It is not unusual in some rural parts of South Africa to see underage girls going to the river to fetch water. What many don’t know is that older men sometimes prey on such vulnerable children, kidnapping them and forcing them to become their wives.
In some cases, the girls are coerced by their parents to marry older men for financial benefit, even though the young brides have not consented to the marriage. The forcing of underaged girls to marry older men is often referred to as ukuthwala (a form of abduction).
Ukuthwala is just one form of human trafficking in South Africa and robs victims of their childhood. It brings an abrupt end to the carefree existence that all children are entitled to. Its victims suddenly become wives, having to serve their adult husbands and in-laws, and care for the children born into their forced marriages.
Last month, global anti-human trafficking organisation A21 launched a new approach in the fight against modern-day slavery. The approach takes the form of a multi-platform media campaign designed to heighten public awareness of human trafficking across key locations and transportation hubs nationwide. It’s supported by the Western Cape government, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the National Freedom Network, Intercape, Pick n Pay and Stop Traffic.
Called Can You See Me?, it consists of a series of confronting videos, billboards, posters and educational materials. It depicts scenarios of the most common forms of modern-day slavery and empowers people who suspect human trafficking activity to call the South African National Human Trafficking Hotline on 0800 222 777.