DRUM spent the afternoon with a human trafficking victim who was used as a sex slave by her ex-husband. The woman, who is remarkably beautiful, has a harrowing story to tell.
“It’s hard for me to leave the house these days because I’m constantly looking over my shoulders. What if someone who knows me and my ex-husband recognises me and he finds me?” she says.
Bongiwe* is currently in a victim protection programme, which relocated her to another city so she would never see her trafficker ever again. But it’s not enough to take away her fear.
“I married him when I was a teenager. He was an exciting man but a few years into the marriage he became physically and emotionally abusive,” she says.
She managed to exit the relationship and divorce her husband, but years down the line, they would establish a new relationship.
“We had both moved on but when I saw him again, he told me the mother of his child had abandoned them,” she says. “He asked me to help him look after his child.”
It would be the worst decision she had ever made, because when she went to his house she discovered he was operating a sex trafficking ring.
“He wouldn’t let me leave the house and I had to help him give the girls tik [methamphetamine], she says. “He also told his friends that acted as body guards to have their way with me and I was raped several times.”
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, 248 700 people are living in modern slavery, which includes commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage, forced labour and child labour.
South Africa has been identified as a hotspot.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that trafficking is a R1,9 billion industry globally, but experts say it is difficult to quantify because only 1 % of trafficking victims report to the police.
Dr Monique Emser, member of the KwaZulu Natal Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothels Task Team, says South Africans in general are largely to blame for human trafficking.
“We are the ones who are feeding the market and creating the demand,” she says. “We always demand cheap products and services.”
Find out how Bongiwe escaped the sex trafficking ring in this week’s issue of DRUM