Against the backdrop of inequality, unemployment, lack of education and poverty, the social and economic challenges in South Africa make it a fertile ground for child sexual exploitation and trafficking. With an estimated 68% of South African children living in poor households, of which 20% are orphans, families are often in an economically and social fragile state. As a result, families struggle for survival and children become more vulnerable to commercial exploitation.
Using psychological manipulation, the perpetrators lure victims into sex slavery through promises of a better education or jobs, family protection and economic support. The perpetrators also recruit victims by promising their families they will be better taken care of by means of cash paid to the family through the child’s earnings.
A growing form of sexual exploitation of children in South Africa is “survival sex”. This is a situation where sex is exchanged for basic necessities such as food, shelter, education or to settle a debt owed by a family member.