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At least 30 000 children are prostituted through human trafficking annually in South Africa and 50 percent of them are under the age of 14.
This is according to Roxanne Rawlins of Freedom Climb, a project that works with trafficked people around the globe.
The organisation teamed up with artist Marisa De Lange to raise funds for trafficking survivors. De Lange’s work is on exhibition at Freedom Park until Thursday as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Week to stop Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery.
Rawlins said that according to their figures, at least 1 000 people were trafficked from Mozambique into South Africa annually.
“When we talk about human trafficking, people always think about prostitution, but there are other forms like child labour, drug mules and begging in the streets. The majority of people who are trafficked are mostly women and girls, but there are men and boys as well.
“South Africa is a source, transit and destination for trafficked people. Most of the people are trafficked from the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which are poor provinces. They are trafficked to Gauteng, which is the worst, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein.”
She said the statistics on the issue did not paint the real picture.
“The cases are underreported because the victims are filled with fear. They fear the people who abducted them and because in some cases they might be in the country illegally.
“The police are also ill-equipped to deal with the cases and in some instances you cannot trust them because of corruption. Sometimes months after rescuing people, their lives are still in danger.”
She said South Africans trafficked girls mostly from Asia, Eastern Europe and neighbouring countries.
Chrisna Visser is one of the thousands of women who has been trafficked. She said: “Every day you try and pick up the pieces of your life. I was trafficked in front of a hospital in 2005 by a man I had met in a chat room on the internet. He knew that no one would look for me and after I suffered a nervous breakdown, offered to pick me up from the hospital and take me home.”
Visser never reached her home and was instead forced to work as a prostitute in Milnerton for 13 months.
“They changed my hair colour and appearance so that even if my family looked for me, they could not find me. I could not even try and run away because they threatened to kill my children.
“After I was rescued, I lived in a safe house for nine months to try to recover and rebuild my life.
“I have been drug free for eight years now. I have been reunited with my children who live with my first husband. I also remarried and have a job at a restaurant in a small town,” Visser said.
She has since started Purple Blanket, an organisation that helps trafficking victims.
Rawlins said human trafficking was finally getting attention after President Jacob Zuma signed the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill into law in July.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a R100 million fine, or both. And the money is paid by perpetrators to their victims.
“We are not in the right place yet but on the way there. It is a work in progress. We should not separate prostitution from trafficking because most prostitutes are trafficked. They are also abused by police when they try to open cases.
“We have to educate the police and other officials on how to deal with the issue. The database for the trend is also a work in progress. We cannot expect everything to be done overnight,” said Rawlins.