A new report released in Johannesburg on Wednesday has called for regional action to halt the growing traffic in children for sexual exploitation.
The report, compiled by ‘Molo Songololo’, a NGO campaigning for the rights of children, highlights the fact that growing numbers of children, particularly from Angola and Mozambique, end up as prostitutes on the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Children are also being lured and coerced from as far afield as Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to South Africa, the report said.
Launching the report, Zurayah Abass, director of Molo Songololo said:
“Trafficking of women and children into forced prostitution has now become the third largest source of profits for organised crime after drugs and guns.” Abass added that estimates suggest about three million people are trafficked worldwide annually.
The report suggests the regional trade in children is highly organised with Angolan, Congolese and Nigerian syndicates responsible for much of it. Various methods are used, some children are sold, sometimes with parental consent, some are abducted and others are debt-bonded to the gangs. Along with cross-border trafficking, the report said a growing percentage of South Africa’s 17 million children are being trafficked for sex from poor rural to wealthy urban parts of the country.
The report highlights the fact that the traffic in children for sex is fuelled by poverty in countries like Angola and Mozambique. Other factors, like the mistaken belief that having sex with a child will cure HIV infection, are also responsible for growth in the trade.
Typically, trafficked children are held captive on arrival in South Africa, some are physically or sexually abused before being set to work as prostitutes in clubs, bars, hotels or on the streets. Other children are forced into pornography and so-called “snuff” movies in which the murder of child is captured on video or film. The report said that while there are no accurate figures, there may be as many as 38,000 children being systematically sexually exploited in South Africa.
Pointing out that South Africa currently has no legislation prohibiting the trafficking of people, Molo Songololo’s report calls for new laws allowing for the arrest, prosecution and conviction of traffickers and sex exploiters.
Speaking at Wednesdays launch, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluve, Director of the National Programme of Action for Children in the Presidency said that the government is seeking to de-criminalise adult sex work whilst putting more resources into eradicating child prostitution. “I know of seven-year-olds who have died of AIDS contracted through sex. What is happening to kids is shameful and government is committed to eradicating it,” she said.
“There’s an immediate need for the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Justice to set up specialised units to increase detection and prosecution,” the report said. It also called for restorative justice for victims and the confiscation of the assets of traffickers and brothel owners. Acknowledging that without the demand, trafficking in children for sex would dwindle, the report wants sex exploiters to be given heavier sentences and for such people to be monitored and listed. Advocating a regional response to the problem, Abass said: “We need to deal with this as the SADC region, and stop this movement of children for sex across local borders, we’ll be looking at this aspect in a workshop next year.”
For more details, or for a copy of the report ‘The Trafficking of Children for Purposes of Sexual Exploitation - South Africa’ Molo Songololo can be contacted by e-mail at: [email protected].
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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