There are an estimated 155,000 people living in modern slavery in South Africa (GSI 2018). South Africa remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. South African children were recruited from poor, rural areas to urban centres, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, where girls were subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude and boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Local criminal rings organized child sex trafficking, Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates facilitated trafficking within the Cape Town commercial sex industry, and Thai and Chinese nationals often organized the sex trafficking of Asian men and women. Nigerian syndicates dominated the commercial sex industry in several provinces. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruited South African women to Europe and Asia, where some are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, or drug smuggling.
At 13 years old, Ella* was abducted by a boy from her school and forced to marry him. She was taken from Lesotho to South Africa, kept in the house and sexually assaulted every night. She was finally able to escape after three months.
I was abducted by a boy from my school after winter class. He tightly grabbed me by my hand and took me to his house. I was taken into the home for two months and forced to stay there. He took me to be his wife. I do not remember much of this time except that the mother would talk bad about me because I would not perform the duties of a wife. I was kept in one of the rooms where every night I was sexually assaulted. They were always there so I could not escape.
After two months the boy’s stepmother, took me from Lesotho to South Africa to buy clothes that symbolizes that I am no longer a young girl but a woman who is married culturally to her stepson. During this time, she called my sister who lives in the area I was in so she could visit me. I told my sister what was going on and what happened to me. The next month I escaped from the boy and his stepmother and ran away to my sister.
Later I learned that my parents were in negotiations with the boy’s family to force me in an unwanted marriage against my will. My sister phoned our parents and they did not deny the allegations instead they told her to return me to the alleged mother in law because they said I was married, and they couldn’t do anything. When she tried to talk the parents out of the forced marriage, they told her that if she takes me away from that family then she would be responsible to pay for my fees.
After speaking with my family my sister took me to the police station. The police station referred me to a social worker who to me to a place to stay for some time. I was moved to another center where I stayed with my sister, but the alleged mother in law kept threatening my sister. Because of the threats, the social worker referred the case to the local Embassy. They brought me back to Lesotho.
Narrative provided by Beautiful Dream Society