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A sordid tale of child trafficking

By Namhla Tshisela and Liketso Chakela | Oct 12, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

A CHANCE to spend the school holidays with a relative in Johannesburg turned into a nightmare that would set off a chain of tormenting events for a young Eastern Cape girl.

A CHANCE to spend the school holidays with a relative in Johannesburg turned into a nightmare that would set off a chain of tormenting events for a young Eastern Cape girl.

Mbali Mtshali*, 27, was only 16 when her sweet-talking aunt Nomsa promised her, a cousin and a friend a holiday to remember in the famed city of gold.

Mtshali said their joy turned to horror when Nomsa instead took them to a brothel where they were forced to work as prostitutes.

"My aunt worked in Joburg and would visit home at least once a year. We believed she was married and she told us that she was a prophet at a church."

On arrival in the city, Mtshali said Nomsa took them to a rundown hotel that served as a brothel.

"Young girls and older women in miniskirts loitered outside the hotel. Aunt Nomsa led us to a room upstairs where she ordered us to change into skimpy clothes," she said.

Nomsa then led the three unsuspecting girls to a bar in the hotel and forced them to drink beer, said Mtshali.

"I was stunned when a much older man came up to me and asked me: 'how much?'"

Nomsa ushered them to a room upstairs and told her that she had to have sex with men for food, clothes and shelter.

"I cried and told her I wanted to go home. She said she didn't have the money to take us back home and left me alone with the man after he had paid her.

"I had never had sex before. I thought she would let me use the money that he gave her to go home but she didn't."

The girls were regularly beaten and Mtshali managed to flee the brothel with another girl after three months.

"Though I was happy to leave the brothel I couldn't tell my parents about what my aunt had done to us. I was afraid they wouldn't believe me."

Mtshali, who has since found work as a counsellor, said she regretted not finishing school. She has since left the sex trade and counsels sex workers on human trafficking, sexual health and HIV-Aids.

The trade in humans for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, body parts and forced labour is the third most lucrative criminal offence after the illicit drug trade and arms trafficking.

An estimated 1,2million children are trafficked every year globally. Advocacy groups warn that children are more vulnerable to trafficking because they are easy to transport and more trusting of adults.

Anti-human trafficking coordinator at World Hope South Africa Ajwang' Warria said children were vulnerable to trafficking because of their limited reasoning capacity.

"We warn children not to trust people who try to entice them to leave their homes. We advise them to question propositions that sound too good to be true," said Warria.

Children's organisations fear that events that attract international tourists make children more vulnerable to trafficking because of the increased demand for commercial sex.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 79percent of all trafficking worldwide is for sexual exploitation, with women and girls as victims.

End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes International estimates that the trafficking of children had increased by 7percent between 2003 and 2007.

The organisation warns that the world economic recession could increase the demand for "cheaper" forms of commercial sexual exploitation, making children particularly vulnerable.

* Names have been changed.


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