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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

2013 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Africa

An in-depth  report titled  '2013 Trafficking in Persons Report' produced by the United States Department of States focuses on victim identification as a top priority in the global movement to combat trafficking in persons. It details training and techniques that make identification efforts successful, as well as the pitfalls of inadequate identification. It also highlights new innovations and partnerships within and beyond government that will enhance identification efforts. If successfully implemented, these innovations will enable more effective delivery of services to survivors and an accumulation and analysis of data to improve the overall response to trafficking.

In terms of TIER guide lines mentioned in the report, South Africa is placed under TIER 2. These are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themeselves into compliance with those standards.

It is reported that South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South African citizens and foreign nationals are subjected to human trafficking within the country. Children are trafficked mainly within the country, from poor rural areas to urban centers, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude; boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. The tradition of ukuthwala, the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is still practiced in some remote villages in Eastern and Western Cape provinces, leaving these girls vulnerable to forced labor and prostitution. Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex trade in Hillbrow and other areas, though local criminal rings and street gangs also organize child prostitution; Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates operate in the Cape Town sex trade, and Chinese nationals coordinate the sex trafficking of Asian nationals. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit and transport South African women to Europe and the Middle East, where some are forced into prostitution or domestic service. Traffickers control victims through intimidation and threats, including witchcraft, use of force, withholding of passports, debt bondage, and forced use of drugs and alcohol. In 2012, South African trafficking victims were identified in Brazil; in addition, four South African women reported being forced to serve as drug mules to Bangladesh or Thailand via Brazil. In 2012, Namibian authorities apprehended a child sex tourist from South Africa.

Recommendations for South Africa: Enact and implement the anti-trafficking bill; continue to increase awareness among all levels of government officials as to their responsibilities under the anti-trafficking provisions of the Sexual Offenses and Children’s Amendment Acts; more effectively utilize financial resources for anti-trafficking programs and personnel; prosecute employers who use forced labor, and ensure that labor trafficking victims are not charged with immigration violations by screening all deportees for victimization; ensure officials adequately screen for victims amongst other vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution; replicate the coordinated anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim referral mechanisms of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Western Cape in all provinces; ensure translators are available to assist victims in obtaining care, cooperating with law enforcement, and testifying in court; investigate and prosecute officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking; and institute formal procedures to compile national statistics on trafficking cases prosecuted and victims assisted, as is done for other crimes.

United States Department of State, 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Africa, 19 June 2013, available at: [accessed 10 June 2014]