Hidden within the shadows of society lurks an industry which affects the lives of scores of individuals.
Today, July 30, marks World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. A day which revolves around creating awareness about the trafficking of people. Forcing people into modern-day slavery.
Human trafficking was recently officially labelled as the fastest growing illegal industry globally, with forced labour generating an estimated annual profit of $150 billion according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
What makes this truly scary, is that this sum of money is the result of people using other people as mere products.
The ILO claims there are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. Out of this staggering number of people, there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation.
There is also an expected 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour. Out of these people, approximately 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture.
There are a further estimated 152 million children, aged between 5 and 17, who have been subjected to child labour. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 5.4 million forced labourers—the largest in the world.
With the victims facing overwhelming odds, there are individuals who are fighting for those who have fallen victim to modern-day slavery.
One such individual is Advocate Liechen Strydom. As an admitted advocate to the high court of South Africa and the owner of Liberation Legal Consulting, the former Newcastillian is truly making an impact in combating forced labour.
“What people need to realise, is that you don’t need to cross borders for trafficking people or forced labour. A child can be exploited for sex at home, by a family member,” says Advocate Strydom.
What is the situation of human trafficking and forced labour in South Africa?
“It is bad, especially with Durban having a harbour and then there is Johannesburg’s which is known to be a hot spot,” says Advocate Strydom.
Such is the nature of trafficking in South Africa, that South Africa has been rated on a Tier 2 Watchlist for the second consecutive year. This comes after being downgraded from a Tier 2 rating, in the 2019 United Nations Trafficking in Persons Report (UN TIP Report).
There are four tiers, which are Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist and Tier 3. These standards are outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
What do the tiers mean?
Tier 1 represents countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, and Tier 2 represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
The Tier 2 Watchlist is at the same level as Tier 2, but these countries have increasing levels of criminal activity. The lowest level is Tier 3, which represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
From large syndicates to small-individual based groups in smaller towns, trafficking and forced labour is an issue which we as a society cannot ignore.
Advocate Strydom explains she has dealt and spoken to survivors of trafficking, their ordeals nothing short of hell on earth.
“The way they are broken in, for lack of better wording, is horrific. It is because of everything that these victims go through, that we need the community to act as our eyes and ears. If anything suspicious is seen, it is important to contact the authorities as soon as possible.”
How does one know if an individual is a victim of forced labour?
According to the ILO, the 11 indicators of forced labour is:
1. Abuse of vulnerability
3. Restriction of movement
5. Physical and sexual violence
6. Intimidation and threats
7. Retention of identity documents
8. Withholding of wages
9. Debt bondage
10. Abusive working and living conditions, and
11. Excessive overtime.
Through her business, Advocate Strydom can assess businesses and ensure there is no form of forced labour within the business’s daily routine.
Through implementing policies to safeguard the business and individuals from trafficking and forced labour, Strydom also looks at the business’s supply chain. This is to ensure ethical behaviour and standards are always met.
Industries such as the cocoa industry are known for forced labour, but with Liberation Legal Consulting, Strydom is continuously striving to ensure consumers and business owners can rest assured their products do not come through the pain and tears of innocent lives. With slavery coming in many forms, from forced labour to sex labour, Advocate Strydom reminds people that traffickers don’t always come with a set profile.
“A lot of times, you will actually know your trafficker. Them forming a relationship with you makes it easier to eliminate the initial force and threat.”
Recruitment of victims is also not always clear cut, with traffickers constantly evolving their techniques. From job offers to university students offering to share accommodation, traffickers lurk everywhere within our society.
Advocate Strydom also explains that slave owners use various techniques to control their victims, which includes getting victims addicted to drugs and violence.
“There are stories where women who are sexually exploited are taken into a room, and the ones who earned the least amount of money, are shot in front of others.”
With extreme violence surrounding victims of modern-day slavery, Advocate Strydom encourages the community to always remain vigilant and to report any strange behaviour to the relevant authorities.
As Advocate Strydom fights the good fight, putting the needs of others ahead of her own, Newcastle can be proud of her as she moves up the country’s legal system, acting as the voice for those who find themselves enslaved.
Innocent lives which are being abused to ensure their ‘owners’ are able to turn a profit.
Contact the SA Human Trafficking Resource Helpline on 0800 222 777. To report any suspicious activity.
People can also make use of this number if they would like to confirm whether a job ad is legit, as the helpline can assist in verifying that for them.
If you would like to do your part in standing against trafficking and forced labour, be sure to contact Advocate Strydom on firstname.lastname@example.org