Human Trafficking FAQs


What is human trafficking?

The South African definition, in line with the international standard established in the UN Trafficking Protocol requires the three elements of mobilization (action), means (method) and exploitation (purpose). In layman's terms it is modern day slavery - the buying and selling of people with the intent to exploit them. NB: Transportation does NOT have to happen for it to legally be defined as a trafficking case - just as long as one of the other mobilization elements are present e.g. recruitment, transfer, harbouring etc.

Human trafficking is a crime in which men, women, teenagers and children are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sex.

What are the types of trafficking?

Forced into the sex industry; forced labour; forced drug mules; forced begging; organ & body part trafficking; forced marriage; domestic servitude. Any form of exploitation suffices as a "type of trafficking" - thus complying with the third component namely that the prohibited action must be done by any of the listed means for the "purpose of exploitation" - thus the purpose to exploit also include exploitation of another person for child adoption; camel jockeys; drug trafficking; shoplifting or other forms of crime, etc. In other words, new forms of trafficking may continuously develop as traffickers find new forms of exploitation.

How are victims recruited and controlled?

Traffickers approach potential victims in a variety of manners including:
• direct contact with the person • direct contact with family and relatives • an agent scouts for potential victims, sometimes representing themselves as a potential sponsor or love interest • misleading advertisements promising jobs and opportunities • contact on the internet • lover-boy recruitment

More abusive methods are also used and range from:
• coerced compliance • extortion • kidnapping • servitude • violence, including physical and emotional abuse

Where is it most prevalent?

It happens all over; from rural areas to towns to cities; from the "dodgy" suburbs to the “well-off” areas. It can happen anywhere, to anyone, by anyone!
Victims may be found anywhere. Some basic examples include:
• nightclubs/bars • modelling studios • hospitals • escort services • massage parlours • shelters • private residences • internet
Forced labour victims can also be found anywhere. Some basic examples include:
• non-unionized industries • restaurants • commercial agriculture sites • construction sites • domestic servitude
Human trafficking may occur locally or domestically, without any movement, such as within the same city. In international cases, victims may be transported by plane, boat, train or any type of vehicle, and often a

combination of them, using genuine and/or fraudulent documents that are usually removed from them upon arrival at their destination. Victims may be isolated and/or taken to illicit businesses where they may be subjected to physical and sexual abuse and concealment. They may be forced to perform a variety of services including working in the sex trade, factories, restaurants, agriculture, or providing domestic work.
What is the scope of human trafficking in South Africa?
South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Human trafficking also occurs within the borders of the country eg from one province or city to another. The extent of human trafficking is difficult to assess due to the nature of these offences, the reluctance of victims/witnesses to come forward to law enforcement and the difficulty in distinguishing between human trafficking victims and illegal migrants.
Who are most vulnerable and why?

Anyone can be trafficked - it depends on who the traffickers need and what for. But more vulnerable groups include: • Children • Young girls without father figures / good male role models - makes them easy targets for the "lover boys" • Girls/women subjected to distorted forms of ukuthwala • Young runaways with no solid family or support structure • Job seekers - false job offers often used as a lure • Young soccer players with dreams of playing in an official team - often used as a lure • Young girls with hopes of getting into the movie / acting / modelling industries - often used as a lure • Drug addicts - easier to control and manipulate • Women - less work opportunities than men, often single parents and responsible for bringing up children without support, some cultures in South Africa resist educating the girl child.

How would I recognize a victim?

There are very few clear black and white indicators of human trafficking and often are a combination of signs.
• They may be controlled or intimidated by someone else (i.e. being escorted or watched). • They may not speak on their own behalf and may not speak English. Answers appear scripted or rehearsed. • They may not have a passport or other I.D. • They may be new in the country and not be familiar with the neighbourhood they live/work in. They may be vague with inconsistent details when telling their story. • They may be moved frequently by their traffickers. • Poor living conditions. • They may have injuries/bruises from beatings and/or weapons. They are reluctant to explain untreated injuries. • They may show visible signs of torture i.e. cigarette burns, cuts. • They may show visible signs of branding or scarring (indicating ownership by the trafficker). • They may show signs of malnourishment. • They may express fear and intimidation through facial expressions and/or body language. Seems anxious, fearful or paranoid. Avoids eye contact. • They may be in debt to someone. • Children may be accompanied by an unrelated adult. • Children in providing commercial sex acts / prostitution. • They may appear submissive, showing signs of fear, depression and/or extreme nervousness. • Drug addiction. • Unpaid or paid very little. • Stockholm syndrome • The following health issues may be evident: malnourishment, dental pain, fatigue, non-specific symptoms of PTSD, symptoms of psychiatric and psychological distress, back or stomach pain, skin problems, headaches and dizzy spells.

What are some root causes in SA?

There are no root causes. If poverty, for example, was the cause of trafficking, then every poor person would be trafficked. There are conditions and risk factors which create an environment which makes it more likely that a trafficker would be able to traffick a person. Examples: • A person living in a poor family and community are more likely to feel pressured to take any job offer to provide for the whole family. A trafficker will be aware and exploit the pressure and desire for work. • A teenager dreaming of a glamorous life are likely to hang out in more progressive clubs/taverns where they have seen men with smart cars go. This is also where traffickers would be trawling for these vulnerable teenagers. • Impunity is globally recognised as a contributor to trafficking activities. • Corruption has been highlighted in more recent literature as a prominent contributor to the ease with which TIP can take place i.e. corruption in the countries of origin, transit, and destination. • Pornography has contributed to the objectification of people which is a prominent aspect in sexual exploitation. Sex, as an entertainment industry, could be also regarded as a contributor to an environment in which sex-providers are regarded as commodities. • Traffickers "sell a dream of a better life" to victims - most people have dreams of a better life - thus all people have some vulnerability which traffickers exploit • Poorly addressed issues of the crime of prostitution and running of brothels.

Conditions or risk factors around the world are: • Poverty and unemployment • Cultural practices • Gender inequalities • Organised crime • Global demand for cheap labour • Political instability • Humanitarian Crises • Migration and Refugees • Weak social and economic structures • Absence of legal framework

What contributes to the increase?

This is a difficult question to answer and we have not yet found any resource that answers this question well. It seems to be on the rise, but I suspect that a lot of the recent surge in numbers of victims, identification of trafficking rings, and prosecution of perpetrators is due to our increased awareness and counter-trafficking efforts. However, we do think that increased globalization of our world has created opportunities for traffickers to operate and there may be more of this kind of evil internationally. Even so, we believe that human slavery has continued to exist relatively unimpeded in much of the world since humans populated the earth. How efficient is the Act?

The Act has some of the harshest penalties for trafficking in the world! The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013 fundamentally complies with key international obligations laid down in the Trafficking Protocol and the parent convention, Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The South African Act contains the following crucial provisions: 1. All forms of human trafficking concerning all victims, irrespective of age or sex, are criminalised. 2. Human trafficking is comprehensively defined in line with the definition in the Trafficking Protocol: 3 components of action + means + exploitative purpose must be present to secure a conviction of adult trafficking while for child trafficking the means element is waived. 3. Consent by the victim - whether the victim is an adult or a child - is irrelevant and can never be raised as a valid defence by the trafficker 4. Stringent deterrent penalties may be imposed of up to life imprisonment or R 100 million or both following a conviction trafficking. 5. Other related offences also established in the Trafficking Act to ensure that various persons playing a part in the trafficking process can be prosecuted as well e.g. people who finance the crime; confiscate victims' travel documents, causes debt bondage; persons who knowingly uses the services of trafficked victims (johns, demand side) conduct facilitating trafficking, etc 6. Comprehensive provisions concerning victims of trafficking: protection and assistance (health care); accredited shelters; victims may not be prosecuted for crimes that is a direct result of them being trafficked


The average South African doesn't know what trafficking is or they think it is only sex trafficking. They don't realise that it is something happening here in our own country. Government and Civil Society Organisation working together to make a different. Difficult to have so many different role players - each with different agendas - that all need to be on the same page.

Solutions and recommendations?

Awareness, awareness, awareness! Prevention – border control Dedicated police teams to deal with and investigate this crime Ideal: safe houses specifically for trafficked victims End impunity of all trafficking agents by enforcing the new comprehensive Trafficking Act.

Where can I find more information on human trafficking in South Africa? For more information, visit
How can I help?
If you or someone you know is being exploited, contact your local police station.
If you or someone you know needs help, speak to a trusted adult (family member, teacher or school counsellor), or contact the toll free hotlines
0800 222 777 and 0800 073 728.
Remember, do not take the law into your own hands or get involved in any illegal activities.

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa - 021-689-4481 -
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