The dark side of the World Cup

2010-03-10 00:00

AS reality sets in and the noise about the hoped- for, but not-realised economic benefits of the Soccer World Cup fades, other voices are getting a chance to be heard. They include the voices of authorities, churches, NGOs and other civil society groups that are concerned about the potential danger posed by the event, particularly to women and children.

Their unease is not fuelled, as some may assume, by urban­ legend and over-anxious, fearful parents and do- gooders, but by documented research.

A survey on the 2006 World Cup in Germany­ showed an increase in the sex trade and in sexual exploitation around that event. Research on the 2004 Athens Olympics in Greece also indicated an increase in the number of people who were trafficked for sexual exploitation, mostly women and children­.

A spokeswoman for the reg­ional office of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that there is “a lot of hearsay about women having already arrived and being kept ‘underground’ until the World Cup. However, there is no conclusive proof of this as yet and nothing concrete” to show that trafficking activity has increased in this province ahead of the World Cup.

She said that it is certainly not urban legend that the World Cup poses a threat to local children “… when you look at the number of missing children we already have on the SAPS database. Many children have become vulnerable as a result of the death of their parents due to Aids. There are many Aids orphans and child-headed households in South Africa. We need to be aware that sex traffickers and paedophiles will be coming in as tourists and visitors, and will target children who are most vulnerable because of poverty and homelessness. Parents also need to be aware that such people also visit affluent areas that children frequent, such as malls.”

A SAPS spokesperson said: “We want to be proactive and reactive so our approach is multisectoral as the crime is dynamic and investigations require this approach. Both conventional and unconventional methods are being used.”

That multisectoral approach is the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Intersectoral Task Team on Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothels (HPPB). It comprises law enforcement, prosecution, immigration and NGOs that focus on human trafficking matters.

This team is responsible for all investigations and prosecutions associated with human trafficking. “Once a case has been identified, the first step is to determine where the victims are kept as rescue of victims is a priority. Plans are subsequently made for undercover operations, further investigations, surveillance and observation to be done until victims are rescued and the perpetrators arrested,” the spokesperson said.

The NPA spokeswoman said that the variety­ of nationalities of people rescued suggests that southern Africa is a significant hub for global human trafficking operations and that South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for:

• Women and girls trafficked internally and occasionally onwards to Asian countries for sexual exploitation.

• Chinese, Thai and Eastern European women trafficked into SA for debt-bonded sexual exploitation.

• Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, as well as refugee-producing countries, such as Angola, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are source countries for women and children trafficked into SA.

• Men and boys from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe trafficked into SA for forced labour, particularly agricultural labour.

The routes traffickers use into and out of the country reportedly change regularly depending on detection, which borders are more porous or easier to obtain a visa for. Asked where victims are taken, the NPA spokeswoman said: “Victims are kept in brothels, private houses, and mining compounds, and often rotated between different venues. Some are forced into other criminal activities like smuggling and the drug trade.

“Many are physically and/or emotionally abused, and drugs play an important role in keeping victims under control. Many women are forced into debt bondage for three to six months to repay R50 000 to R60 000 to the agents who brought them here. Many victims are threatened with death and police arrest or reprisals against family members, all of which keep them trapped and compliant.”

According to the International Organisation for Migration, (IOM), South Africa is regarded as the main country of destination for trafficked people in the region. In many cases, women and children are reportedly lured to SA with promises of jobs, education or marriage, only to be sold and sexually exploited in the country’s major urban centres or in small towns and more rural environments.

“With regard to the World Cup, while we don’t rule out the possibility of trafficking, we remain mindful, having worked in preparation for other such events, that there is no empirical evidence linking an increase in trafficking with such events. They differ from disaster situations caused by earthquakes, floods and the like, where trafficking has been seen to increase because the normal protection mechanisms break down, including household, community, village­ and district. Nonetheless, we consider it important to create awareness and remain vigilant on trafficking,” said an IOM spokesperson.

She said human trafficking remains a largely clandestine activity that is perpetrated by criminal groups, which contributes to the difficulty of finding reliable statistics on trafficking in southern Africa.

“While we help those victims who are detected, large numbers fall through the cracks because they have not been detected­ or have not managed to escape, also contributing to the lack of hard statistics.”

ONE indication of trafficking routes and trends in the region is through assistance to trafficking victims. International Organisation on Migration (IOM) has identified and assisted about 300 victims. These victims have come from many parts of Africa, as well as from Asia and Europe. The Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme has also assisted people who have been trafficked to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The programme has established a regional network of service providers able to offer secure accommodation, medical assistance, counselling, legal assistance and skills training to beneficiaries. It is also able to provide an option of assisted voluntary return to their home countries, and reception and/or reintegration assistance upon arrival. In keeping with the global trend, IOM continues to address the problem of human trafficking in the region. It is working with SADC countries to develop a set of recommendations for developing legislative responses to human trafficking. —

HUMAN trafficking or trafficking in persons (Tip) is a form of modern-day slavery. There are different interpretations of it, but the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in people, especially women and children, was adopted in 2000 in Palermo Italy. It defines Tip as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people by means of the threat or use of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the use of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.

UN statistics show that it is the third largest criminal industry in the world, outranked only by arms and drug dealing.

“Some 600 000 to 800 000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year and about 12 million people worldwide are enslaved. About 80% are women and girls and 50% are minors.”

Although it occurs in a variety of ways, trafficking often occurs in three phases — recruitment, mobilisation and exploitation

Recruitment can take place in a variety of ways, for example, by means of a threat of harm, the threat or use of force, intimidation or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or false pretences.

Traffickers will usually transport victims from one place to another or one country to another because at the destination victims may be easier to exploit because they are alone and/or unfamiliar with their surroundings, they are unable to speak the local language, they are not able to contact their families or they don’t know where to go for help.

People can be trafficked for a variety of reasons — sexual exploitation (streets, bars, brothels, massage parlors or escort agencies), forced labour (farms or sweatshops), domestic servitude, street begging or peddling, forced military service or for organ removals.

Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. However, traffickers and recruiters tend to target people who are vulnerable because of poverty, unemployment or low education and lack of skills, ie. people who are looking for a better life.

Trafficking in children. An NPA spokesperson said that parents should be very cautious about allowing their children to travel on their own with no adult supervision. Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market demand for young victims.

The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14, and traffickers are known to recruit at schools and after-school programmes. — NPA and Molo Songololo.

THE National Prosecuting Authority and the SAPS said that creating public awareness of human trafficking is essential to help combat it. Brothels are spilling over into suburban residential areas, so they advised residents to look out for the following signs in suspected victims:

• evidence of being controlled;

• evidence of inability to move or leave job;

• bruises or other signs of physical abuse;

• fear or depression;

• not speaking on own behalf and/or non-English speaking;

• no passport or other form of identification;

• hungry, malnourished or inappropriately dressed for local weather conditions;

• signs of drug addiction;

• demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behaviour, or material possessions e.g. has expensive items;

• makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms;

• has a much older “boyfriend” (10 years older or more); and

• suddenly has new, older friends.

Report any suspicion, no matter how minor you may regard it to be, to the SAPS and the task team, and be sure to follow up on it.

• Contact your local police station or radio control — 10111.

• Crime Stop — 086001011.

• International Organisation for Migration SADC region including SA: 080 055 5999; Zimbabwe: 080 0322 2222; Zambia: 990.

AMONG the concerned voices growing louder are organisations that work with vulnerable children. They are expressing concern about the number of children who could be left unsupervised during the June school holidays.

“With safe places for children largely unavailable, especially in less privileged areas, there is particular reason for concern about what children will be doing when schools are closed,” said Janet Prest- Talbot from the Children’s Rights Centre in Durban.

The NPA spokesperson said: “One of the initiatives of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Intersectoral Task Team on Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothels (HPPB) is to get teachers and parents who are on holiday during that period to assist in conducting activities or programmes at schools with children in their areas. This, hopefully, will assist in keeping unaccompanied children away from the major areas and streets.

“I personally believe they [civil society and communities] should be [involved] as children ultimately are the responsibility of families or parents. Communities can come up with innovative ideas on how to keep the children in their areas safe. They can also do this in conjunction with the Rotary in their areas, religious organisations, schools and community policing forums.”

The Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban is running a programme to raise awareness about trafficking in persons (Tip) and trafficking in children (Tic) among its members. A spokesperson said: “One of the aims of the seminars for clergy is to train people to run holiday clubs in local churches to protect children from unscrupulous syndicates of human trafficking.”

IN its assessment of the impact of the World Cup on children, Cape Town children’s NGO Molo Songololo found that “the sort-after global event will create conditions that will fuel and increase the demand for, and supply of, sexual services, and put children at risk of being sexually exploited.”

It also alleges that brothels, gangs, pimps, individuals, family members and even children are recruiting teenagers, mainly girls, to meet the perceived demands for sexual services during the World Cup.

The organisation said that it had received reports of children being prostituted in Cape Town and surrounding areas on the streets and open spaces, in bars, taverns and shebeens, as well as private homes.

The organisation has worked with sexually exploited children for more than 10 years. Its experience indicates that children are sexually exploited in various ways and in different settings and thus will be at risk during the World Cup of being prostituted, used in pornography, targeted in child sex tourism as partners for older men and women during their stay in the country, groomed and used as sex partners for local men and women or sugar daddies and mommies or engaging in exploitative sexual relationships with men they know, including married men, groups of men or gangsters at home and in their own communities. — Molo Songololo.

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