Human trafficking is a heinous crime that is becoming increasingly prevalent around the world. According to America’s Department of State, human trafficking (also referred to as modern-day slavery) is the third largest source of profit for organised crime syndicates after drugs and firearms.

Globally, it is estimated that almost a million people are trafficked, with women and children specifically targeted for some form of sexual exploitation. Sadly, South Africa is fast becoming a human trafficking hotspot. While exact figures haven’t been confirmed, it is believed that more than 30 000 children are trafficked in and out of the country every year.

What’s more, it’s been reported that various international crime syndicates linked to sex trafficking operate in SA. Furthermore, forced labour involving local residents and illegal immigrants has been reported. In terms of international victims Thai women are the largest foreign group.

Thankfully, law enforcement entities and organisations, such as A21, are working hard to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

South Africa’s Law Against Human Trafficking

In 2013, Government passed the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, but it wasn’t until 2015 that it came into effect.

Essentially, the law stipulates that a person will be found guilty of human trafficking if they deliver, recruit, transport, transfer, harbour, sell, exchange, lease or receive another person within or across the borders of SA, through force, deception or coercion. It also states that anyone who adopts a child illegally or forces someone into marriage for some form of exploitation is also guilty of human trafficking. 

What are the Punishments for Human Trafficking in South Africa?

  • Trafficking in persons is punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment.
  • Engaging in conduct that causes a person to enter into debt bondage is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
  • Benefiting from services of a trafficking victim is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
  • Facilitation of trafficking in persons is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

A21: The Non-Profit Organisation Fighting 21st Century Slavery 

With 13 offices in 12 countries, A21 is one of the most prominent organisations combating the scourge of human trafficking across the globe.

“We are fuelled by radical hope that human beings everywhere will be rescued from bondage and completely restored. We are the abolitionists of the 21st century. We work with YOU, the everyday person, to free slaves and disrupt the demand,” says Katie Modrau, A21’s South African Country Manager.

A21’s mission to abolish slavery everywhere is driven by three ‘Rs’:

Reach the vulnerable with the reality of trafficking- A21 conducts awareness sessions in schools, communities and businesses and also look to train frontline professionals in identifying trafficking in their sphere.

Rescue the victim from exploitation- A21 runs a 24/7 Resource Line that operates nationally to connect any caller with services or information they may need regarding human trafficking. Whether it is a tip off for something a concerned onlooker has seen in their neighbourhood to a victim themselves calling in for help, A21 handles all types of calls and ensure they are assisted. They have seen 68 rescues from this line alone in just under 2 years.

Restore the survivor. – A21 walks a road with survivors to ensure they are not vulnerable to re-trafficking and are equipped with skills and opportunities to take their lives forward once they have been rescued. This often involves access to medical and mental health services, job skill opportunities and unconditional support.

The organisation also facilitates an annual Walk for Freedom event.  “We believe that we can abolish slavery in our lifetime and this event gives people the chance to see how easy it is to stand up for justice, every step is bringing light to the reality of slavery and bringing others closer to freedom. The best way to stay informed about the details of this walk is to sign up on the website,” adds Modrau.

The 2018 Walk for Freedom will take place on 20 October.

To report any form of human trafficking or suspicious incidents, please contact the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line: 0800 222 777