With the recent Joslin Smith-case gaining widespread media attention, child trafficking in South Africa was once again thrust into the media spotlight. The plight of this little girl gripped the attention of the nation and highlighted the vulnerability of children in South Africa.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, No. 7 of 2013 (PACOTIP) criminalises human trafficking in South Africa, prescribing penalties of up to life imprisonment. This Act along with regulatory frameworks and standard operating procedures aim to provide a foundation for an effective response to human trafficking within the South Africa context. But how prevalent is child trafficking in South Africa and what is the progress in terms of the implementation of the Act after coming into effect on 9 August 2015?

Although reliable data on the scope, nature and prevalence of child trafficking in South Africa is still to a large extent lacking, this hideous crime remains a concern. One of the biggest challenges is that service providers are not always sufficiently trained in identifying potential child trafficking cases and may confuse child trafficking with other crimes such as smuggling of migrants or statutory rape. Child trafficking is complex in nature and may include elements such as rape or transporting children from one place to another. However, this is not necessarily true for all child trafficking cases.

Child trafficking 1 includes any one or combination of the following eleven acts for the purpose of exploiting a child within or across a border: delivers, recruits, transports, transfers, harbours, sells, receives, exchanges, leases, adopts or forces into marriage. Examples of child trafficking include slavery, sexual exploitation, child labour or servitude, removal of organs and the impregnation of a female against her will. It also includes ‘ukuthwala’ (child marriage).

Although we still have a long way to go in terms of effective implementation, the good news is that various counter trafficking civil society organisations together with government departments are increasingly taking hands to collaborate. These different task teams and forums play an important role in tackling human trafficking challenges head-on.

One such forum is the Western Cape Counter Child Trafficking Forum consisting of various counter trafficking non-profit organisations and government departments. This forum’s main goal is to collaborate on the prevention and response related to child trafficking in the Western Cape. This forum works very closely with the National Freedom Network and provides support to the Western Cape Provincial Task Team. Some of the activities of the forum include working on a gap analysis, advancing training and resources, providing feedback on counter child trafficking projects, compiling service directories and gathering awareness campaign information.

A main focus of this forum is to highlight awareness on child trafficking as well as to strengthen an integrated response to child trafficking cases in the Western Cape. The members of this forum all agree that equipping communities and role-players with essential knowledge, resources and tools to identify and report child trafficking is essential in winning this challenging fight.

We are therefore grateful for the National Freedom’s Network 2 online platform that hosts a wealth of articles, webinars and networking opportunities to advance the counter trafficking cause. A21 provides great educational resources 3 and manages the South African hotline 4 where suspicious behaviour related to potential human trafficking can be reported. Free to Fly 5 facilitates vital awareness campaigns and shares insightful podcasts on their website, while the Freedom Ports Alliance 6 plays an important training role at airports and ports. Missing Children SA 7 plays an invaluable role in responding to missing children, while Ezrah CTD 8 also shares important child protection and child trafficking resources on its resource page. These are just a few examples of the many role-players who work together to create awareness on human trafficking and to strengthen an integrated response to child trafficking specifically.

Community members and role-players who are interested to learn more about child trafficking resources are invited to visit the websites of these impactful organisations. For together, we can create safer, empowered communities where children matter.

South African human trafficking hotline number: 0800 222 777 or https://0800222777.org.za/.

1. Standard Operating Procedure for Integrated Assistance to Victims of Trafficking: South Africa (2020), p. 25.
2. https://nfn.org.za/
3. https://www.a21.org/content/education/
4. https://0800222777.org.za/ or 0800 222 777
5. https://www.freetofly.org.za/podcast/
6. https://freedomportsalliance.com/
7. https://missingchildren.org.za/
8. https://www.ezrah.co.za/child-protection-resources/

Article written by Mariëtte Jacobs (MD of Ezrah Community Training and Development NPC /Secretary of the Western Cape Counter Child Trafficking Forum)