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30000 kids trafficked in SA

07 October 2013 - 03:26 By SIPHO MASOMBUKA

The sex trade is fuelling human trafficking in South Africa with experts estimating that 30000 children are being trafficked every year. Half of them are under the age of 14.

About 1000 girls are believed to be brought into South Africa from Mozambique and Zimbabwe for sexual exploitation. But many cases go unreported.

Criminologist Christiaan Bezuidenhout said black South African girls were being trafficked to Germany and The Netherlands, where they were seen as "exotic" .

"In Hong Kong, they want white girls," he said.

"There are lots of cases that go unreported, making it difficult to give an exact figure for the extent of the problem."

Bezuidenhout, a University of Pretoria professor, said 1.3million people are trafficked globally every year.

He said big cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria were major trafficking hot spots but small towns were also involved.

Researcher Chandre Gould, of the Institute for Security Studies, said the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, enacted in July, required that a database of cases be established in order to monitor the extent of the problem but this has not yet been done.

Chrisna Visser, of Cape Town, fell prey to a human trafficker in 2005 after a mental breakdown brought on by drug abuse. She said she met the man in an on-line chatroom while in hospital. He promised to take her home but instead she ended up in Milnerton, in Cape Town, where she was prostituted for 13 months.

"I was threatened that my children would be hurt if I ran away. I was rescued by an NGO," she said.

After her ordeal Visser turned her life around and started Purple Blanket - an organisation that raises awareness and helps victims of human trafficking.

Visser was one of the speakers at the Freedom Exhibition at Freedom Park, in Pretoria, which ends on Friday. The exhibition features works by 44 artists as part of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Week.

Roxanne Rawlins, of the NGO Operation Mobilisation, which organised the event, said the NGO's project TraffickProof had reached 12000 children this year.