End the Horrific Scourge of Human Trafficking Now!
‘Slavery is a reality in our lifetime. Let us join hands to ensure this crime ends!’
This was the sentiment of Mr Thami Ntimbane, Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre’s (UCEC) Youth Co-ordinator, who was invited to educate staff and students at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.
Ntimbane who said 27 million people were victims of human trafficking, with 13 million of those being children. These statistics only reflect reported cases.
Hidden in plain sight, human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. Shocking crimes include and involve child abductions, forced prostitution, forced labour, forced marriages, organ theft, the selling of babies, forced child beggars as well as boat trafficking. The scourge is so vast that well-coordinated syndicates - including senior members of societies, members of the police force, religious figures, executives and many others of high stature - exist globally.
‘Prior to 2015, there were no laws against human trafficking. Thankfully, we now have laws in place but the incidents continue to increase,’ said UCEC’s Ms Lynne Peters. Peters said the dark web - a term that refers specifically to a collection of websites that exist on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using traditional search engines or visited by using traditional browsers - is the platform used for the trade of humans. ‘Children are groomed to have sex through the dark web. There was a case of a six-year-old who became famous on the dark web after being groomed by his own parents,’ said Peters.
Ntimbane said in South Africa, laws made it illegal to open a child’s coffin that is flown from one city to another as often bodies of babies are slit, organs removed and drugs are placed inside the cadaver. Babies are also used as drug mules.
The audience was horrified to hear that a girl can be sold as many as 20 times a day for sexual purposes. When she gets older, she is sold as a maid before parts of her body are sold and she is finally killed often by groups who practice human sacrifice.
‘The unfortunate aspect of human trafficking is that often the victim forms a bond with the kidnappers. A sick sense of belonging and bonding occurs after you are raped, abused, loved then raped, abused and loved again and so the cycle continues until they break your mind,’ said Peters. She told the audience about houses in Johannesburg that are referred to as “Lolly” houses where girls from the age of eight are kept naked. The girls eventually believe that to remain naked and be raped is the norm. Visitors to these houses are often senior members of society.
South Africa is one of the most vulnerable countries for human trafficking. Other areas where the practice is a problem are South Asia, Central America, Africa, Mexico, China and Vietnam. The former Soviet Union is the largest source of trafficking for prostitution and the sex industry. ‘In South Africa, a common target is a “yellow bone”,’ said Ntimbane. A “yellow bone” is a slang term used to describe someone who is light skinned. ‘There is a huge market involving people with a specific taste for “yellow bone” children,’ added Ntimbane.
Unfortunately, there is only a 67% rehabilitation rate for victims. UCEC called for more awareness on the scourge as well as keeping an eye on young people. ‘Have a safe password that you share with your children so they can alert you when in a crisis. Support organisations that fight human trafficking, address the poverty factor that motivates trafficking in the first place and keep this number available 080 0222 777,’ said the organisation.
The College of Health Sciences encourages everyone to support the Human Trafficking walk scheduled for Saturday, 6 October at 8h30 at the Blue Lagoon on Durban’s beachfront. (www.ucec.org.za)
Words: MaryAnn Francis