A news feature published in Sunday Times, “Human trafficking red alert,” (28/03/2010, p.5) provided tips on parents they can protect their children from human trafficking, especially during the World Cup period, when our country will host a lot of international visitors. The feature was consequently selected as a MAD Oat Glad.

“South Africa’s children are under threat,” stressed the first paragraph of one of the two articles published in the feature, both by journalist Monica Laganparsad. This was followed by a reference to “at least 15 cases of suspicious (trafficking) behaviour” – verified by Sunday Times in the last five months – including those where children were almost abducted.

A variety of sources dealing with human trafficking, including the police, were accessed. The sources revealed cases where possible abductors have reportedly taken pictures of children outside schools. A spokesman for the NPA shed light on the legislative side of the issue, also referring to The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which is “yet to be passed”, as pointed out in the article.

A study, conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council, was also referenced. The study revealed how women and children “are at growing risk of abduction and exploitation” and reportedly suggested, that trafficking awareness be taught in schools as part of the national school curriculum.

“It can happen in just twelve seconds,” was the headline of the other article published as part of the feature with a strong message of how abductions can happen in under a quarter of a minute.

The article reported on a two-year-old who was “lured away” in a Pietermaritzburg mall by a stranger. The child’s mother was reportedly waiting for a restaurant table, while the two-year-old child played with her older brother.  The mother explained how a “gentleman neatly dressed” approached the child, luring her away and how the incident “approximately took 12 seconds.”

Fortunately for her, she managed to run in their direction and rescue her daughter. She then stressed in the article, the need for parents to keep a close eye on their children in public. “Do not take your eyes off your children when visiting a public area,” she was quoted as saying.

Tips for parents on “How to Stranger Proof (their) children” were provided. These are useful tips that serve as guidelines for parents on how they can protect their children and help them also ensure their own safety.

Sunday Times is commended for taking an interest in children’s safety and educating parents and society at large on the issue.