Child sex ' a lucrative market'
Johannesburg - Child sex was a lucrative market in Gauteng and the Western Cape,
with children as young as four-years-old being sold into the
international racket, Molo Songololo, a non-governmental
organisation said on Wednesday.
The Cape-based organisation presented a report in Johannesburg called Trafficking of Children for Purposes of Sexual Exploitation which identified girls between four and 17 as most vulnerable.
They are either abducted from city centres by gangs or more commonly debt-bonded by their parents, the report said.
Nigerian criminal operations in South Africa were identified as domestic child traffickers.
The report said the child sex industry is one of the fastest and most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world, with estimated
profits of about $12 billion.
Trafficking of women and children into prostitution is considered the third largest source of profits for organised crime after drugs and guns.
The report, which took five months to compile, interviewed 20 girls
and conducted research in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng
Molo Songololo researcher Karin Koen said there were no accurate
figures for child prostitution in South Africa as police statistics
did not differentiate between adults and minors.
Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva of the Office on the Rights of the Child
said: "This does not mean this is not that it is not happening ...
it is not about numbers, one child in a sex ring is one child too
many, one child trafficked across the border for sex is one child
In 1998, 500 of the 2000 prostitutes arrested in Cape Town were minors.
Presently there are no support services for trafficked or sexually exploited children in South Africa. Children found in prostitution are ignored, sent to places of safety, imprisoned or returned to their homes without police investigations, the report said.
Another researcher Vanessa Anthony alleged that police corruption in the industry was rife as many were involved in the scheme, which made it difficult for victims to report sex crimes.
Senior Superintendent Anneke Pienaar said: "We are not afraid to root out corruption within the police and are willing to challenge them."
A setback faced by police was that if arrests were to be
successful, perpetrators needed to be exposed, she said.
Pienaar said: "It is difficult because we have to prove that money is being exchanged or a sexual offence committed, without exposing children to prostitution or endangering their lives."
Anthony called for ongoing support saying: "We need to be activists and take up this fight. We shouldn't just come to conferences, say
nice things and go home."
Molo Songololo embarked on a pilot project last Sunday in Cape Town
making it the first centre for victims of sexual exploitation. - Sapa