For the past 10 years, Hope Risen Foundation has been strategically and passionately fighting Human Trafficking in SA. Help us continue to educate people, save lives and bring freedom to survivors.

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Types of Human Trafficking

Some examples of Human Trafficking include:

Sexual exploitation, such as forced prostitution, pornography, training to deal with particular fetishes, etc. This can be found happening in brothels as well as massage parlours and gentleman’s clubs, to name a few

Forced labour, which usually involves work that is difficult, dirty or dangerous. This commonly happens in industries such as fishing, mining and agriculture

Organ trafficking, referring to the forced removal and illegal sale of body parts, usually for the black market, “muthi” or the medical field where people are willing to pay a high price to skip the system.

Child exploitation and forced labour. Where mobilisation and exploitation are present with minors under the age of 18, it is considered child trafficking. Child labour is any work that is not suitable for children and will have a negative impact on their social, physical or emotional development. Examples include the textiles industry, and coffee and coco harvesting. Children are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation, such as pornography and molestation. They may also be targeted to “groom” them for a life in the sex industry when they are older.

Who is involved

Human Trafficking is an organised crime, so there is a whole structure of different roles involved in it: there’s the spotter, recruiter, buyer, seller, transporter, harbourer, financier, brothel keeper, pimp and clientele.

The system is such that even those among the perpetrator ring may not comprehend the magnitude of what they are involved in (take, for example, this story of X).

So what is the profile of the typical trafficker? What should we be on the lookout for?

The trafficker can be anyone. This is what makes it such a challenging crime to prevent. It can be gangs and syndicates or friends and family: 54% of cases involve strangers, while 46% of cases involve someone the victim already knows. Although men are the most common perpetrators, the number of women linked to trafficking offenses is growing, with human trafficking featuring a higher percentage of female traffickers than any other organised crime. Traffickers can be young, even teenagers as the story of 8 days shows us, or they can be an elderly couple as several other cases have revealed. They can be lay people, people entrenched in a wider lifestyle of crime, or even law enforcement and government officials.

And who are the people being trafficked? Again, they can be anyone. Women are a disproportionate percentage of the sex trafficking cases, while men are a larger percentage of labour trafficking and organ trafficking cases. Vulnerable groups are more likely to be targeted: children, women, refugees and lower income communities.

However, it is by no means limited to these people: a lonely adult looking for a relationship is vulnerable, middle to high income people seeking out new job opportunities are vulnerable. Awareness and vigilance are great measures to protect our communities from trafficking, but there is also a need to fight it at its roots since traffickers will always find ways to ensnare people that can be difficult or impossible to anticipate and pre-empt.

Red flags

There are several things that can be indicators of a potential trafficking situations. For example, new arrivals whose documentation is controlled by someone else or whose movement appears to be dependent on someone else. They may not speak the local language well or at all. Children accompanied by an unrelated adult. Signs of nervousness, anxiety, illness, or physical harm. A person who is getting paid very little or nothing, seems to owe a huge amount to their employer, has poor living conditions and/or is living with the employer.

For a longer list of red flags, you can read this article. If several of these items can be identified, or if other signs exist to indicate they might be under another person’s control, then it is worth looking into.


Marginalised groups are most at risk (e.g. Children, low-income, women, refugees), but anyone can become a target, and there are growing percentages of men and middle-upper income people being targeted. The best protection is awareness, and when in doubt, get in touch with an organisation like ourselves.

One of the best ways to protect children is through a training programme called Protective Behaviours. We will be involved in rolling this programme out to schools and churches, and training adults in the principles of the programme so they can take it to their schools and churches. You can find out more about this here. Protective Behaviours is a preventative measure: if you are concerned about a more immediate and specific threat to your child or teenager, get in contact with us.

It happens all over the world and in every area; rich and poor.

Some will go on to become traffickers themselves; for example in the case of sex trafficking it can be a way for women to gain more autonomy and freedom. They may also become involved in other types of crime. Some end up in prison. If conditions and exploitation is extreme, some will die, commit suicide or be killed. And then there are those who escape or are rescued – a percentage that organisations like ourselves are fighting to increase.

Sometimes victims manage to break out of the industries themselves, by running away. But most of the time it requires outside assistance since lives can be in danger and traffickers specialize in creating dependency in their targets. Just as much work goes into keeping people out as getting them out.

Get in touch with us; we will be able to advise you, and investigate the matter directly.

Do your research on the people offering the job: is there a solid record of the company online, i.e. more than just a website – for example, reviews or multiple other sources referencing it. Does the job offer sound too good to be true? Because if it does, then it probably is. If the potential employer asks for the person’s passport, ID or other documentation, that is a red flag. If in doubt, contact us.

Trafficking in South Africa

South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking.

As a source country, people are being trafficked from South Africa to countries most commonly including Ireland, Israel, Holland, Switzerland, Macau, Malawi, Brazil and Venezuela.

South Africa is receiving trafficking victims most commonly from Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Russia, Brazil, Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana, Somalia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia

Finally, South Africa is a transit country, meaning that many victims are being transported through South Africa on their way to other places.

Fortunately, South Africa has recently passed excellent legislation on Human Trafficking. In 2015 the “Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act” was passed by President Zuma.

On the ground there are many organizations and task teams working to combat trafficking, prosecute perpetrators, raise awareness, and support survivors through the process of restoration, reintegration and, where necessary, repatriation to their country of origin.

What you can do

There’s a massive role that every person can play. Just by knowing what Human Trafficking is, how it works, and what the red flags are, you can help equip yourself, your family and your community against it.

Watch documentaries, read books, follow the work of counter-trafficking organisations like ourselves.


  1. Human trafficking is the second largest organised crime, superseded only by drug trafficking.
  2. “We were supposed to be paid I think R500 per fortnight but of course they didn’t pay us sometimes because we are desperate, so they used us.” – Labour Trafficking Survivor
  3. “Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, behind oil. Yet, half of the coffee harvesters in the world do not even make minimum wage.” (
    54% of cases involve strangers, while 46% of cases involve someone the victim already knows
  4. The number of women linked to trafficking offenses is growing, with human trafficking featuring a higher percentage of female traffickers than any other organised crime. (from UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016)
  5. 96% of trafficking cases are women and girls, 63% of forced labour cases are male (UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016)