Description:  Keywords: combating of human trafficking

Representatives of the US Embassy in South Africa and other stakeholders gathered at the UFS in November 2014 to discuss the combating of human trafficking. Here are, from the left: San Reddy and Chad Wessen from the US Embassy; Prof Beatri Kruger; and Palesa Mafisa, Chairperson of Kovsie NFN (National Freedom Network).

Concealment of human trafficking a challenge

“Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar ‘business’ with daunting challenges because of the uniqueness and complexities of this crime,” says Prof Beatri Kruger, ex-prosecutor and lecturer in Criminal Law in the Faculty of Law.

Human trafficking is the wheeling and dealing in human beings. This contemporary form of slavery is hidden and disguised – people are used and abused; they are bought and sold as mere commodities.

Human trafficking is Prof Kruger’s main field of research, and is done from a criminal law perspective: how traffickers can be prosecuted effectively and thus realise justice for their exploited victims. Her doctoral studies concentrated on whether South Africa’s legal response to combat human trafficking complies with international standards as set out in the United Nations Trafficking Protocol of 2000 and other relevant international treaties. This research is ongoing.

Since the completion of her doctoral studies, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 has been passed in Parliament, but it is still not in operation. It means South Africa is still a long way from complying with the UN protocol. A delegation from the US Embassy in South Africa visited Bloemfontein in November 2014 to gain information for the US Department of State’s comprehensive 2015 report on trafficking in persons.

Prof Kruger’s current research focuses on issues such as the new legislation. Research is also under way with other national and international stakeholders. One topic deals with how traffickers control their victims. This research enhances the understanding of why victims often do not seek help; do not want to be 'rescue"; and why they return to the very traffickers who have brutally exploited them.

According to Prof Kruger, the main aim of human trafficking is to generate exorbitant illegal profits by exploiting trafficked persons. Defiant victims are difficult to exploit and obstruct the purpose of the trafficking enterprise. For this reason, traffickers use any method to control victims and keep them compliant at all costs.

The control methods include violent assaults and sexual abuse. Victims are also controlled by using non-violent techniques such as financial control by means of debt bondage, the confiscation of their identity and travel documents, the creation of drug dependence, relationship control, and voodoo or juju rituals.

Prof Kruger says research has found that traffickers use a blend of control measures. Factors such as the type of trafficking, the stage of the trafficking process and especially the specific victim are taken into consideration. Traffickers want to keep victims trapped and powerless so that the illegal proceeds from their exploitation can continue.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime and victims seldom report it because they fear reprisals by their traffickers. For this reason, there are no exact, reliable statistics on the scope of the offence worldwide and in South Africa. “However, human trafficking is a reality in South Africa. A number of traffickers have been convicted and lengthy sentences of up to life imprisonment have been imposed.”

The recently released Global Slavery Index 2014 estimates that 36 million people are living as slaves worldwide and that 106 000 of them are in South Africa. This report states that 'modern slavery' includes human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage', and the sale of children. The International Labour Organisation estimates the illicit profits of forced labour to be US $150 billion a year.


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