Trafficking and Prostitution

It is commonly believed that trafficking takes place for sexual exploitation or for forced labour.

However, prostitution is believed to be the primary reason.

Human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry in the world, after illegal drugs.

Prostitution is referred to as the world's oldest profession and the debate on legalising prostitution still rages on.


Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) has called for the regulation of the informal sector.

This comes after reports emerge that those trafficked into the country end up forcefully working as prostitutes.

"A lot of these exploitations, especially human trafficking happen in sectors that are not regulated, and when people [realise] that their livelihood would come to an end, they tolerate a lot more than they should," SWEAT spokesperson Diane Massawe.

SWEAT believes legalising prostitution would lead to a decrease in in human trafficking.

Massawe adds that even though the government passed an act against human trafficking, implementation remains an issue in the country.


She adds those brought in the country knowingly to work as prostitutes are not trafficked.

"I think what happens a lot in South Africa is that, you have sex workers who were doing sex work in their home countries and people are told if you come to South Africa you earn more money. And when they arrive in the country they find the conditions are exploitative, that is not trafficking," explains Massawe.

SWEAT says the government need to look at different measures when dealing with human trafficking because some of the 'victims' are sold willing.

“The reality is that some people are sold [into human trafficking] and their families are paid also.”

According to Massawe, government needs to look into circumstances leading one to agree to be sold into trafficking before deporting them back to their home country.

“When our laws take these people and take them back to their home country without interventions, there are chances of them coming back are high.”


President Jacob Zuma signed into law the prevention and combating of human trafficking bill.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a R100 million fine, or both.

Dr Emser says South Africa's economic and political stability makes the country a lucrative market for traffickers.

"South Africa is still one of the economic power houses of Africa and still the most attractive place to be, and it is relatively stable. And that makes it a very attractive market for traffickers," she adds.

Institute for securities Studies' (ISS) Romi Sigworth believes the Visa regulations alone cannot be sufficient to strengthen borders to fight Human Trafficking in the country.

"Human Trafficking in its very nature is a hidden crime," says Sigworth.

She believes those illicitly moving people into the country will not use formal border posts.

Image courtesy: Reuters

Report by Neo Motloung