International Body Hails 'Comprehensive' SA Bill on People Trafficking as Step in Right Direction

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BYLINE: AMANDEEP PARMAR

HUMAN trafficking legislation is on the way to becoming a reality in South Africa, with a bill to be ready for discussion next month.

The Prevention and Combating of the Trafficking in Persons Bill was submitted by the SA Law Reform Commission on May 8 and is being reviewed by human rights groups and government organisations.

The closing date for comments is June 15, then the bill is to be introduced to Parliament. The SA Law Reform Commission hopes it will be passed this year, especially with the World Cup round the corner.

More than 500 000 visitors are expected for the World Cup and it is feared traffickers will bring in women and children from all over the world for sexual exploitation.

Engela Steyn, Department of Justice senior law adviser, said there were concerns about people trafficking increasing during that period, but the bill was not specifically intended to deal with events around the World Cup.

This is the first bill of its kind in South Africa, despite the country being identified as one of the hubs of human trafficking and many perpetrators escaping prosecution through legal loopholes.

Statistics are hard to come by, but it is estimated as many as a million people a year are trafficked across borders, with 75 percent of them going through South Africa.

Johan Kruger, the national co-ordinator for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said: "The problem isn't that the legislation is inadequate, it's that there is no comprehensive legislation."

People may be prosecuted under the Immigration Act of 2002, as well as under common law for such offences as murder, assault and kidnapping.

The difficulty, according to Steyn, is that specific aspects of trafficking are tackled, but not the crime itself. …