Joseph Simons, a practicing minister and the founder of the influential hip hop group Run–D.M.C. made the profound comment: “When you take things for granted, the things you are granted get taken”. The basis of our existence and entire lives are driven by our identity; it is our reason for existence. It is almost impossible to visualise everything that we have worked for throughout our entire lives, suddenly being taken away from us.
5.1 THE PROBLEM
Human Trafficking can be defined as the illegal transportation of human beings from one area to another, where they are usually recruited for the purposes of forced labour, sexual exploitation, child begging or the removal of their organs.
Human trafficking is a worldwide concern and one of the world’s most horrifying crimes, affecting the lives of millions of people around the world and robbing them of their dignity.
South Africa remains a primary source, destination, and transfer country for human trafficking. Human trafficking occurs internally between our provinces, as well as externally across our South African borders. Within South Africa, victims are targeted from economically poorer provinces such as the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, and the Free State and brought to more affluent cities such as Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The forms of human trafficking evident in South Africa include sex trafficking, child labour, domestic servitude, organ smuggling, child-brides (ukuthwala), illegal child adoptions, debt-bondage, forced surrogacy, and the use of body parts for mutibwe.
• There are close to 40.3 million victims of human trafficking on a global scale today. The traffickers exploit women, men, children and the youth from all walks of life and force them into abusive situations on a daily basis. All these people can be those foreign to a nation and or even country’s own citizens.
Victims are generally people who are hoping for a better life, lack employment opportunities, have an unstable home life, or have a history of sexual or physical abuse. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities and then use physical and psychological violence to control them.
Human traffickers can be lone individuals or part of extensive criminal networks, with the common thread of exploiting people for profit. They often share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background as their victims, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims. Traffickers can be foreign or local citizens, males and females, family members, intimate partners, acquaintances, or strangers.
There isn’t only one type of human trafficking victim, however certain populations are more vulnerable, including runaway and homeless youth, children and youth in foster care, individuals fleeing violence or natural disasters, individuals with a disability, and those who have suffered other types of abuse or exploitation in their lifetimes.
• Human trafficking proves to be a serious problem to humanity as it violates fundamental human rights which ultimately diminishes our dignity and right to life. It disregards our right to an adequate standard of living and prevents freedom of movement. Human trafficking is one of the most brutal crimes which a human being can inflict on another human being: it is the equivalent of modern-day slavery.
Human trafficking affects our society in numerous ways. It robs our society of future generations because victims are often killed or left with too many psychological scars to contribute meaningfully to society. Human Trafficking encourages crime, corruption and burdens our legal and health systems. Human trafficking breaks families apart.
5.2 Why am I passionate about the problem?
I am a respectful person who believes in the dignity and value of every human life, and in fighting for those who do not have a voice. I make every effort to inspire all those around me and enhance the lives of those who are less fortunate than me. These character traits have encouraged me to explore the issue of human trafficking.
The inhumane practice which has reached epidemic proportions certainly resonates with me. In 2015, my domestic worker’s 13-year-old daughter was abducted from the side of the road while on her way to buy a carton of milk at the local spaza shop down the road from her home in Benoni. Her distressed parents, not knowing why their daughter had not returned from her visit to the spaza shop that day, remained hopeful that she would return.
Five days later, they received a phone call. Their daughter had been kept captive in a dormitory in Springs and she, along with many other girls were destined for prostitution in Nigeria. An insightful security guard, who was instructed to keep a watchful eye on these girls preventing them from escaping, realised that this young girl came from a family that loved and protected her. He decided to risk his life and phone her parents to inform them that their daughter was safe. He paid for her taxi fair to return to her family in Benoni. In return, he begged that they never contact him ever again as he knew that he would lose his job, and possibly his life.
The other girls that were captured by the same syndicate operating on the East Rand were not as lucky, and were sent to Nigeria.
Both my values and this heart-wrenching story that affected me personally, have motivated me to explore this brutal issue in depth and have allowed me to understand the traumatic lives that people live and the struggles that they go through in order to see another day.
5.3 What causes Human Trafficking?
1. Lack of employment opportunity: The economic situation of some countries have left many people jobless. People that are desperate for work get tricked by traffickers into accepting jobs offers and are often lured into becoming victims of human-trafficking.
2. Extreme greed for wealth: Some people want to become rich very quickly and therefore, they land up in the hands of traffickers.
3. Poor economic system: This may cause citizens to travel abroad for a better standard of living, thus making them vulnerable to human trafficking.
4. Illegal business gains: Trafficking has somehow become a massive business industry in the world, thereby luring individuals with criminal minds to join.
5. Low self esteem: People with an excessively low self-esteem are often abducted because they lack an identity and their origins cannot be easily traced.
6. Poverty: Some families with a large number of children may be poor and might not be able to provide for all their children’s’ needs. They land up giving out some of their children to people as servants and by doing this, some of their children may be given to traffickers.
Why does Human-Trafficking continue to prevail?
Traffickers pray on the vulnerability of their victims. The offer of a good job, small amounts of food, and a better lifestyle is very enticing for a poor and hopeless individual. Over 40 million people around the world are victims of human-trafficking. Surprisingly, forced labour and slavery are still common place in the modern world. Shockingly, sexual exploitation of girls and boys still prevails today.
Human trafficking continues to be the third-largest and fastest-growing crime worldwide because it combines high profit and low risk for the traffickers.
As long as bribery and corruption still takes place, as long as poverty prevails in poor countries, as long as traffickers escape adequate punishment and as long as industries turn a blind eye to the source of their labourers, so too will human-trafficking continue to prevail.
5.4 Solution to the problem
In order to truly fight against human trafficking, it is vital that the South African government develop innovative prevention strategies. Some of these strategies include:
• Tighter Border Control – The government could dedicate more money towards border infrastructure and potentially encourage more private investment into strengthening the borders to make it harder for the perpetrators to traffic victims because every person will have to be accounted for and there will be more security/ police forces present to hinder the ease of victims passing through undetected.
• Education – Make human trafficking part of the national school curriculum. Curricula should include the ways that children and adults are trafficked, how they become trafficking victims and the signs of others who are victims. This can include case studies and also encouragement for students to get involved with charities that are working to reduce and avoid human trafficking.
It needs to become a policy that human trafficking is a part of the school curriculum. The government needs to actively address this problem and realise that educating the younger population will hopefully help fight against human trafficking, stop children being trafficked and also gain awareness and help towards reducing the problem.
It will ultimately be an invaluable way of ensuring the safety of children by empowering them with vital knowledge and hopefully help reduce the human trafficking rate by raising social awareness for the safety of themselves and the people/peers around them.
• Creating stricter punishments against the traffickers
Stricter regulation of businesses that employ low income workers by ensuring they are checking who is employed and what circumstances they come from. Reducing employment of trafficked workers will reduce the demand for trafficking and thereby contributing to a decline in trafficking.
o Local and national government departments could be lobbied to implement tighter border control and enforce stricter immigration and customs laws to reduce human-trafficking.
Moreover, local and national government law enforcement departments and judicial administration departments could be lobbied to enforce harsher punishments for convicted traffickers.
In addition to this, the introduction of informative courses on human trafficking into the school curriculum will have to be agreed upon within the education department of the local and national government.
o In terms of implementing tighter border control, the government could limit bribery and corruption at border posts, as well as employ more police to search the vehicles or ships that enter and exit the country that could potentially be transporting victims of human-trafficking. These police could also search factories and businesses that may employ victims.
o In terms of implementing human-trafficking into the school curriculum, all school curricula can be adjusted in order to allocate time for the teachers to educate the children about how children and adults are trafficked, how they become trafficked victims and the signs of others who are victims.
o In terms of creating stricter punishments against traffickers, the courts could implement higher bails and longer prison sentences for the traffickers, as the punishment should fit the crime. The courts could also implement stricter work permit laws to control employment of victims.
o The addition of courses into the curriculum exploring ‘the problem of human-trafficking’ will be successful in reducing human-trafficking because it will enlighten the youth about the prevalence of human-trafficking in our country and around the world. It will also teach millennials how to react if they are exposed to human-trafficking.
o The implementation of harsher punishments against the traffickers will be successful in reducing human-trafficking because traffickers will be more fearful for their punishments and remorseful for their actions. This will result in them refraining from trafficking in order to avoid lengthy prison sentences.
o The implementation of tighter border controls will be successful in reducing human-trafficking because all victims would be accounted for and could be forced to return to their place of origin. Traffickers need to know that bribery of officials cannot be tolerated, and that they will suffer the consequences of their actions. This will ultimately decrease the prevalence of human trafficking.
Take a stand 5.5
I feel that I could take a stand and help contribute towards the solution to this problem. I would like to visit a variety of schools and communities around Gauteng, and educate the children, teenagers and young adults about the scandal of human-trafficking.
I could do this by creating posters outlining the distressful pictures and snapshots depicting the horrific circumstances in which human-trafficking victims find themselves. I would also deliver a speech to these youngsters informing them about the different types of human-trafficking and how vigilant they constantly need to be. In conjunction with this speech, I would design a flyer that could illustrate my vital thoughts so that they can be reminded about this worldwide concern and so that they can hopefully avoid becoming a victim of one of the world’s most horrifying crimes.
I would begin educating these people in about 8 months from now, which marks the beginning of the New Year. If I begin my education process in January 2019, I would be ensured of full co-operation, concentration and passion that will be required by these naïve students in order to fully understand what human-trafficking is. Their minds will also be fresh and rested and they will be able to examine the enormous impact that human trafficking has on them. Hopefully this will bring about hope and change among the youth in Johannesburg.