Sex Trafficking in South Africa
It’s estimated that 248,700 people are enslaved in some way in South Africa, or about 0.45% of the total population, according to Global Slavery Index 2016. While the percentage seems small, it’s more than the total population for cities like Reno, Nevada and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s more than double the total population for the capital of Illinois, according to Wikipedia. Yes, it’s a relatively small percentage of South Africa’s population but a quarter of a million people enslaved in modern times within a single country is a big problem.
While many of the estimated 248,700 people are enslaved for their forced labor, including child labor, an estimated 10,600 women are victims of forced marriage, according to Global Slavery Index 2016
. Forced marriage, including child marriage, seem to be pretty widespread issue in South Africa. Most of the information I could find focused on forced marriage in South Africa rather than sex trafficking overall.
Over 91,000 females between the ages of 12 and 17 either are or have been married in South Africa, according to Sedibeng Ster
. How many of the 91,000 females are classified as child brides, or victims of forced marriage, is unclear. The legal marital age in South Africa is 15 for girls and 18 for boys, but they may be allowed to marry at an earlier age with consent from a public official, according to Girls Not Brides
. As the diagram above outlines, around 6% of South African girls marry before they’re 18 years old. While that percentage is much smaller than the majority of African countries, it’s still almost 2% higher than the United States overall but lower than West Virginia’s 7.1%, according to Pew Research Center
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
include several goals that include clauses aimed at eliminating human trafficking, especially sex trafficking. Goal number 4 (quality education), goal number 5 (gender equality), and goal number 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) are all aimed at keeping boys and girls in school and promoting equality, which the UN hopes better educations and a more equal society will cause human trafficking to decrease. I believe that part of the reason South Africa’s percentage of forced marriage, as well as human trafficking overall, is lower than the majority of African countries is because they follow some of the UN’s goals as well as have several laws in place to discourage human trafficking.
The South African Constitution of 1996 makes all forms of slavery illegal. The Children’s Act of 2005 and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2007 offer specific protection for against child trafficking and sexual exploitation, according to the U. S.’s State Department’s annual report
. South Africa also established a Trafficking Desk within its Organized Crime Unit, and the National Prosecution Service’s Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit works to prevent sexual offenses by prosecuting traffickers.
The South African government, as well as NGOs and international organizations, offer support to trafficking victims through psychosocial support, medical support, and providing shelter or housing, according to U. S.’s State Department’s annual report
. Considering South Africa’s percentage of forced marriage compared to other African countries, I would argue that South Africa is making strides to limit human trafficking. Like most countries, it still has large numbers of people being trafficked and exploited, but it has seemingly effective laws in place to help limit that number.
I believe the best ways to combat human trafficking is to have numerous laws in place to protect those most vulnerable to human trafficking, have agencies heavily enforce those laws, promote education, and encourage South Africans to look down on child marriages, child labor, paying for sex, and mistreating employees as well as other forms of human trafficking. If society as a whole is against forms of human trafficking, its more likely to be reported and prosecuted. I don’t think South Africa, or any country, will ever completely eliminate all forms of human trafficking. But, I think every person who is saved from human trafficking is a win for humanity.