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The role of discursive power and non-governmental organisations in counter-human trafficking in South Africa.

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The international debate on human trafficking dates back to the 1980s and 1990s when human trafficking was not envisioned outside of the perimeter of prostitution within international law and was sparked by the feminist protests against gender-based violence. Human trafficking is still regarded as a rapidly growing social phenomenon within the current globalised world. Trafficking of persons refers to the recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons through the use of coercion or force for the purpose of exploitation. Therefore, political actors, civil society which incorporates counter-human trafficking non-governmental organizations have emerged within the human rights debate, advocating different views and interests. Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) are increasingly active internationally in organising initiatives around raising awareness in the interests of the most vulnerable groups as well as challenging public policy and legal frameworks. Due to NGOs maintaining different agendas, there is a battle for power positions within their own frameworks as to what constitutes to human rights violations. In terms of the use and misuse of power, particularly discursive and political power, previous research highlighted that states often use typical depictions of the crime in impoverished and developing areas to raise awareness. These intentions often carry a political aim and/or interest blurring the roles of counter-human trafficking NGOs. However, there is still insufficient research on the different roles these NGOs actually play in counter-human trafficking within the South African context. It is therefore on this basis that the following dissertation discusses the role counter-human trafficking NGOs play in combatting human trafficking in South Africa. The dissertation further assesses factors which impact the role of these NGOs. Lastly, the dissertation investigates the role of discursive power on human trafficking and counter-human trafficking NGOs in South Africa. The research is guided through a qualitative empirical research design and a conceptual framework of power. NGOs play a significant role in assisting the South African government with combatting human trafficking despite the many challenges they face which adversely impacts their efficacy. Their experiential knowledge should be leveraged more effectively by government role-players, and their critical voices should not be silenced in the fight against trafficking in persons.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.