ACDP applauds those who worked on the “Human Trafficking Bill”

ACDP applauds those who worked on the “Human Trafficking Bill” which has finally be signed into law.

ACDP MP Hon Steve Swart with Anti-Trafficking NGO’s demonstrating outside Parliament in 2012

Human Trafficking is systematic kidnapping and enslavement, bought and sold Rape and slave labour, which is internationally recognised as a crime against humanity. ACDP representative in the National Assembly as well as Parliament’s Justice Portfolio committee Steve Swart said the ACDP would now call for effective implementation of the newly signed Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, now an Act. “The Act is very comprehensive, but any act is only as effective as its implementation.” The ACDP identifies that police units will need training in the procedures associated with this Act, inclusive of response, knowledge of the justice system, victims rights and attitudes.

“Since the start, the ACDP, and particularly Steve Swart has been at the forefront of pushing for the finalization of this act, making sure it is an act to be proud of, recognizing it as a much needed piece of legislation,. Although it has taken almost 7 years, we are ecstatic that we can say ‘Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty’ and take steps to abolish this form of slave trade.” said Jo Ann Downs, ACDP NEC Chairman

According to Steve Swart, until this bill was signed into law, South Africa was not perceived as being compliant with the minimum standards for elimination of human trafficking according to the international community. In 2007 and 2008, South Africa was criticized for its lack of data, investigation, prosecution and applicable laws with regard to ttrafficking. It was placed on the US Department of State’s Tier 2 Watchlist for this crime for four consecutive years (2004-2008). The HSRC has said South Africa is not even collecting basic level data on this crime. Although police have been dealing with cases of trafficking, prosecutions in respect of trafficking were done indirectly through racketeering or organized crime laws. The Children’s Act of 1998 and the Domestic Violence Act did address trafficking in as far as any behavior that facilitates the trafficking of children and trafficking of women for sexual exploitation are illegal, but this issue was not addressed clearly.

The comprehensive “Human Trafficking Act” covers criminalization of various aspects of trafficking with an international scope to try such offences. “The Act goes right down to provision of services, transport, kidnapping, electronic sources used, network providers and any other steps in the chain of trafficking, everyone is deemed responsible” said Swart. “Men who use the services of trafficked women, you can be prosecuted. If your domestic worker is trafficked, you can be prosecuted. It is your responsibility to make sure you are not involved in the slave trade”

“This Act also criminalises failure to report instances of trafficking in persons. “Duty to report” is one of the sections of the “Children’s Act” that has aided its implementation. Doctors, Nurses, Land Lords, anybody that suspects trafficking is taking place, or encounters a victim must report or they are guilty of a crime in terms of the “Trafficking Act”. The Act also insists on aftercare for victims and allows for them to receive compensation, which is groundbreaking.” Steve Swart said that what made this law stand out above other international laws, is the fines imposed are directly payable to victims. This applies the principle of “Restorative Justice” that the ACDP has always stood for.

In South Africa there are no statistics available to even quantify this issue, apart from those released internationally. Anecdotal evidence suggests that South Africa is a source, intermediary and destination of trafficking in persons inclusive of various nationalities. Steve Swart said he hoped that more official data would be collected. Internationally, thirty million people are estimated to be in slavery and 1.2-million children are trafficked annually, often being sold into the sex trade. The UN estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa is responsible for 5.2% of forced labour sourced from trafficking and accounting for $1.6-billion US dollars. As those who are trafficked are often from rural/impoverished regions, their disappearance often goes uninvestigated, parents and guardians are complicit in the sale of their children, or they are used to service debts to gang members and therefore never reported.

The Salvation Army has been running an Anti-Trafficking hotline in South Africa, and the ACDP hopes that through this act, they can get more support. The number is 0800-073728 and can be used to report suspicious activity.

After many historic years of being a victims of the slave trade, the ACDP calls on South Africans to make sure this crime against humanity is abolished, through knowledge of the Act and how citizens can help enforce it.

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