Child Trafficking in South Africa
Human trafficking in Uganda
Written by: Keagan Mattison
Social Oppression is unfairly treating a person or group of people who are different from other people or groups of people. A few examples of social oppression include:Racism (treating people different based on their skin colour or Sexism (treating people different based on their gender)Religious persecution (treating people different because of their religion)Economic oppression (treating people different based on their income)With this definition and shared understanding of Social Oppression we find deep roots of social oppression lie in the world of trafficking. Trafficking is rapidly growing both locally, and globally.

Thriving in communities where there is instability. Factors such as a lack of food, water, education and infrastructure all create the vulnerability needed for traffickers to exploit the most vulnerable and valuable to them, children. Women rescued from these horrors share their trafficking stories - which all have common threads and themes, a lack of food, a need to provide for their family, abuse that started in the home, sudden tragedy, and no one to care for them. In many cases, the form of unpaid labour has caused human trafficking to be described as a modern form of slavery together with commercial sexual exploitation.
The signs of human trafficking
  1. Appearing malnourished.
  2. Inappropriately dressed for age or weather conditions.
  3. Showing signs of physical injury and abuse.Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement.
  4. Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction.
  5. Lacking official identification documents.
  6. Appearing destitute or lacking personal possessions.
  7. Noticeably mismatched: older men with younger women or dress/appearance not consistent with each other.
Photo: Bill Wegener
Suspiciously, there is an absence of reliable statistics about human trafficking, masking the truth about trafficking (specifically child trafficking) in South Africa. Since such little is known, it is difficult to assess and combat the situation. In 2017, South Africa was placed on the US Department of State's Tier 2 list, which designates it as a country whose government does not currently comply with TVPA's minimum standards against human trafficking.

The government provided inadequate data on investigations or prosecutions of trafficking crimes or on resulting convictions or sentences. In addition, it did not provide information on its efforts to protect victims of trafficking and continued to deport and prosecute suspected foreign victims without providing appropriate protective services.

Ongoing research draws on the experiences of role-players in counter-human trafficking. These include all the responding agencies including civil society, survivors and ex-perpetrators. Preliminary themes highlight multiple accounts of undocumented cases, direct and indirect complicity by political elites and bureaucratic officials, the paucity of border controls, corruption and a culture of impunity.

The problem is further compounded by the absence of an official database on human trafficking. There are also no crime codes in the police service which capture the complexities of each reported incident. Associated human trafficking offences are still subsumed into crimes such as rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, abduction and domestic violence. Much of this is due to an inability by some police officials or investigators to positively identify trafficking cases.
Photo: Sam Mann
This toxic concoction makes human trafficking an attractive business with high returns and low risk. For example, trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation is the most documented type of trafficking, locally and internationally. Yet none of the international syndicates dominating the sex trade have ever been successfully prosecuted in South Africa.