregivers have an onerous burden to ensure we are monitoring our children’s involvement on social networks but also doing our due diligence to inform them of the dangers of falling prey to instances that result in child trafficking.

Written by Matipa Mwamuka


How we help modern slaves PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doreen Gaura   
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 16:04

Earlier in the month, journalist for The Star newspaper, Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat, interviewed our social worker, Shireen Pekeur for an in-depth article she was writing on the issue of human trafficking in South Africa. You can find below the section of the article where Pekeur makes comment on our work and experiences with trafficking victims. To read the full article titled How We Help Modern Slaves please click on link.


‘The most vulnerable are those exploited,’ says Shireen Pekeur

As a trained social worker, when I see a victim, I know what to do. You get taught to not let your personal feelings interfere.

You try not let the history of someone’s life affect you.

I’m fairly new to our victim assistance programme, and I’ve worked on very few trafficking cases. The one that stays with me is the girl who came from the Northern Cape.

At the age of 16, she was brought down to Cape Town by a man who recruited women for domestic work.

As a domestic worker, it seemed like she had good working conditions, but her employer’s husband continually harassed her sexually and finally raped her.

What saddened me was that she was an innocent and very gullible.

It angers me that it’s those who are most vulnerable who are exploited. And they’re brought from other places with the hope of a better life. You feel helpless. You can only put a bandage on a wound.

Because these girls often don’t have family, they get sent back to where they came from, which is often a poverty-stricken environment.

There’s no support system for them, no jobs, so some will return.

Family is an important link to repatriation. Just the fact that you can speak to families, and they’re not going to reject these girls, it’s encouraging for them.

It was a reward for me to know that the girl we sent back to the Northern Cape was happy.

The social worker was also happy with my work, that I gave this girl a sense of dignity.

You know, success for me would be if she found a job, but resources in the rural areas of the Northern Cape are limited.

There are few social workers who specialise in human trafficking. Our case loads are high. It sometimes feels like we just put out the flames.

Social workers are basically dealing with the surface layer but are not digging deeper to find out what happens, and to walk a road with that person. And that person can fall through the cracks.

It’s stressful finding the shelters for these women and children. You don’t want to allow them to become victims of the system again.

Pekeur is a social worker for Activists Networking against the Exploitation of Children (ANEX) in Cape Town.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 July 2012 16:24 )

The Faceless and the Voiceless are Stripped of their Humanity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matipa   
Thursday, 07 April 2011 00:00

The crime of human trafficking within South Africa continues to be shrouded with mystery , whilst the victims remain faceless and voiceless. South Africa lacks sufficient legislation against human trafficking to empower these victims,restore their dignity and uphold their basic human rights.

South Africa recently commemorated and celebrated the fact that fifty years ago citizens protested against pass laws on 21st March 1950. This collective action which brought forth Human Rights Day; a day which focuses on honouring their actions, and reflecting on how we are currently experiencing the protection of our rights. The day passes, memories and emotions are stirred, calls to action are the popular action, and on the next day we return to work, and the day to day struggles for dignity and human rights continue.  Sadly, so do the tragedies.   One crime that stands out for its heinous nature is human trafficking, stripping its victim’s of their dignity, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and unequivocally denying them their human rights. 

This form of modern slavery is as insidious as any organised criminal endeavour and takes on terrible forms which involve, domestic servitude, forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriages and the trafficking of body organs and body parts.  On March 29th 2011, the Cape Times reported the arrest of two Chinese females who were accused of running a brothel where they lured other Chinese women with promises of high paying jobs and subsequently forced them into sexual exploitation.  The two women were charged with the Common Law crimes of kidnapping, assault, and keeping a brothel. Currently the women are out on R 5000 bail.  

Kidnapping, assault, and running a brothel are all criminal activities under our law, but human trafficking, per se, is yet to be seen under the law as a crime in and of itself.   The conjunction of various criminal elements,  which at present are viewed disjunctively, that [collectively] constitute human trafficking , as an entity, warrant it its own punitive measures.

The legislative bill is currently in parliament, where it has languished for several years.  While the lengthy process should produce a quality result, the current lack of legislation not only impacts on the prosecution of traffickers, but ultimately has negative impacts on victim assistance. This is evident through the lack of standard operating procedures and clear referral guidelines for victim assistance workers which in some instances results in secondary victimisation of the victim. Once rescued, another challenge which exists is the lack of places of safety solely dedicated to accommodating victims of this crime, particularly children and men. 

Working without a legal framework makes effectiveness difficult for law enforcement, civil society, and the international organisations trying to combat the criminal phenomenon of human trafficking.  Without legislation networks of victim assistance services lag behind for want of a government mandate to accurately record and refer cases, funding allocation and specialised services to meet the needs of the human trafficking victims. Reinforced victim assistance services ultimately impact and empower victims to come out and report and speak out against trafficking, so that the survivors no longer remain ‘faceless’ and ‘voiceless’. 

Efforts to counter trafficking leading up to and after 2010 should be commended, however, it will take more practical measures to address issues around prosecution, prevention and protection of victims of this crime to instil, restore and regain the basic human rights taken away from these victims. Human trafficking is not just a crime against an individual but indeed a crime against humanity. Human rights month has come to an end and is celebrated for triumphantly defeating a previous dispensation that violated these rights, 51 years later the perpetuation of injustices against humanity continues not because of a failure of the previous struggle but rather the present-day struggle to enforce and implement sufficient protective measures for those who are ‘faceless’ and ‘voiceless’.

STOP - Stop the Trafficking of Persons

Prevention, Protection and Prosecution are integral in ultimately combating human trafficking. The STOP programme (Stop the trafficking of persons) endeavours to counteract trafficking through preventative strategies which form the basis of the programme activities.



Combating Trafficking in Persons Coalition (CTC)

Anex CDW, Molo Songololo, International Organization for Migration and Rape Crisis are the founding members of this forum. The establishment of this forum was motivated by the need to coordinate a provincial response to trafficking in persons.