‘I Am Not for Sale’

A look at sex traf­fick­ing in South Africa

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY ZAMAHLASELA GABELA

That was the thought that ran through Chrisna Ju­nius’s mind the day be­fore her es­cape from a sex-traf­fick­ing ring she had been lured into by a friend.

Walk­ing away from an abu­sive mar­riage af­ter 15 years, Ju­nius moved in with an­other part­ner, who in­tro­duced her to the world of swingers. At a swingers’ party, she met a man who was in a traf­fick­ing ring. She had no idea. They started talk­ing. When Ju­nius’s re­la­tion­ship didn’t work out (her part­ner was un­faith­ful), she had a ner­vous break­down. The fact that she’d left her first hus­band meant she wasn’t very pop­u­lar with her fam­ily, and was sep­a­rated from her chil­dren. When the break­down came, she was ad­mit­ted to a clinic. By this time, she’d de­vel­oped what she thought was a friend­ship with the man she’d met at the party.

When she was dis­charged from the clinic, she was picked up by this friend. He drove her straight to his sex-traf­fick­ing ring from the clinic. ‘This man took me to Cape Town and con­trolled me by mak­ing me take drugs,’ Ju­nius says. ‘I be­came ad­dicted. He told me I owed him money and had to pay him back. I told him I would not be a pros­ti­tute, be­cause I had three chil­dren. He then showed me pic­tures of my chil­dren, my ex-hus­band, my par­ents. He had their school’s con­tact de­tails and ev­ery­thing.’ The traf­fick­ing ring threat­ened to hurt her fam­ily – and forced her into pros­ti­tu­tion.

‘I was a cap­tive for 13 months, and I was com­pletely con­trolled by the sex-traf­fick­ing ring. I moved around be­tween 17 of their houses. I be­gan to man­age these houses, over­see­ing 10 to 20 girls in each. I had to con­trol them; they each had cer­tain tar­gets per day. Some­times, to reach a tar­get, each had to see 20 to 30 men in a day. If they didn’t meet tar­gets, I got abused – pun­ished. And be­cause it was a bondage scene, I was abused in ev­ery way.’

Af­ter be­ing hor­rif­i­cally beaten one night by an in­ter­na­tional client, Ju­nius hit rock bot­tom. She man­aged to es­cape from the house she was be­ing held in af­ter us­ing a phone she’d found to call for help. A friend work­ing for a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion in Cape Town res­cued her. Ju­nius is now a sex-traf­fick­ing ac­tivist.

In a more ru­ral set­ting, Nom­bulelo* was 14 years old, liv­ing in Port El­iz­a­beth with her fam­ily, when her mother gave her to a Nige­rian man in ex­change for gifts. Be­cause of the pover­tys­tricken life they were liv­ing, Nom­bulelo’s mother sold her for a chance at sur­vival – and trig­gered her daugh­ter’s demise. Af­ter two years, Nom­bulelo was re­placed within the traf­fick­ing ring, and turned to pros­ti­tu­tion and the drug-mule net­work out of des­per­a­tion. She has not seen her fam­ily since, and still works as a pros­ti­tute.

The Global Slav­ery In­dex re­port of 2016 in­di­cates an es­ti­mated ‘248 700 peo­ple or 0,45% of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion live in con­di­tions of mod­ern slav­ery in South Africa’. The re­port also states that, ‘although the pur­chas­ing of sex is crim­i­nalised, the sex in­dus­try thrives on the street, and in broth­els and pri­vate res­i­dences. South African women, women from neigh­bour­ing states, and Thai, Chi­nese, Rus­sian and Brazil­ian women have been iden­ti­fied as vic­tims traf­ficked abroad, pre­dom­i­nantly to Europe.’

Hu­man traf­fick­ing is a hard­hit­ting re­al­ity for many peo­ple in South Africa. The Na­tional Free­dom Net­work (NFN), a group work­ing against hu­man traf­fick­ing, says that ‘South Africa is a source, tran­sit and des­ti­na­tion coun­try for hu­man traf­fick­ing. Hu­man traf­fick­ing also oc­curs within the bor­ders of the coun­try, from one prov­ince or city to an­other. The ex­tent of hu­man traf­fick­ing is dif­fi­cult to as­sess due to the na­ture of these of­fences, and the re­luc­tance of vic­tims/wit­nesses to come for­ward.’

De­spite this, var­i­ous ini­tia­tives have been put in place to help erad­i­cate the po­ten­tial for more peo­ple to fall into this type of slav­ery. The NFN has as­sisted in launch­ing the South African Na­tional Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Re­source Line (SANHTRL) helpline. SANHTRL re­ported that be­tween Jan­uary and April 2017, 66% of the in­com­ing calls were from Gaut­eng. Women were the pre­dom­i­nant gen­der group of po­ten­tial vic­tims of traf­fick­ing dur­ing this pe­riod, at 87% of the calls. KwaZulu-Natal re­ported the high­est num­ber of res­cues na­tion­ally, at a to­tal of 14. The to­tal num­ber of calls re­ceived be­tween Au­gust 2016 and April 2017 is 3 665; of those, 29 vic­tims were res­cued. SANHTRL is work­ing with a net­work of or­gan­i­sa­tions to raise aware­ness of the helpline so it can reach ev­ery cor­ner of our coun­try.

De­spite ex­ten­sive me­dia cov­er­age of the topic, many of us do not un­der­stand what hu­man traf­fick­ing means in the South African con­text. Ar­ti­cle 4(1) of the Pre­ven­tion and Com­bat­ing of Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act states that ‘any per­son who de­liv­ers, re­cruits, trans­ports, trans­fers, har­bours, sells, ex­changes, leases or re­ceives an­other per­son within or across the bor­ders of the Repub­lic, by means of a threat of harm, the threat or use of force or other forms of co­er­cion, fraud,


de­cep­tion, the abuse of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, ab­duc­tion, kid­nap­ping, the abuse of power, the di­rect or in­di­rect giv­ing or re­ceiv­ing of pay­ments, or ben­e­fits to ob­tain the con­sent of a per­son hav­ing con­trol or au­thor­ity over an­other per­son, the di­rect or in­di­rect giv­ing or re­ceiv­ing of pay­ments, com­pen­sa­tion, re­wards, ben­e­fits or any other ad­van­tage aimed at ei­ther the per­son or an im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber of that per­son or any other per­son in close re­la­tion­ship to that per­son for the pur­pose of any form or man­ner of ex­ploita­tion.’ It’s a lot to take in – but it’s cru­cial that ev­ery sin­gle one of us knows and un­der­stands this def­i­ni­tion.

When Ayanda’s* par­ents died, she and her sib­lings were left in the care of rel­a­tives. She got a bur­sary to study at a uni­ver­sity in Jo­han­nes­burg but there wasn’t enough money for her to live in a res on cam­pus. She was sent to live with an aunt who worked in the city. Ev­ery­thing seemed okay.

Ayanda ad­justed and eased into her school­work, de­spite miss­ing home ter­ri­bly. One night, as she was pre­par­ing sup­per, her aunt came in with a male vis­i­tor. Her aunt told her to go to her room. Ayanda did as she was told. The man came into her room and forced him­self on her. ‘I was con­fused and hurt,’ she says. ‘I screamed out to my aunt but she didn’t come.’ When it was over, the man left, leav­ing Ayanda bruised and cry­ing. It took her a while to leave her room; once she did, she found her aunt casually watch­ing TV. ‘I told her what hap­pened … and she said I had to some­how pay for stay­ing with her – that I could not live there for free.’ This con­tin­ued for a year. Oc­ca­sion­ally, Ayanda would be sent out to var­i­ous men’s houses. Her aunt re­ceived money af­ter each en­counter.

One night while her aunt was out, Ayanda es­caped through a win­dow that had been left open. She never re­ported her aunt: she feared be­ing shunned by the rest of the fam­ily, es­pe­cially be­cause her aunt sent money to them. She moved to an­other prov­ince, and has not seen or been in con­tact with her aunt since.

This year has been a par­tic­u­larly in­flam­ma­tory one, with sev­eral hu­man-traf­fick­ing cases re­ported by the me­dia – from the sex dens in Springs to the twins who were lured to­wards a hu­man-traf­fick­ing syn­di­cate through so­cial me­dia and the Nige­rian pas­tor who got ar­rested in April this year at the air­port in Port El­iz­a­beth. Along with the ar­rests, there have been sev­eral res­cues. In June 2016, 16 girls were res­cued from a traf­fick­ing ring in Kemp­ton Park. This year, it was re­ported by the Gaut­eng Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment that 220 young peo­ple had been res­cued from a house in Pre­to­ria. An­other 72 for­eign­ers were res­cued by the Hawks in Fe­bru­ary from a fac­tory in KwaZulu-Natal. In a me­dia state­ment by the Direc­torate of Pri­or­ity Crimes In­ves­ti­ga­tion of the South African Po­lice Ser­vice, it was re­ported in 2016 that ‘the re­cent in­ci­dents of hu­man traf­fick­ing in the North West, Lim­popo and (lately) the Free State, a com­bined num­ber of not less than 150 peo­ple, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren (co­in­ci­den­tally all from Malawi), were res­cued from the jaws of un­scrupu­lous traf­fick­ers.’

Thou­sands of cases, how­ever, re­main un­de­tected. ‘There are many cases of sex traf­fick­ing in South Africa that are ei­ther not iden­ti­fied or not doc­u­mented,’ says Mar­cel van der Watt, a lec­turer in po­lice prac­tice at UNISA.

If you sus­pect some­one you know might be trapped in traf­fick­ing, Stop Traf­fick­ing of Peo­ple – an or­gan­i­sa­tion whose main fo­cus is to raise aware­ness in schools, col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties, churches and com­mu­ni­ties – has been ac­tive for the past eight years. Ac­cord­ing to man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Carin Nel, these are some ques­tions you should ask:

• What kind of work do they do?

• What are their work­ing hours?

• How are they paid? (Tips/not at all)

• Are they do­ing what they ex­pected to do

for work when they ac­cepted the job?

• Are they free to leave (or go home) when­ever they want?

• Do they owe some­one a large debt that they’re try­ing to pay back?

• Does some­one else keep their ID/pass­port?

• Have they ever been phys­i­cally harmed or threat­ened? Ju­nius and Ayanda are some of the lucky few to have es­caped the en­trap­ment of sex­ual slav­ery. But many other women are not so lucky. ■



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