Human Rights & Human Trafficking

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Human Rights & Human Trafficking

Human Rights

We commemorate our rights in South Africa on the 21st of March. In 1960, in the midst of the destructive machinations of South Africa, the Sharpeville Massacre resulted in 69 protestors against apartheid being shot and killed. The day now offers a time for reflection on our rights and values as a country. [1]

At Hope Risen this month, we want to take a look at how human trafficking contradicts our rights as South Africans. Harvard law scholar Cass Sunstein called the South African constitution “the most admirable Constitution in the history of the world.”[2] Since our constitution is relatively ‘young’, it is considered to have a modern attitude towards human rights. In 2015, the ‘Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act’ was gazetted, adding strong force to the legal power against human trafficking–– with consequences for those who contribute to human slavery in South Africa facing upto a life sentence in prison.

Labour Trafficking

Whilst many of us look forward to a salary at the end of a difficult month, many are forcefully denied this right – namely, those who are victims of human trafficking. In South Africa where 55% of the population is living in poverty[3], the scramble for employment can make for desperate job-seekers. In turn, this leads to people being vulnerable to labour trafficking in the country. Any labour that is extremely difficult or dangerous and is not sufficiently paid for, is labour trafficking. Labour trafficking may include domestic servitude, where individuals working in a domestic context are forced to work long hours (12-16 hour days), not allowed to leave, or call home and are often not paid. This type of human trafficking violates a number of South Africans’ rights. Section 13 of the Bill of Rights states “No one may be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour.” While many of us are enjoying our right to work for pay, we could be using our positions of freedom to make sure vulnerable South Africans are not enslaved.

For more information about labour trafficking see:

Child Trafficking

A good childhood is a foundation for a healthy life. Our children are among our most vulnerable and need us to protect them from human rights violations such as child trafficking. Child trafficking includes child sex trafficking and child labour. Child sex trafficking is the act of forcing children into sexual acts, prostitution or child sexual abuse images – “child pornography” – for the purpose of financial gain. In 56 countries, including South Africa the buying and selling of children for sex or sexual services has been criminalised[4]. Our children are precious to us and the constitution strongly protects these most vulnerable members of our society. Section 28 of our Bill of Rights states that children are not permitted to perform any kind of work that “places at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;” In South Africa, any person under 18 years of age is considered a child. Furthermore, according to the sexual offenders act, when someone older than 16 has a sexual relationship with a minor this is considered statutory rape even if it’s consensual.[5] Let’s give the children of South Africa a reason to celebrate rights and help to protect theirs.

Organ Trafficking

The value of being healthy is something we cannot quantify as it determines our ability to function and survive, as well as the quality of life we experience. While we are encouraged to celebrate our right to access healthcare (section 27)[6], there are many who have been secretly trafficked for their organs and suffer for the sake of profit. Organ trafficking is the forced or consented removal and illegal sale of organs or body parts. In South Africa, organ trafficking often takes place because of a market for ‘muthi’ or on the black market where consumers would rather pay for an illegal organ than wait for an organ donor. This violates section 12 of the Bill of Rights which states that each person has the right to “security in and control over” his/her own body.

Sex Trafficking, Forced Marriage and Forced Impregnation

Another violation of health and safety rights is sex trafficking, forced marriage and forced impregnation that takes place daily in South Africa. Although data is limited in South Africa, in America two out of every three phone calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre concerns human trafficking[7]. Brothels, strip clubs, escort agencies etc often traffic ‘sex workers’ who are enslaved through debt bondage, drug addictions or even blackmail. We could be gulity of having a part to play in the violation of the rights of these women by choosing to say nothing about it when we know it’s happening! Section 12 of the Bill of Rights states that “Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction”. Sex trafficking, marriage without consent and forced impregnation clearly violates these rights, leaving little to celebrate.

South Africa: Looking forward

In 2013, the government gazetted a new law: the ‘Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013’, which came into force in August 2015. This law provides for the implementation of high penalties for perpertrators, and protection as well as assistance for victims, including those trafficked across our borders. The implemtation of this law is in its infancy and we still need to see many come to justice and answer for the violation of countless South Africans’ rights.

Whilst the country takes time to celebrate the enjoyment of rights, we encourage all to consider those whose rights are being severely violated. As a country, we have a long way to go before we can honestly say that all citizens’ rights are being adequately protected. As fellow South Africans, let’s protect each other’s rights and make a conscious effort to join the fight – and not let the vulnerable be hurt any further. With such a powerful constitution and stringent laws, we have the opportunity to bring justice to our country – let’s hold each other accountable and responsible for our contribution towards human slavery in Mzansi. Togther we can put an end to modern day slavery.



[1] South African Government, Human Rights Day

[2] Brand South Africa Home,

[3] Poverty on the Rise in South Africa, Statistics South Africa. Retrieved from:

[4] Global Findings, The Global Slavery Index. Retrieved from:


[6] Right to Health Care