The FIFA Fan Fests promise to be enormously popular during the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, but there are also risks associated with such large gatherings. In an effort to provide assistance to vulnerable children at these events, UNICEF will establish Child Friendly Spaces at five of the Fan Fests.
A report released by the Human Sciences Research Council last month has warned that “human trafficking in South Africa is a serious problem that warrants intervention on all fronts”. While it is extremely difficult to assess the scale of the problem, it is widely acknowledged that South Africa has become a major source, destination and transit country for the trafficking of people. Furthermore, the United Nations has estimated that as much as 30% of trafficking victims are below the age of 18.
With thousands of foreign tourists expected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup there are concerns that human trafficking of children, particularly for sexual exploitation, may increase significantly during this period. Children are particularly vulnerable in large crowds, and for this reason UNICEF will be establishing Child Friendly Spaces at five of the FIFA Fan Fest sites. The tented structures will provide access to a variety of social, medical and emergency services, while also providing a safe environment, food and entertainment for children at the Fan Fests. UNICEF has also been working closely with government in addressing human trafficking. For example, UNICEF sponsored a meeting of the national Child Protection Committee in November 2009. As an output of this meeting, a specific Child Protection Action Plan for the World Cup was reviewed and updated. A national review exercise will also be organized following the event in July 2010.
The Government’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Safety cluster is coordinating National and Provincial Task Teams on Human Trafficking. These teams, which comprise 14 permanent members, have been preparing Action Plans in preparation for the World Cup. With the collaboration of international partners, training of police and border officials on issues relating to trafficking in persons is planned. The National Department of Social Development is also preparing a specific Child Protection Action Plan.
This will include the establishment of a national Government-NGO working group and task teams in host cities charged with the elaboration and implementation of local child protection plans.
South Africa has been criticized for failing to develop legislation under which people guilty of human trafficking can be prosecuted. A bill to address this gap is currently before Parliament, and it is expected to be fast-tracked in order to become law before the World Cup. Under the bill, perpetrators could face life imprisonment or heavy fines if convicted of human trafficking. The bill would also give South African courts extra-territorial jurisdiction to prosecute acts outside its borders, while also obliging Internet providers to report suspect activity and information. South Africa’s attempts at combating human trafficking has also received support from the European Union, which donated R35 million to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority recently to identify and prosecute human trafficking.
In a significant milestone, the National Prosecuting Authority announced on Wednesday 24 March 2010 that it had made its first conviction for human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The state used racketeering laws related to sexual exploitation to convict the South African couple, who are due to be sentenced on May 10 and face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or a R100 million fine.