Anti-trafficking bill signed into law in South Africa
( IOM ) - IOM South Africa has welcomed the signing into law of the long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill by President Jacob Zuma.
"The signing of this Bill into law is significant. For the first time South Africa will have a single statute which addresses the scourge of trafficking in persons holistically and comprehensively. To date, the legislative framework dealing with this issue has been fragmented," said the presidency in a statement issued last week.
The new legislation clearly makes trafficking in persons a criminal offence. In addition, it has also created offences such as debt bondage; the possession, destruction, concealment of and tampering with travel documents; and using the services of victims of trafficking, among others.
Offenders found guilty of this modern day slavery will be fined up to R100 million (US$ 10 million) or risk life imprisonment or both, if convicted. Perpetrators may also be required to pay their victims compensation.
"The signing of this bill is important not only to prevent and combat human trafficking in South Africa, but also to bring justice to trafficked persons. We believe that these severe penalties will serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators," said Dr. Erick Ventura, IOM South Africa Chief of Mission.
In the past, South Africa used existing laws like the legislation on sexual offences and the Children's Act to prosecute perpetrators. However, there were gaps in measures to prevent and combat trafficking, and provide protection and assistance to trafficking victims. The Prevention and Combating of Human Trafficking Act provides a legal framework that contains measures that prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and protect trafficking victims.
Victims of trafficking experience immense trauma throughout the trafficking process. In addition to creating very specific offences that have a bearing on trafficking in persons, the legislation also focuses on the plight of the victims, providing them with protection and assistance to overcome their traumatic and often life threatening experiences.
Human trafficking is difficult to measure in terms of statistics. But research by IOM and others suggests that the problem is relatively widespread in South Africa. IOM is committed to support the government with operationalization of the new legislation and will continue to build the capacity of government and civil society partners to effectively and comprehensively respond.