Child Sex Trafficking and Related Abuses

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Child Sex Trafficking

According to UNICEF, as many as two million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. International covenants and protocols obligate criminalisation of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The use of children in commercial sex trade is prohibited under the UN TIP Protocol. There can be no exceptions and no cultural or socio- economic rationalization that prevent the rescue of children from sexual servitude. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/ AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death. 

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)

CSEC is the sexual exploitation of children for the commercial gain of some person(s). CSEC includes all child prostitution as well as child pornography. This is not human trafficking per se, as some forms of CSEC such as child pornography are not always a form of human trafficking. Most forms of CSEC, however are forms of human trafficking, such as child sex trafficking.

Child Sex Tourism (CST)

This is one form of “demand” for victims of child sex trafficking. It involves people who travel from their own country- often a country where child sexual exploitation is illegal or culturally abhorrent to another country where they engage in commercial sex acts with children. CST is a shameful assault on the dignity of children and a form of violent child abuse. It often involves trafficking, as a trafficking crime likely was committed in the provision of the child for sex tourist’s exploitation.


Debunking Common Trafficking Myths

Initial Consent: A person may agree to migrate legally or illegally or take a job willingly. But once that work or service is no longer voluntary, that person becomes a victim of forced labor or forced prostitution and should accordingly receive the protections contemplated by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Once a person’s work is recruited or compelled by the use or threat of physical violence or the abuse or threatened abuse of legal process, the person’s previous consent or effort to obtain employment with the trafficker becomes irrelevant. 

A person may agree to work for an employer initially but later decide to stop working because the conditions are not what they agreed to. If an employer then uses force, fraud, or coercion to retain the person’s labor or services, the employer becomes a trafficking offender and the employee becomes a victim.

Prior Work History: Previous employment choices also do not exclude the possibility that a person maybe a victim of trafficking. Some government officials fail to identify victims of sex trafficking because they may have willingly worked in the sex industry prior to being trafficked. Law enforcement may fail also to identify victims of labor trafficking because they are migrant workers and may have previously worked in difficult conditions, either legally or illegally. Whether a person is a victim of labor trafficking turns on whether that person’s service or labor was induced by force, fraud, or coercion.

Wage Payment: If a person is compelled to labor through the use of force or coercion- including the use of nonphysical forms of coercion such as financial harm- then that work or service is forced, even if he is paid or compensated for the work.







Some 20 to 30 percent of the world’s gold comes from artisanal mines  throughout Africa, South America, and Asia. Artisanal mines typically found in rural areas of developing countries. They offer communities and families a way to make a living in areas where few alternatives exist. But these mines are also the sites of modern-day slavery; of the two million children who work in gold mines world-wide, many are forced, often through debt bondage, to do back- breaking work in hazardous conditions.


  • Exposure to hazardous elements: Mercury is magnetically attracted to gold, making it a good tool for locating gold and separating it from the soil. In Africa, many children rub mercury into their hands before sifting soil through their fingers. In South America, children reportedly wash gold while standing in waist deep water contaminated by mercury. Prolonged mercury exposure causes retardation, blindness, kidney damage, and tremor. To a lesser extent, child mine laborers are also exposed to cyanide and sulfur. A 2006 Harvard medical school study found that children in gold mining communities showed neurological abnormalities resulting from mercury and cyanide exposure.
  • Mine collapses, explosions: Artisanal mines frequently collapse, killing or injuring workers. Children are often lowered into narrow mine shafts as deep as 90 meters, sometime for up to 18 hours. In Bolivia, trafficked boys as young as eight help detonate dynamite in the interior of gold mines
  • Long hours, back- breaking work: Traffickers in the Democratic Republic of Congo subject children to debt bondage in gold mines, forcing them to work nine to ten hours daily digging tunnels and open- pit mines. In gold mines in Ethiopia, children are forced to work an average of 14 hours a day, six days a week

Trafficking Body Parts in Zimbabwe (The Call for Action)

Information on trafficking body parts has previously been based almost entirely on hearsay and this has made it easy for both government and civil society to claim it either does not occur or is so infrequent it does not merit any response or attention. However the report in the Zimbabwean Sunday Mail Newspaper on the 31st of October 2010 on the ritual murders occurring in Chipinge seems to show a different picture.  The findings of this report in the view of the Southern African Anti Human Trafficking Trust (SAAHTT) show just the tip of the whole situation in a system of regular mutilations occurring in Zimbabwe and indeed the rest of the Southern African region.

When it comes to trafficking human body parts there are two main types; the first is trafficking organs for organ transplant and secondly trafficking organs and body parts in connection to harmful traditional practices and more specifically witchcraft. It is clear from numerous reports provided over the years that body parts in this part of the world are not trafficked for transplant purposes. Many of the cases reported in the media, body parts are transported in bags, wrapped in leaves, hidden in boxes of meat e.t.c. None of these transportation methods are conducive to transplant.

The objective of using body parts in the so called “medicine murder” or muti murder is to create powerful traditional medicine based partly on human body parts. Traditional medicine has a wide range of purposes, for instance to heal illness and economic advancement or just to hurt enemies.

This practice has been occurring in Zimbabwe for generations and it also occurs in the whole Southern African region. In Mozambique the Human Rights League which is a local based NGO recorded a case in 2008 where a 10 year old boy’s body was found at the night in Tsatsimbe River in Magude, Mozambique. According to the clinic post mortem, the child was found “without the head, heart, liver, penis and testicles, and had an oblique incision from the left to right made with a sharpened cutting object”. It states that the child was murdered violently and the injuries were fatal. The community members believed the body parts were taken to South Africa as they where never recovered.

Zimbabwe as with most countries in Southern Africa region is ranked over 100 out of the 177 countries ranked in the human development index. Zimbabwe has specifically been suffering from political and financial instability for the better part of the last ten years and therefore poverty and poor life opportunities is a reality for the vast majority of the population and poverty is a well known strong driver when it comes to people consulting witchdoctors as people desperately try to evade poverty and the frustrations and poor life conditions associated with it and therefore become susceptible to unreasonable demands by the witchdoctors to achieve it.

There is a need for immediate and sustained action by government and civil society in Zimbabwe in order to combat such gross violations of the rights of the victims of these practices and SAAHTT believes the following actions can assist in combating this problem:

  1. For programmes to be developed, there firstly needs to be an acknowledgement from government that regular mutilations occur and that body parts are removed from victims and trafficked on an ongoing basis.
  2. Local communities affected by this phenomenon are often reluctant to speak out due to fear, it is therefore critical that civil society and government  starts working to remove the mystery surrounding trafficking in body parts. This can be achieved through public awareness on the nature of trafficking in body parts and human trafficking in general and it is our view that it will go a long way in protecting potential victims from the clutches of traffickers
  3. Generally in the SADC region, comprehensive legislation on human trafficking is still lacking, and traffickers have taken advantage of this weakness. In fact, it is the victims who if found alive become criminals as they are prosecuted for a variety of offences, such as violating immigration laws. It is therefore imperative that Zimbabwe and other countries in the region adopt comprehensive anti- trafficking legislation; in line with international standards and that the legislation should cover issues of trafficking human body parts.

In conclusion trafficking in body parts is closely and inextricably linked to some of the worst forms of human rights violations. Many pay the ultimate price and lose their lives. It is time to hold our government accountable and push for the protection of all the men, women, boys and girls who are increasingly falling victim to this in humane practice. This is a call for ACTION!!!

Shonhiwa. Bakare

Governments to address threat of transnational organized crime

14 October 2010 – Progress in international efforts to address transnational United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime 2010organized crime will be the focus of the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. A decade after the adoption of the Palermo Convention, as it is also known, States parties are meeting in Vienna from 18 to 22 October to take stock of efforts to fight this scourge.

The Convention, together with its protocols on trafficking in persons and firearms, as well as on migrant smuggling, forms the legal basis for international cooperation against all types of serious crimes. Ministers and officials from Member States will address a wide range of issues requiring effective legal responses, law enforcement and criminal justice, including new and emerging issues such as environmental crime, trafficking in cultural property and cybercrime.

So far, 157 States have ratified the instrument, which forms the global basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance. As such, it represents a powerful tool for cooperation against criminal gangs, their ringleaders and mafia networks operating worldwide.

The agenda is available at


The Role of the United States in Combatting Human Trafficking

This here is a great speech by Luis CdeBaca, who is the Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Centre for American Progress on 12 May 2010.

Luis CdeBaca

Lusi CdeBaca

You can read the full speech here.Great takeaways from the speech for us include:

‘We cannot focus on one form of trafficking over another if we truly want to end this crime’

‘What we’re really talking about are the shadows: traffickers operate in the shadows and they take advantage of zones of impunity no matter why those zones exist. So, our global response must has to not just be to catch and punish those that we can find; we have to destroy their safe havens by fighting for rule of law, security, and economic empowerment.’

‘There has been a lot of progress made, but there is a lot to do – 10 years is really just a blip in any movement much less in our modern abolitionist effort.’

‘The Report is not a rebuke or reprimand to our fellow countries; it’s a real assessment on how countries are doing – or frankly, sometimes not doing – in the fight against modern slavery. It’s a smart power tool that leads to greater bilateral and multilateral partnerships. The Report might lead to tough discussions, but it has driven action worldwide.’

‘Because of the Report, countries have implemented legislation, trained law enforcement, raised public awareness, implemented protective mechanisms for victims, and in the end, what’s important: freed people from slavery.’

‘Usually working outside the protections of prevailing labor laws – and sadly, that’s the case in the United States today – and socially isolated in their workplace, domestic workers too easily fall into modern slavery.’

‘We’ll work with private business and corporations to leverage their resources, expertise, and talents against trafficking. Partnering with the private sector is essential to reduce the demand for commercial sex and cheap labor that traffickers rush to meet through violence. It means scrubbing modern slavery out of the supply chains that create our every-day products–food, clothes, and cell phones to name a few.’

‘As you know, much of international human rights work of the past decades has been largely about identifying a problem, naming, and shaming.” But as Secretary Clinton recently said:

“Calling for accountability doesn’t start or stop, however, at naming offenders. Our goal is to encourage – even demand – that governments must also take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in the government institutions; by building strong independent courts; competent and disciplined law enforcement. And once rights are established, governments should be expected to resist the temptation to restrict freedom.”

‘Freedom. It’s the greatest human right; slavery is its antithesis.’

We almost just reproduced the whole speech :). It was that great. The main points that we think are central to any strategy to combat human trafficking in Southern Africa and salient in the quotes above include the realisation that there is a need to combat all forms of trafficking. This includes domestic servitude, commercial sex trafficking and labour trafficking among other forms. Another key point is that there is need to destroy the conditions that allow the increase in trafficking. This may include addressing porous borders and issuing of identity documents in Southern Africa. The fact that the anti-trafficking movement has only just begun reaching at the core of the problems fueling trafficking. The importance of the Trafficking in Persons Report not as a shaming tool but as a tool to assess efforts against trafficking and trigger action against the same is also critical as some African governments may view the report as an emblem of the West’s continued negative perception of governance in Africa. Linked to this is the fact that the next report would now subject the United States to the same stringent metrics used across the world to assess governments’ efforts to combat trafficking. In essence, the idea of the U.S ‘leading by example. The need for partnerships in combatting trafficking was also elucidated. The fact that this crime requires ‘all hands on deck’. It is not something that can be tackled by law enforcement agencies alone or by NGOs alone. It requires a collective effort by private companies, government, civil society organisations, citizens, law enforcement agencies etc. Lastly he talked of slavery being at conflict with freedom, which is the greatest human right. And we will talk about human trafficking and human rights in the next post.