Cabinet approves anti-human trafficking Bill


Cabinet has approved the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill and officials say it will shortly be submitted to Parliament.

Legislation outlawing human trafficking is an often-commented-upon lacunae in local law.

Deputy Social Development minister Jean Swanson-Jacobs earlier this year told a conference on human trafficking in East London that the scourge was “a global problem” that no country, developed or developing, could escape.

“It has become a lucrative criminal enterprise netting an estimated US$36 billion a year.

Swanson-Jacobs says the 2009 United Nations Global Report on Trafficking in Persons also reports some interesting trends with regard to human trafficking in SA: Sexual exploitation is by far the most common reason for human trafficking with 79% of victims. Forced labour accounts for 18% of the victims of human trafficking. South Africa reflects similar trends with 60% of victims of human trafficking sheltered by the International Organisation for Migration coming from Thailand. Another trend is that women form a disproportionate number of people involved in trafficking, both as victims and increasingly as perpetrators.

Human trafficking is a result of a complex set of interrelated push and pull factors.

On the “push” side most studies focus on such factors as poverty, a lack of opportunities, dislocation, gender, racial and ethnic inequalities, and the break-up of families.

“Pull” factors include the promise of a better life, consumer aspirations, and lack of information on the risks involved, established patterns of migration, porous borders and fewer constraints on travel.

“Tackling human trafficking and exploitative labour practices is a priority for our government,” the deputy minister added. “SA is a signatory of the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. For us in SA, signing and ratifying the Protocol was a natural extension of our commitment to human rights as enshrined in our Constitution. The fact that South Africa is seen as a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons is a threat to our fledging democracy.”

Swanson-Jacobs added that the Bill will also allow the state to prosecute traffickers and confiscate their assets. In addition, it will give the Department of Social Development a key role in the eradication of latter-day slavery. “The Bill makes provision for social service professionals to play a role in the reporting, identification and assessment of a person who is a victim of trafficking.

“Once this is confirmed the victim is entitled to be placed under an approved programme; child victims are to be placed in temporary safe care. Such programmes must offer accommodation, counselling and rehabilitation services as well as aim to reintegrate the victim back into their families and communities.”

“The programme may also offer education and skills development training for adults. The DSD has developed a set of guidelines to ensure that minimum norms and standards are in place when dealing with child and adult victims of trafficking. This will ensure that we are able to treat victims of trafficking with the dignity espoused in our Constitution,” she says.

Inflated statistics

The UN`s International Organization for Migration in 2007 condemned the “dire predictions” made by many nongovernmental organisations ahead of the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany that of tens of thousands of women would be trafficked into central Europe to serve the sexual desires of football fans.

Before the World Cup, some trafficking experts warned that up to 40 000 foreign women, many from Eastern Europe, would be forced into sex work during the four-week tournament.

The Associated Press reported on May 8, 2007 that the European Union, the United States and the Vatican had all put pressure on Germany for supposedly not doing enough to stop the expected tide. In the end, just five people were confirmed as having been trafficked into Germany for forced prostitution over that period.

“The estimate of 40,000 women expected to be trafficked was unfounded and unrealistic,” the 48-page IOM report said. The report also praised Germany for working with campaign groups well in advance of the June-July 2006 event to put in place the necessary measures against trafficking.

The IOM said Germany‘s raids on brothels; information campaigns and coordination with non-governmental groups should serve as a model for hosts of future major sporting events.

It also said “more accountability was needed among rights groups and media when citing figures, so that no one could be accused of organising a scare campaign while highlighting the serious dangers in human trafficking.”

Other developments

Also announced at yesterday`s Cabinet briefing was that the Ministerial Task Team on cost cutting measures in government that is led by the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan “indicated that it would be tabling its report shortly. President Zuma will announce these cost cutting measures as soon as Cabinet has discussed and approved the report.”

A document on development indicators was approved and will also be published shortly. “The 2009 edition contains 76 indicators that are clustered into 10 themes. These indicators are an important evaluation tool that will be used to measure the impact of the various Government policies and service delivery initiatives, and add value to the efficient planning and implementation of government programmes,” a Cabinet statement says.

Additionally, the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning was approved. The Green Paper provides for, among other things, the establishment of the Planning Commission that is headed by former finance minister Trevor Manuel. The Green Paper will be submitted to Parliament together with the Green Paper on Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation shortly.

Pic: Human Trafficking