Child trafficking is rife in South Africa as it has become one of the fastest growing businesses of organised crime in the world. A victim of child trafficking is forced or lied to and then moved (from their home) in order to be exploited for sexual purposes (rape, porn, prostitution), cheap labour or their body parts.

In some cases, the person can be trafficked without being moved, “ownership” of the person changes from trafficker to trafficker at a fixed location. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable, as perpetrators easily manipulate their victims.

Poverty, hunger and lack of education are fertile grounds for human trafficking. Sadly, some parents are traffickers in the modern-day slavery of their own babies and children. They allow others to sexually exploit their children for financial reasons such as paying off debts. In rural areas, some parents sell their daughters as child brides.

Trafficking rings are sophisticated and there is a whole network of people involved; the perpetrators treat children well in order to gain their trust. Many labour and sex trafficking victims aren’t even aware that they are being abused.

Childline KZN Operations Manager, Adeshini Naicker of Childline KZN said, “Child traffickers use grooming to lure vulnerable youth from poor communities. Grooming is the predatory act of manoeuvring another person into a position that makes them isolated, dependent and likely to trust and more vulnerable to abusive behaviour. It’s a form of brainwashing. The grooming stages include: a predator identifies a victim; collects information on the victim; slowly isolates victim and initiates abuse.

“Many people will be shocked to learn that child trafficking is happening daily along the busiest routes in our country. Vulnerable youth from poor communities often fall prey to traffickers who lure them with promises of a better life in big cities. Children are recruited and moved between cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein”.

In May 2017, the South African Police Service rescued young girls from a sex slave den in Springs (Gauteng). This tragic incident encapsulates the horror and pervasiveness of the crisis facing our country.

There are a growing number of cases but statistics cannot convey the true cost of human suffering. It is easy to forget that behind each number is a face, name and story. There is a child whose worth has been objectified and traded as part of a cruel transaction. Each number represents a criminal that must be brought to justice.

Naicker said, “The reality of child trafficking is that it is a terrible fate for thousands of victims. I urge everyone to be vigilant against traffickers. If people know about traffickers, they must speak out. We need to be alert and create awareness through education as it is an effective tactic in combating trafficking as traffickers’ prey on those that are uninformed. The abuse of young, innocent children is an affront to our values of life, freedom, human dignity and the law. No child should ever have to experience such heinous exploitation”.

If you are worried about a situation, contact:

* The South African Police – 10111

* Childline/Lifeline – 08000 55555