[notice]Peter-John Pearson, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaision Office (CPLO) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, responds to the new Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act[/notice]
Speedy co-operation of state departments needed to make law fully operational as soon as possible
The Presidency announced on 30th July 2013 that President Zuma had signed into law five Bills, including the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill. This piece of legislation has been before Parliament for six years, and has been the focus of advocacy campaigns around issues of human trafficking for more than a decade. The legislation is the largely the result of work done by the South African Law Reform Commission, together with numerous civil society inputs.The new legislation provides the first comprehensive framework for combating trafficking in persons. Up until now, the law in this area has been fragmentary and prosecutions had to be effected via various common-law or statutory offences. For instance, existing legislation relating to sexual offences covered areas where trafficked persons were exploited sexually, just as the Children’s Act covered areas solely relating to the trafficking of children. Inevitably, this fragmented approach left gaps in the legislation, did not offer a single focus for prosecution, and allowed for ambivalence around the interpretation of policies. The new Act closes loopholes and creates a coherent approach to preventing and combating what is widely considered to be the most pernicious form of contemporary slavery.
In addition, the legislation creates important new offences such as debt bondage, where a person is required to pay off debts through their labour. It also criminalises the possession, destruction or tampering with people’s travel documents. It likewise makes it a crime to use the services of trafficked persons; this is of particular importance, for example, when it comes to the large numbers of girls and young women who are trafficked from the rural parts of South Africa to provide domestic labour in urban areas.