Sex slave epidemic hits EC

November 21, 2008

Sex slave epidemic hits EC

Despatch On-line

THE Eastern Cape is at the centre of a human trafficking epidemic. Hundreds of children are being plucked from the safety of their homes in what has been dubbed the 21st century version of slavery.

Human rights activists this week said they feared that things could escalate as the 2010 World Cup being hosted in this country drew near, when the demand for sex workers increased to service visitors.

These were some of the findings of a United States Agency for International Development- funded report, which found that West African organised crime syndicates were operating in this province. These syndicates were found to be trafficking local girls, young and older, into commercial sexual exploitation in other parts of the country.

�Black and coloured girls, aged between 18 and 21, are being lured from their homes mainly for prostitution, but also to be used as cheap domestic labour,� the report said.

The report, titled No Experience Necessary: The Internal Trafficking of Persons in South Africa, was the result of a six-month International Organisation for Migration survey conducted from March to September throughout South Africa. The survey sought to link internal trafficking in the country to commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour and the removal of organs.

�The province of origin for victims most frequently noted was the Eastern Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, Northwest Province, Limpopo and the Northern Cape,� the report read. This week, organisations involved in investigating cases and providing therapy for victims confirmed to the Saturday Dispatch that human trafficking was rife in the Eastern Cape.

Pink Ladies, a national organisation of volunteers who assist in the search for missing people, said they had over the last 18 months been working with girls trafficked into or out of the Eastern Cape.

The organisation�s director and founder, Gran Dessie, said they were currently hot on the trail of a Port Elizabeth teenager who was snatched off the beach and taken to Cape Town and then Bloemfontein.

�Foreign nationals are targeting young girls and boys, stopping at nothing to feed their ever-growing money-making business of human trafficking,� she said.

The Cape Town-based Activists Network Against the Exploitation of Children Domestic Workers recently intercepted the trafficking of two Eastern Cape girls who were in transit to other parts of the country, or even abroad.

�We are still investigating their cases and cannot say for sure where they were headed,� said an official who did not want to be named.

East London social worker and councillor Renette Jarman said she was aware that human traffickers were targeting the province, taking girls, boys and, in some cases, the whole family. �They offer a man and his wife jobs and offer to transport and accommodate their children, too,� she said.

But once they reach their destination, terms change and they get exploited. The victims are passed from area to area by relay, but the victims never see the trafficker. �They offer money, jobs and a better life, creating a bond of debt from which victims never recover,� Jarman said.

Living Waters, where Jarman works, recently housed and provided therapy for a 20-year-old girl who had spent a year working as a prostitute in Quigney, East London.

The girl, Jarman said, eventually escaped after working for nothing more than a daily fix of drugs and food.

�She left to go in search of her family,� said Jarman. – By NTANDO MAKHUBU

Despatch On-line 10 Nov 2008

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