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Slavery is alive and kicking in SA

01 June 2016 - 08:35 By SHAUN SMILLIE

A recent study estimates that there are about 250,000 modern-day slaves in South Africa.The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that 43% of the country's slaves are in the sex industry, 11% in construction, 5% in farming and 8% in drug production.The index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, also estimates that 10600 women in South Africa are victims of forced marriage.The researchers blamed this on the persistence of traditional practices such as ukuthwala, in which young women, or girls, are abducted and forced into a marriage.Katie Modrau - a development manager at A21, an NGO that fights human trafficking - said more statistics needed to be collected for a full picture of slavery in South Africa.Her organisation has rescued trafficking victims in the fishing and sex industries.She said victims in the fishing industry often came from Cambodia and Indonesia. They were often recruited in their own countries with the promise of good money .But when they are on board the ship, they are told to sign contracts that are not in their home languages, and are prevented from leaving."They are often not held with physical chains; the chains that hold them are fear," said Modrau, adding that many feared that their families would be victimised.According to the index, slavery has increased globally.Andrew Forrest, the chairman and founder of Walk Free Foundation, said: "While we see that the absolute figure of the number of people enslaved globally is greater than previously reported in 2014, this can be largely attributed to our improved research methodology."However, this does not preclude an increase in slavery in certain jurisdictions."On the other hand, we have seen increased actions from certain governments around the world in tackling slavery."The foundation estimated that there were 45.8 million people enslaved in the world, 28% more than their previous estimate.North Korea, the index found, had the highest prevalence of modern slavery, with 4.37% of its population enslaved.India had 18.35 million enslaved people.Modrau said the new Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act gave anti-human trafficking initiatives some much-needed legal support in the country.But the problem was funding and seeing the act being implemented on the ground.Said Forrest: "Governments need to look more closely at illicit labour recruitment, crack down on the illegal companies that provide conduits in which people end up in slavery, and penalise the companies and individuals that are using bonded labour, either directly or in their supply chains."At the same time, it is important that we tackle the conditions that drive labour migration by creating opportunities within South Africa."..

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