Trafficking in Persons, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, is a real ‘scourge’ of our time and is generally referred to as ‘Modern Day Slavery'. It is difficult to comprehend that in this day and age slavery still exists; that people are bought and sold and transported all over the world. Yet, it has been suggested that slavery is more common now than at any time in world history and that hardly any country is untouched by it. Due to the underground nature of trafficking, there are no official records of trafficked persons, therefore, estimates vary widely. Some estimate that there are 27 million in slavery worldwide; that approximately 800 000 people are trafficked across national borders. This does not include the millions trafficked within their own country. Child trafficking is said to be on the increase. The United Nations estimates that child-trafficking alone generates 7 to10 billion US dollars annually for traffickers. It cites trafficking in persons as the second most lucrative crime around the world next to the drug trade and that 30% of trafficking victims are below the age of 18.
Trends in trafficking in and to South Africa
In South Africa, trafficking in persons is both a trans-national crime as well as a crime that takes place within the borders of the country. It has become a source, destination and transit country for trafficking in persons as it is perceived in and outside the continent as the economic giant in Africa offering many opportunities. People are trafficked for many reasons including for labour and sexual exploitation. Trafficking is further spurred by an increasing sex tourism. There is evidence that children are trafficked for a number of reasons – for labour and sexual exploitation; to be beggars, street vendors, housebreakers and drug runners. However, statistics on trafficking are not easily available as information reported to the police is captured under alternative charges such as racketeering, abduction, or organised crime.
The primary factors that facilitate trafficking in persons are, as we hear so often: poverty, family breakdown, gender discrimination, culture, HIV/AIDS, war, natural disasters and political instability, ignorance and demand. Other factors include weak laws and corruption and migration.
Despite significant efforts made by the South African Government to combat trafficking in persons (ratification of the Palermo Protocol and progress on developing a national plan of action to deal with the problem) the country has been placed on the “Tier 2 Watch List” by the US Department of Trafficking in Persons ,for the past four years. This is because South Africa has not met the minimum standards, laid down by the Palermo Protocol, needed to eliminate trafficking. It has been unable to provide data on trafficking crimes which have been investigated or prosecuted, because they have been placed under other offences. It is hoped , however, that the anti-trafficking in persons legislation bill will be in place by the end of 2009. Important moves have been taken on different fronts. From 25 – 29 March, I did attend the National Conference on Human Trafficking , held at the Elangeni in Durban. The Conference was organized by the SOCA Unit of the NPA. The Unit has formed a “Trafficking in Persons Intersectorial Task Team”, which includes : the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Home Affairs; Labour; Social Development; SAPS; IOM; UNODC and the NGO MOLO SONGOLOLO. The Department of Health , Correctional Services, Education and the national Treasury are also represented in the partnership. This is an important move towards a holistic approach to fighting the crime. Besides a National Task Team being formed, each Province will be asked to establish a regional task team on a similar basis. KZN has already led the way. It has also been announced recently that the Legislation Bill will soon be in the Gazette for public debate. The Conference was...
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