By Courtney Cupido, Cape Town intern.
According to a recent Eye Witness News report, there have been at least 13 reported cases of child abduction and attempted kidnappings in communities across the Western Cape since 8 August 2018. The motives for these abductions may vary from forced child labour, financial and sexual exploitation, the use of children as drug mules to involuntary domestic servitude which is especially rife within the international context.
Over the past month there have been numerous reports of child abductions on various social media and news platforms, which has caused widespread panic, both within the Western Cape Province and beyond.
Incidents of child abduction and attempted kidnappings have taken place in shopping malls from under their parents’ noses, while playing in their neighbourhoods and even when walking to and from school.
The radical increase in reported abductions resulted in many government departments issuing warnings regarding child safety. The Western Cape Education Department in particular instructed all principals to inform and educate leaners around vigilance and taking necessary safety precautions.
In addition, the South African Police Services has sought to emphasise the need for continuous responsiveness amongst communities regarding the safety of children by conducting educational sessions and rights awareness interventions.
On 15 November 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Organised Crime Convention containing the Palermo Protocol, the first international instrument to define trafficking as:
Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion. These other forms of coercion extend to abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
All countries which were signatories to the protocol had a duty to create legislation which would combat the crime of human trafficking.
Culturally unique forms of trafficking such as ukuthwala are however not addressed in the definition of trafficking. Ukuthwala is the illegal removal of a girl from her parents’ dwelling for the purpose of forced marriage or sexual intercourse.
In the unreported case Jezile v S and Others, a full bench of the Western Cape High Court delivered a landmark judgment where the court held that ukuthwala is no defence for crimes of rape, human trafficking and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Thirteen years after ratification, South Africa satisfied the duty imposed on it by the Palermo Protocol. On 29 July 2013, South Africa’s former President, Jacob Zuma signed into law the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013. This is the country’s first piece of legislation centred around combating and preventing human trafficking.
While South Africa’s legislation in this regard may be viewed as being in its infancy, measures adopted by the country in criminalising acts associated with trafficking illustrate a step in the right direction.