A U.N. expert says trafficking of children is growing in South Africa.
U.N. special investigator Juan Miguel Petit says children from Angola and Mozambique are being trafficked and forced into prostitution on the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town.
He says others from as far away as Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia also are working as prostitutes. He contends that they are forced into the business by mainly Angolan, Congolese, and Nigerian syndicates.
Mr. Petit says that despite the fact that child trafficking in South Africa is not yet recognized as a criminal offense, police there concede that more must be done to tackle the problem. "The police authorities recognize that the problem exists, of course," he said. "They deal with the problem. They also say at the same time that the problem has no exact figures."
He says that the international police system, Interpol, has been requested to get involved.
Another area of concern in South Africa is the large number of rapes of children. Mr. Petit says the international notoriety caused by the news of the rape of a nine-month-old baby in 2001 points to continued sexual violence against children.
The South African Ministry for Safety and Security reported that more than 15,000 children were raped in the first half of 2001. Meanwhile, the Child Protection Unit in Johannesburg says it receives reports of 200 new cases every month.
Mr. Petit says he has urged the South African authorities to raise public awareness of the problem and to improve education in ways to prevent such violence. "The South African government should speak more about this," said Mr. Petit. "I think they are perhaps a little bit conservative in speaking openly about this matter. Big campaigns should be made in education and in training teachers."
Mr. Petit says the fact that perpetrators of rape are getting younger is a cause for concern. He says high levels of violence and alcoholism found in South Africa, as well as the cultural treatment of children as commodities contribute to this alarming tendency.