In Africa, over two million people are trafficked annually, and of this number there is an estimated 30 000 children as young as 4, who are being prostituted in South Africa.
These are the shocking statistics from the non-profit organisation Stop Human Trafficking Now who, in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority, SAPS, Hawks and departments of Education, Heath, Justice and Social Development, aim to clamp down and spread awareness around the crime.
The organisation’s Jameel Essop described human trafficking as modern day slavery.
“The profit margin from human trafficking can go up to $257billion (R3.7trillion)a year. It is an international crime that is well organised by syndicates across the globe.
"The victims are taken for various reasons: prostitution, pornography, forced marriage and labour enslavement.”
Essop said most victims are tricked into going somewhere with their traffickers and held against their will.
He added human trafficking had been in existence in South Africa for a number of years and the rising unemployment rate had opened the floodgates for traffickers - with several cases in courts.
“At least two cases of human trafficking were reported in Cape Town recently and are being investigated by the Hawks,” he said.
One case, said Essop, in the Western Cape High Court, involved two boys who were reportedly trafficked after responding to job offers that never materialised.
“The other case was last month. A teenager pleaded guilty to several charges of human trafficking, rape and statutory rape after he and his four co-accused allegedly imprisoned several women, including a 14-year-old, in a brothel in Springs in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg.”
Essop said human trafficking was a problem in the country, but the government did not know the exact seriousness.
“South Africa is a tier two country with regard to trafficking. This simply means that the South African government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so,” he added.
Essop said over the past 10 years, the number of women and children who have been trafficked have multiplied.
“These numbers are now on par with estimates of the numbers of Africans who were enslaved in the 16th and 17th centuries.
“Among the 30000 children being prostituted in the country, half of these children are younger than 14 and as young as 4.”
He explained there are up to 10000 child prostitutes in Johannesburg and up to 1000 girls trafficked to South Africa from Mozambique each year.
“KwaZulu-Natal is the main recruitment area for victims of human trafficking. Combating trafficking has become a major challenge, especially with perpetrators using social media.
“We need to educate ourselves and our communities in order to be safe.”
Adding to the statistics, Missing Children South Africa said a child went missing every five hours in this country.
“From May last year to April this year, a total of 124 children were reported missing and of this number 94 children have been found.
“One of the main reasons why people go missing is due to human trafficking, and it is increasing in the country,” said national case officer Bianca van Aswegen.
Apart from prostitution, sex, forced marriage or labour, Aswegen said it was also done for organ trafficking.
“People are kidnapped and their organs are removed from their bodies and sold on the black market.
“We try to create as much awareness as possible around this serious issue,” Van Aswegen pointed out.