Human trafficking outside European borders

The South African Parliament has still not endorsed the detailed human trafficking legislation put forward in 2003. Critics like to claim that human trafficking is not a major problem in the country despite frequent proof of the opposite. Fortunately however, there seems to have been a positive shift during 2011 although perhaps not as rapidly progressive as one would hope. A number of human trafficking cases has been brought to South African courts and Adina dos Santos is one example of a prosecution leading to a conviction.

In July 2011 dos Santos was sentenced to lifetime in prison in Pretoria. The woman was found guilty of taking three young girls between 14 and 17 years old from Mocambique and forcing them into prostitution in her house in Morelata, Pretoria. Thanks to a suspicious neighbor, the police started doing surveillance on the house. When moving in, the police found detailed notes about clients and their time of arrival. Dos Santos was sentenced to life in prison, plus an additional year for living off the money she made from selling the girls.

This is not the first human trafficking prosecution in South Africa, but getting a conviction is very rare.
The lifetime sentence is also very different from the usual fine which is normally the verdict in these trials. Overall, South Africa still has a long way to go when it comes to preventing human trafficking. The debate is often undifferentiated and the problem diminished, not seldom due to the lack of statistics of the true extent of human trafficking in the country. The lack of a comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation with proper sentences as a consequence is also a problem which in turn contributes to the inadequate quantity of statistics. The trial against Adina dos Santos does however give a sense of hope that there are still forces in South Africa to be reckoned with when it comes to fighting human trafficking, and that they are certainly moving in the right direction.

/Stella Rössborn