By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
Human trafficking remains a massive challenge globally with over 20 million people believed to have fallen victim to the crime.
Governments and civil society organisations are implementing processes and laws to combat the growing industry associated with human trafficking but the stats still dont paint a good picture.
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) poses a public security concern in Southern Africa, as it does in any other region around the world. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, while some men have also been subjected to labour exploitation and forced labour.
Most SADC Member States have developed legislation in response to the escalation of criminal activity. However, enforcement of such legislation is still in its infancy. At the regional level, SADC Member States adopted a 10-Year Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, especially Women, and Children (2009-2019), which recently underwent a mid-term review, setting the regional agenda on TIP.
According to the Eswatini 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Eswatini, and traffickers exploit victims from Eswatini abroad. Traffickers target vulnerable communities, particularly those with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.
“Traffickers exploit girls, particularly orphans, in sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Eswatini and South Africa. Some girls in forced domestic work are physically and sexually abused by their employers. Sex traffickers exploit orphaned girls in “survival sex” in exchange for food and money. Traffickers force local boys and foreign children to labour in agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country.”
It further states that traffickers use Eswatini as a transit country to transport foreign victims, primarily Mozambicans, to South Africa for forced labour.
“Some traffickers exploit Swatis in sex trafficking, including orphaned girls and girls from poor families, who voluntarily migrate in search of work, particularly in South Africa. Reports suggest labour brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Swati nationals for work in South African mines, which are common tactics used by traffickers. Traffickers recruit Swati men in border communities for forced labour in South Africa’s timber industry. Previous reports indicate Swati students were fraudulently recruited for educational opportunities in Taiwan and coerced to work in exploitative conditions in chicken factories.”
The world is today commemorating the 9th edition of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The theme of this edition is ‘Journeying in Dignity’.
The day marks the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was sold into slavery, abused but later freed. The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Manzini Jose Luis Ponce de Leon has encouraged the public to work together to stop human trafficking.
“On the feast of St Bakhita let us pray together for the #victims of #Trafficking and work together to stop it,” he wrote in a Facebook post this morning.
Together with COATNET and the Talitha Kum Network, Caritas will host an online Marathon of Prayer on this year’s theme which calls on everyone to journey in dignity against human trafficking by keeping as a horizon the dignity of every person and leaving no one behind.
By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko