Human trafficking is a reality

Major Margaret Stafford (national co-ordinator of the anti-human trafficking programme of The Salvation Army) gave a talk on human trafficking at a recent dinner event hosted by the Rotary Club of Benoni Van Ryn.

Major Margaret Stafford, national co-ordinator of the anti-human trafficking programme of The Salvation Army, educated and shocked those at a dinner hosted by the Rotary Club of Benoni Van Ryn.

The event was held at the Benoni Country Club recently.

Stafford defined human trafficking as the movement of people, against their will, for the purpose of exploitation.

She said modern-day slavery and involuntary prostitution are prime examples.

“South Africa moved higher up in terms of protecting its citizens against human trafficking with the constitution in 1996, but there was still no specific act for it,” Stafford said.

“In 2013, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking Act, a fantastic piece of legislation, was passed, but it only became operational in 2015 and is still not perfectly implemented today.”

Stafford warned that traffickers will lure people, especially youngsters, with fake job offers.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it often is; and if it takes you overseas, be extra careful.”

Stafford explained how she and her team have manned a stand at Sexpo for the past few years, and will continue to do so, in order to raise awareness of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

“One girl was bought by a man in the Western Cape, from her uncle and grandmother, to be his ‘wife’,” Stafford said.

“She ran away several times, but was sent back or caught each time, and received a beating for it.

“The last time she tried to escape, she was beaten so bad, she had to go to the hospital, where she told a nurse about her ordeal.

“She was rescued at the age of 13 and the man was prosecuted when the girl was 18; that shows how slow the process still is in this regard.”

Stafford said her team wants to speak to matrics about job offers and the potential dangers of trafficking.

When the floor opened for questions, Stafford was asked: “Should prostitution be legalised?”

“Never. Will we offer it as a career, if so? In Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal, the mayor recently admitted the city is run by organised crime and it had to change,” she replied.

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