By Own Correspondent – Human trafficking remains as much of a problem in South Africa as it ever was, even though the spotlight is no longer on the issue following the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup.
That’s the word from Victor Edozien, CEO of Cintron Africa, a company that is striving to draw attention to the plight of the victims of human trafficking as part of its corporate social responsibility drive. He said that organisation is disturbed by the fact that reports are starting to circulate that the problem of human trafficking is being overstated, when independent research indicates that this practice is still rife.
Cintron Africa works closely with The Trust, an innovative vehicle that aims to aid as many South African charities as possible – to draw attention to the problem human of trafficking. The Trust sells wrist bands at its functions and events to raise money for the fight against human trafficking.
Edozien said that the number of people who fall victim to human traffickers around the world each year remains alarmingly high. According to the US Department of State and Unicef, eight hundred people are trafficked every year. Most trafficking victims are girls between five and 15 years of age and half of these children are African children, according to World Hope International. Local research indicates that the problem in South Africa is daunting, even though a lack of basic national-level data makes it difficult to make sound estimates about the scale of the problem, he added.
South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked men, women, and children, according to studies such as ‘Tsireledzani:
Understanding the dimensions of human trafficking in southern Africa,’ which was conducted by the SA Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on behalf of the National Prosecuting Authority. Released earlier this year, this research showed that human trafficking victims are captured for purposes such as prostitution, pornography, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging, and criminal activity (including drug trafficking and smuggling). Some are even killed to remove their body parts for muti.
Said Edozien: “A picture of South Africa as one of the major destinations for human trafficking in Africa emerges from studies such as the HSRC report, news reports and anecdotal evidence. Although the NPA and other authorities are taking the problem seriously, we believe that government and civil society need to step up their efforts to track and address the problem.”
South Africa has numerous official ports of entry, an expansive coastline and porous borders, and a status as a region economic powerhouse, making it an attractive human trafficking transit hub and final destination.Human trafficking takes a number of forms within South Africa. Many South African girls are trafficked from the rural areas to urban areas for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Boys are trafficked internally for use in street vending, food service, and agriculture.
Women and girls from Africa, Thailand, China and Eastern European countries are trafficked to South Africa for commercial sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. “Some of the girls who work in so called ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ are paying off extravagant ‘debts’ to the club owner,” said Edozien.
“In most cases, their passports are confiscated from them and they are granted no freedom of movement until they have paid the owner for their ‘immigration fees’.”
Recent media reports indicate that a number of girls employed by some of the gentlemen’s clubs have confirmed that their passports were impounded and that they were forced to work off a large debt before they could leave.
Edozien said that there is a strong relationship between criminal activities such as drugs and weapon smuggling and human trafficking. Victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are often made dependent on narcotics to reduce their capacity to leave.
It is encouraging that an Anti-Human Trafficking Bill was passed in March, but government needs to be doing even more to fight human trafficking.
Parliament should fast-track the enactment of this bill; government as a whole must work harder to meet the standards of the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Edozien added. Concludes Edozien: “The hype about the World Cup may have ended, but that doesn’t mean that the noise about human trafficking should subside. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims in South Africa who still need our help.”
The Trust is a corporate social responsibility initiative with the goal of assisting every South African charity that passes its stringent auditing and accountability checks. Cintron Beverage Company began in 2006 with a simple idea introduce a great tasting line of beverages with Latin inspired flavors tantalizing enough to seduce the mass market. Cintron Liquid Energy tastes great and adds the health benefits of vitamins B6 and B12, Glucoronolactone which eliminates the “crash” feeling from energy drinks, so it’s the healthier choice in the energy drink category.