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Current legal responses to the problem of human trafficking often reflect a deep reluctance to address the socio-economic root causes of the problem. Because trafficking is perceived as an act (or series of acts) of violence, most responses focus predominantly on prosecuting traffickers, and to a lesser extent, on protecting trafficked persons.1 However, human trafficking is a multi-dimensional social phenomenon perpetuated by socio-economic challenges as well as a demand for the exploitative use of individuals.2 The fact that most victims are trafficked from poor to more affluent countries has led researchers to focus almost exclusively on the role of poverty in the trafficking business.3 This makes sense because the lack of economic opportunities most often provides the initial impetus for prospective victims to fall prey to human traffickers. However, in order for human traffickers to continue operations, a socio-legal environment conducive to the trafficking trade and related vice industry is required. Consequently, all aspects contributing to the vulnerability of people to trafficking recruitment must be examined.
The primary factors that facilitate trafficking in persons are extremely complex and inter-connected but can be categorised into two major groups – ―push‖ factors and ―pull‖ factors.4 Push factors intensify the vulnerability of disadvantaged of marginalised social groups to trafficking, whereas pull factors create the demand for particular forms of labour.5 Push factors are conditions conducive to trafficking which fall in the broader  context, for example, the economic impact of globalization.6 These factors drive people to leave a region in search of a better life somewhere else.7 They include economic poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment of countries of origin, armed conflict, the marginalization of women, escape from war and humanitarian crises, corruption in the public or private spheres, domestic or community violence, natural disasters and the involvement of organised crime groups or networks.8 Defective immigration policies and flawed law enforcement mechanisms are also contributors.9 Traditions such as the placement of children10 away from their homes, a culture of early marriage,11 the breakdown of family and social structures and absence of symbols that protect human dignity in traditional societies,12 lack of education and peer pressure13 are of equal impact. The lack of birth registration facilitates the exploitation of children without a legal identity,14 and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic produces its own legacy of widows or orphan-headed households.15 The list is not exhaustive.
Under pull factors, the demand for cheap manual labour and the high demand for paid sex in destination countries,16 globalisation, improved communications systems, improved transport networks by air, land and sea and expanding global tourism, the business of high profits and low risks, parents offering or selling their children for financial advantage,17 together with the lack of information on the risks involved18 are the root causes of trafficking in persons.
Another classification identifies three key clusters of factors contributing to trafficking in persons.19 The first cluster relates to socio-cultural factors such as the social  acceptability of putting children to work, illiteracy, low education levels and preparation for marriage. The second comprises economic factors such as the imbalance between rural and urban wealth levels and a desire to escape poverty. The last considers juridical and political factors such as absence of legislation; ignorance of parents and trafficked persons of their rights under the law and open borders. Similar to the previous categorization, this classification also refers to the root causes of human trafficking.
Although similar in all regions and countries, the root causes of trafficking may also be different depending on the conditions that prevail in a particular region. For instance the prevalence of HIV and AIDS within the Southern African region that renders women and girls vulnerable to trafficking does not exist to the same extent in Western Europe.20 In the following paragraphs, the root causes as well as the factors that sustain human trafficking will be investigated. Understanding the reasons why people become involved in trafficking is of the utmost importance for governments if they are to develop effective legislation and policies to combat it.

Poverty and unemployment

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on an income of less than $2.50 a day.21 According to UNICEF, 22 000 children die each day due to poverty.22 Not surprisingly, poverty is usually ranked first on any list of trafficking vulnerability factors in all African countries. Poverty is multi-dimensional and cannot be reduced to a single definition, but it is generally understood to describe an economic condition of lacking both money and basic necessities necessary to live successfully, such as food, water, education, healthcare, and shelter. The causes of poverty are numerous and interrelated, ranging from personal factors such a lack of individual responsibility, to external factors for instance war, famine, drought, over-fishing, poor crop yields, unemployment, overpopulation, inadequate education, bad government policies, exploitation and many more. The effect of poverty is that people are desperate to survive or to provide for their families. It is this despair that human traffickers prey on.
The potential for trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa, where large percentages of people live below the poverty line, is immense. There is consensus amongst most economic and political analysts that approximately 40% of South Africans are living in poverty – with the poorest (15%) desperately struggling to survive. This means that approximately 18 million out of 45 million people do not have the benefit of livelihood basics.23 In 2010 South Africa ranked 110th out of 169 comparable countries on the United Nations Development Programme‘s (UNDP) Human Development Index with almost 26% living on $1.25 a day.24 The CIA estimated in 2000 that 50% of the South African population live below the poverty line.25 This situation has not improved much. Research indicates that 47.1% of South Africa‘s population consumed less than the ―lower-bound‖ poverty line proposed by Statistics South Africa in 2007 – which means 47.1% of the population did not have R322 per month (in 2000 prices) for essential food and non-food items.26
The poverty rates of South Africa’s nine provinces differ significantly, as do those of the urban and rural areas of the country. In 2005/06 the poverty rates ranged from 24.9% in Gauteng and 28.8% in the Western Cape to 57.6% in the Eastern Cape and 64.6% in Limpopo. The three provinces with the highest poverty rates (KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo) are also relatively populous – they housed 47.4% of the South African population. It should come as no surprise then that fully 60.1% of poor individuals lived in these three provinces. The incidence of poverty, however, was much higher in the rural areas of South Africa – 59.3% of poor individuals were rural dwellers despite the fact that the rural areas housed well below one-half of the South African population.
Female-headed households are the poorest of the poor. Over 53% fall below the poverty line.27 There are at least four factors at play here: female-headed households are more likely to be in the rural areas where poverty is concentrated, female-headed households tend to have fewer adults of working age, female unemployment rates are higher and the wage gap between male and female persists.28 The estimated earned income in South Africa for females is US$6.9 per day and for males US$15.5 as calculated by the purchasing power parity (PPP)29 method. The difference in poverty rates between male-headed households and female-headed households in South Africa widened during the post-apartheid period30 while the percentage of households that were female-headed increased significantly during the post-apartheid period.31 This may affect the wellbeing and human security of children significantly and often may lead to situations of trafficking. Poverty is exacerbated among women due to their lack of access to resources such as land and capital and also because women‘s participation in the domestic labour force is often relegated to the informal sector.
Driven by poverty, the demand for employment and secure livelihood options are important contributors to trafficking vulnerability. The shortage of decent income-earning opportunities among people in South Africa is closely linked with poverty as a root cause of trafficking. The Labour Force Survey estimates unemployment among 14-year-olds to 24-year-olds to be 50% – almost double the general unemployment rate, which in 2010 has increased to 25.3%. There was an annual decrease of 1.2% (158 000) in employment, an increase of 3.7% (155 000) in the number of unemployed persons32 and an increase of 3.6% (514 000) in the number of persons who are not economically active – 379 000 of which are discouraged work-seekers.33 The comparisons show that KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Limpopo were the hardest-hit provinces in terms of job losses, with KwaZulu-Natal recording 125 000 job losses, Western Cape recording 36 000 Limpopo recording 31 000 job losses out of the 158 000 job losses. The danger of high unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, is that people are often forced into exploitative situations.
The limited better-paid job market in South Africa is out of the reach of many people, especially those from the rural areas, because of their lack of skills and education. When they come from rural communities to find job in the cities, they accept domestic work or any kind of low paid labour job in the informal sector such as factories. These workplaces may function as transit points for girls to be trafficked. The low-paid and exploitative working conditions provide an opportunity for traffickers to deceive these persons to agree to leave such a low-paid job for a better job in a new place.
The unstable economic situation and lack of employment opportunities in the Southern African region may force many to pursue insecure and unreliable employment in South Africa and other countries. People with meagre or no economic resources may be lured by the dream of a better livelihood and may easily be trapped by traffickers. Unaware of the possible consequences, such people will often consent to travel via undocumented migration routes to affluent cities and countries and are thus caught up in domestic and international human trafficking.

READ  East African Politicians and the Establishment of the EAC, 1950s

Illiteracy and ignorance

Low levels of literacy, lack of legal knowledge and a derisory worldview tend to increase individuals‘ vulnerability to trafficking and to reduce the likelihood of them benefiting from measures taken to prevent the practice. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.34 Education gives individuals the ability to read, write, and understand the nature of any event or occurrence. It is the strongest weapon to inform people of the dangers inherent in trafficking.
As elaborated on earlier, unemployment in rural communities prompts many people to seek better job opportunities in urban areas although lacking information and awareness of reliable sources of employment. Their lack of education curtails their ability to carefully analyse the reality of any false promises and deception. Even people with little education and access to various types of media are easily deceived under the pretext of a better life. Traffickers draw on people‘s desires for alternatives to rural life and to expanding their horizons.
In most countries where human trafficking is rife and figures available, illiteracy is a common cause of trafficking. Statistics generally show that fewer girls are enrolled at school and most girls will drop out from primary school before the completion of the primary grade.35 Except for pervasive and chronic poverty which underpins the reasons for learners‘ not completing school, traditional beliefs that values the education of boys rather than girls also play an important role. Discriminatory cultural and social practices such as the above can be alleviated through education. Traditional beliefs regarding witchcraft and voodoo have a stronghold in the local population especially in Africa. The superstition surrounding these beliefs becomes a powerful device that traffickers exploit in order to convince their victims that something terrible would happen to them if they dare to resist.
While the world has moved from minimum literacy to the cyberspace-based education, 14% of the South African population is illiterate, (completely unable to read and write). Within that population, the discrepancy between male and female literacy rate is negligible.36 Statistics show that the overall female literacy rate is 85.7% compared to that of 87% in case of male. The majority of children in South Africa are completing primary schooling and most are entering secondary school. Entry into secondary school level is characterised by a ―revolving door syndrome‖ – young people are able to get there, but are circulating in the system, unable to make it through to Grade 12. This is qualified by the Community Household Survey that shows overall improvement in the percentages of the population with no schooling and those with higher education, but very slow progress in the proportion attaining matriculation. Enrolment starts to decline sharply at the end of compulsory schooling at grade 9, or at a stage when  scholars are 15 years of age. As such, the highest drop-out rates are experienced from age 16 to 18 years, roughly corresponding to grades 10 to 12. 37 Data on the reasons for drop-out in South Africa are limited. Available information suggests that poverty remains the single largest contributor to the dropout rate. School children who drop out of school with limited education stand the risk of being unemployed, which again heightens their vulnerability to recruitment for trafficking. Regrettably, even those with Grade 10 battle to find employment.

Gender inequality

Gender affects all aspects of the trafficking process – from the factors that contribute to trafficking to the nature of the laws and policies developed to deal with the phenomenon.38 The term gender describes those characteristics of women and men that are socially constructed rather than biologically defined. It is learned attributes of behaviour, roles and activities that constitute gender identity and define gender roles.39 Gender roles are reinforced by the gender values, norms and stereotypes that exist in each society.
More women than men are trafficked.40 This gender disparity is often attributed to the ―feminization of poverty‖ arising from the failure of existing societal and cultural structures to provide equal and just educational and employment opportunities for women.41 Although the causes of trafficking relate to both men and women, women are faced with an additional vulnerability that stems from social discriminatory practices towards women and girls.42 Gender-based discrimination and gender disparity, resulting in inequalities in health care, workload, labour market,43 education and  decision-making power undermines the resilience of women and render them vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
The patriarchal system prevalent in many countries results in the unequal status of women. These social systems and gender stereotypes reinforce women‘s lower status, leading to dependency, feelings of helplessness and low levels of self-esteem in females and make them more vulnerable to any exploitative situation. As such, discrimination44 against girls and women is perpetuated and institutionalized in the family and community. A woman‘s position is usually one of subordination and dependency. Women are characterized in terms of their relationships to men – as daughters, wives or mothers – and these roles are what ultimately determine their position in the family, which is never equal to that of male family members.
Unequal gender relations leave females with little choice or decision-making power regarding education, occupation and marriage. In the case of girls, preference is given to daughters being trained in household activities like cooking, cleaning and rearing of children, whereas the sons are sent to school. Girls are considered to form part of their future husbands‘ family, and investing in them for education and health is regarded as an unproductive investment. Many girls internalize their subordinated status in society as an unchangeable social reality and are eager to leave their villages because they do not see their future there. They become easy targets for traffickers who manipulate this situation with promises of a better life. Once trafficked for sexual exploitation, these women have no power at all, not even to negotiate safer sex practices, which increase their risk of HIV infection, early pregnancy and unsafe abortion.45
Additionally, violence against women and children heightens their vulnerability.46 Violence against women is on the increase in South Africa,47 but there is still a wide divergence between the number of actual incidents and the number reported to the police. The gap is wider in the case of sexual offences, mainly because the shame of public admission makes victims reluctant to report it and also because of long delays in bringing the guilty to book. In South Africa and also in other third-world countries, there is an increased demand in human trafficking for younger girls because of the myth that intercourse with a virgin can cure a man of sexually-transmitted diseases. The myth also exists that sex with a female child does not expose the man to sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
Forced marriage is another form of culturally-sanctioned gender discrimination and a method of trafficking in women and girls. In many countries in Asia as well as in Africa, young girls are procured through forced marriage. In South Africa, the traditional custom of ukuthwala (literally, ‘to be carried’) still exists where Xhosa girls as young as fourteen are being abducted and forced into marriages with elderly men in exchange for payment or lobola (bride price).48 In certain African countries, forced marriage comes by way of exchanging women as a way of settling tribal disputes. In Afghanistan, women and girls are in some cases used as tradeable objects in the settlement of family disputes and are also internally trafficked to settle other disputes and debts. It is said that “where local custom, sometimes supported by law, treats women so explicitly as property, their commodification through trafficking is facilitated.‖49
The legal frameworks in many countries reflect the gender biases prevalent in those societies. In the absence of laws that ensure rights of inheritance and their ownership and control over productive resources and assets, many women are economically dependent on their husbands and limited in their life and livelihood choices. However, with the breakdown of traditional social structures, women are rendered vulnerable by the lack of economic independence and lack of the same education and employment opportunities as their male counterparts, in ways that could not have occurred in the traditional context.
Without laws, policies or social customs that facilitate land ownership or credit regulation for women, they are forced to migrate in search of economic opportunities, thus increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. As yet, little research has been conducted on the gender-related dimensions of trafficking migration motives and  patterns. It can be said that the patterns of women‘s migration differ from those of men. Men and women have different reasons for leaving, and their means of travel and their destination are not always the same. While women migrate in response to economic hardship, they also migrate to flee gender-based repression.50 These women are often less educated, socially isolated and in unfamiliar surroundings, far from the social safety-nets of family and community and make easy prey for traffickers.


1.1 General background
1.2 Research questions and hypotheses of study
1.3 Aim of study
1.4 Scope of study
1.5 Methodology
1.6 Chapter outline
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The origins of human trafficking – slavery
2.3 Human trafficking defined
2.4 Phenomena related to human trafficking – similarities and differences
2.5 Participants in human trafficking
2.6 The modus operandi of human trafficking
2.7 Types of trafficking
2.8 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Poverty and unemployment
3.3 Illiteracy and ignorance
3.4 Gender inequality
3.5 Social marginalisation due to ethnicity, religion, race or caste
3.6 Family instability
3.7 Vulnerabilities of children, especially street children
3.8 HIV/AIDS effects
3.9 Conflicts, crises and natural calamities
3.10 Unsafe migration
3.11 Open borders
3.12 Absence of effective legislation and law enforcement
3.13 Corruption
3.14 Demand and supply
3.15 Globalization
3.16 Lack of conceptual clarity and reliable data
3.17 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 International legal framework
4.3 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Regional legal framework
5.3 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 The United States of America (US)
6.3 Germany
6.4 Nigeria
6.5 Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Human trafficking in South Africa: history, causes and developments
7.3 The legal framework to combat human trafficking in South Africa
7.4 Criminal-justice responses from South Africa
7.5 Summary
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Universal, non-universal and other rights in the South African Constitution
8.3 Summary
9.1 Recommendations
9.2 Conclusion

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