How teen turned into a sex slave

LURED by hopes of finding a job so that she could put her siblings through school, 19-year-old Sarah (not her real name) left her Eastern Cape village for Joburg's bright lights.

LURED by hopes of finding a job so that she could put her siblings through school, 19-year-old Sarah (not her real name) left her Eastern Cape village for Joburg's bright lights.

Convinced by a family friend she knew as Aunt Joyce that she could work for her, Sarah was devastated when she was forced into prostitution instead.

On arrival in Johannesburg, Joyce left her in a bar, promising to meet her later. After waiting for hours, Sarah asked a man at the bar to help her look for Joyce. Instead of helping her, he locked her in a room behind the bar. He returned later with four men, who took turns to rape her.

She cannot remember how many days she was kept captive, but during that time more men raped her.

When she was eventually let out, she was told that Joyce had sold her as a sex slave to the bar owner, who she only knew as Steve. In return, he would give her a room and food. He threatened to hurt her sisters, whose photos Joyce had given him, if she tried to escape.

Sarah worked as a sex worker for two years, until Steve was arrested for drug dealing.

Unfamiliar with the area and having had no contact with her family, Sarah was referred to a nongovernmental organisation by the police who rescued her. Through the help of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), she was reunited with her family. She now runs a small business, growing and selling vegetables.

Sarah was a victim of human trafficking, a trade in human beings that is prevalent worldwide. It is estimated that 1,2million children are trafficked every year globally.

The UN defines trafficking as the "recruitment through deception or coercion and transportation of an individual for the purpose of exploitation."

Recruiters are often known to the victims who they lure with promises of jobs or education. Coercive means such as kidnapping are also used.

"South Africa is relatively economically strong and there is a demand for sexual and labour services. Many of its neighbours are poor and poor people are vulnerable. They believe anyone who promises them opportunities," said IOM spokesperson Nde Ndifonka.

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