Modeling the Differential Incidence of "Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation"1 in Poor Households in South Africa: Focus on Child Trafficking

Article excerpt


This paper is based on an in-progress Ph.D. research2 themed: "Modeling the Differential Incidence of Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation in Poor Households in South Africa". The aim of the research is to build a theoretical grounding and to propose a practical model for understanding child abuse. The research argues that the gaps and shortcomings in understanding child abuse are, to a large extent, the consequence of an over-estimation of socio-economic variables as main variables contributing to the incidence of child abuse.

The paper does not attempt to collect data on child trafficking to explain its extent in South Africa but aims to suggest the use of the Integrated Modeled Theory (IMT) to facilitate the understanding of the incidence of child abuse in general and child trafficking in particular. The IMT combines contributing variables from various theories to explain the incidence of child abuse (including child trafficking) and suggests mechanisms for prevention of and interventions against child abuse (child trafficking). The IMT is therefore a tool that assists in the decision-making process for prevention and intervention actions against child trafficking during and after the 2010 Fifa World Cup tournament seen as a great opportunity for child traffickers.


As we approach the beginning of the first ever Fifa World Cup tournament in Africa (South Africa), media and human rights institutions are pressing alarms on the consequences of such big event on prostitution and child trafficking. For January and February 2009 alone, South African newspapers have been inundated with headlines such as "MPs concerned about trafficking", "Traffickers eye 2010", "Sex trade booms ahead of 2010", "Fears of trafficking continue to grow", "Increased risk of child trafficking in 2010", "2010 child abuse warning", "Children at risk during World Cup". These headlines as well as discussions in the South African Parliament, the Fifa Local Organizing Committee and meetings of human rights and children amount to the fear for the safety of children during the tournament.

This alarming situation needs a particular consideration in the search for a solution. However, because child abuse and specifically child trafficking is a complex phenomenon to understand, prevention and intervention mechanisms need to be based on an integrated model that is based on theories explaining the incidence of child abuse in general and child trafficking in particular.

Definition of the Concept "Child Trafficking"

The South African Constitution stipulates, in section 28 (3) that a "child" means a person under the age of 18 years.

Child abuse is internationally condemned. The term "abuse of children" includes physical, emotional, sexual abuse, commercial exploitation and the neglect of children. The United Nations' Convention of the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) defines child abuse as "all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse". (Article 19, UN CRC). This definition categorises all forms of child abuse as crime.

Munro (2002) proposes a broader definition of child abuse by looking at the 1996 British National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse. This definition takes the scope of child abuse outside of the family set-up: "Child abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions, or processes do or fail to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood".

Child trafficking is one specific category of child abuse considered in this paper. According to the website of Swiss Foundation of 'Terre des Hommes' ( "child trafficking" concerns the business of removing children from their homes and families, transporting them elsewhere, whether elsewhere within the country or overseas, to be put to use by others, usually to make money. …


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