Slavery in new guise

2012-07-18 00:00

IT could be happening in your street, even next door, on your own property and you might never know unless you were aware of it and knew the signs.

That’s the sinister and tragic face of human trafficking, which has taken hold of cities throughout South Africa.

That was the message conveyed yesterday by Advocate Val Dafel, at a special human trafficking awareness workshop at the University of South Africa campus in Durban.

“We need no reminder of the frightening consequences of human trafficking especially on the poor and the vulnerable,” she said.

“It is up to all of us, in all our capacities, from students to housewives, from sporting heroes to top business, to do all in our power to halt this scourge. What we are talking about is slavery in all its different guises.”

Dafel is a prosecutor with the National Prosecuting Authority and a member of the KZN Provincial Human Trafficking Task Team dealing with prostitution, pornography and brothels.

“For me the interesting aspect of this issue,” she says “is that during the World Cup in 2010 we fully expected a deluge of trafficking cases and mass exploitation, particularly of young girls who could be snared in the prostitution net.

“There were huge awareness programmes and we as a representative of the national area prosecuting authority were ready to act swiftly and decisively at the drop of a hat.

“But our worst fears were not realised. And we have to ask why?”

She said that the ring of steel around Durban, policemen on every street corner, and heightened concerns and awareness, were a “strong deterrent” to criminals.

But that hasn’t remained so. Today a case involving 24 local girls, some in their early teens, who were trafficked and forced to work in a Durban brothel, will be heard in the high court in Durban.

“We might think this is a once off — but in our view it is the tip of the iceberg,” says Dafel.

She believes that the new Human Trafficking Act, being promulgated through Parliament, cannot come soon enough.

“It was always thought that sexual exploitation was what human trafficking was about.

“But there is a far wider network of exploitation. People are also trafficked for other reasons such as street begging, cheap labour, child soldiers, etc.

“Who is putting them there, who collects their day’s takings? That’s what we need to know.”

The trafficking of people for body organs and illegal adoptions are also on the watch list.

“We need people — the you and I of this world — to be our eyes and ears. I believe we can get it under control as long as we have the passion and dedication to do so.”

SIDEBAR

Warning Signs

Spotting a sex trafficker while you’re trying to find a special someone can be a hard ask but here are some signs to look out for:

Instant Love - If he’s professing his undying love within a few days of knowing you, there’s more than one reason to think there might be something wrong here. The first step to trapping their potential victim is to get her emotionally involved.

Job Promises - This is the most common bait sex traffickers use. They will usually promise you a job, tell you to come to a different country where you can work (often as a waitress), promise you big money and the like. But when you reach the other country, there’s no job waiting for you and most often these sex traffickers use the promise of a job to trick and coerce women into prostitution.

Willingness to Pay - There are a number of men out there who are genuinely willing to sponsor their girlfriend to be able to visit them. While most men are legitimate, there are some who use this as a ploy and girls are often forced into prostitution and subsequently made to “pay off the debt”. For example, if you have only been chatting with them for a few days and they are offering to pay for everything already, it could be dodgy.

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