Fear that children would fall victim to human trafficking and sexual exploitation during the 2010 World Cup was not unfounded, according to children’s rights organisation Molo Songololo.
Patric Solomons, Director of Molo Songololo, says: “Child trafficking statistics are extremely difficult to quantify. Trafficking is usually, like rape, discovered long after it took place because victims do not know where to turn, and like most rape victims, not all trafficking victims come forward to report.”
“Police had a very strong no-tolerance approach around the venues and fan parks, but it would be naïve to say that crime did not happen,” says Solomons.
Biggest threat may have been in local communities
Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking activist Lisa Thompson explained that major sporting events such as the World Cup create a predominantly male influx of tourists with a growing demand for cheap sex, be it from women or children.
It is sobering to consider that the biggest threat to children may well have been in local communities where youngsters were often left unsupervised during the extended school holiday, while the country was focused on entertaining the masses.
On the upside, Molo has recognized an increase in identification and reporting of trafficking in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, there is no way of telling whether this crime has increased during the World Cup or not because no monitoring mechanisms are in place as yet.
A few cases are being investigated by police, and raids were performed to combat trafficking. But it is difficult to tell whether individual incidents were related to trafficking during the World Cup. And this highlights the challenge the justice system faces when attempting to prove a trafficking case.
Government originally responded to the crime in 2003 by implementing the human trafficking inter-sectoral task team, which is located within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and chaired by Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA).
Molo provides ongoing counseling for victims of trafficking, the child as well as the family - through therapeutic healing, behaviour modification and integration back into society. The organisation also makes sure victims receive adequate health care as well as linking them to NGOs which will place them into a place of safety.
Victims had no control over when to sleep or eat
“These victims often had no control over basic daily decisions such as when to sleep, eat or bathe. They endured physical violence, repeated rape, torture, forced drug use, forced abortions and psychological manipulation. These children risk contracting HIV and Aids. They are in dire need of therapy, both physical and emotional, because the traumatic experience damages the well-being of the child," says Solomons.
The Trafficking in Persons Bill sits before the parliamentary portfolio committee, while local NGOs are in the last stage of submission for changes to the proposed bill. “The challenge here is that decision-making is very long, not all departments are working together. This has been a ten-year process, and whilst the costing has not been covered in the proposed TIP bill, we are well on our way” says Solomons.
Alternatively, child traffickers can be charged under the Constitution, Children’s Act, the Sexual Offences Amendment Act, and the Film & Publication’s Act. Because it is a complex crime to prove, perpetrators can be charged with offences ranging from abduction, kidnapping, confinement, rape, sexual exploitation, prostitution, child pornography falsification, concealment, destruction and confiscation of travel documents.
People in the know and those involved in facilitating the crime can also be charged. The court can order compensation from the trafficker to cover the cost of treatment of the victim and conviction carries up to life imprisonment with or without a fine.
(Health24, Zaakirah Rossier/ August 2010)