South Africa’s new anti-trafficking laws

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A Cape Town child rights group yesterday said its 12-year lobby for laws to fight human trafficking would now make it “easier to prosecute criminals”.

This was after President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill on Monday. It is now a legislated act that sets penalties of up to R100-million.

Patric Solomons, director of child rights group Molo Songololo, said their 12-year journey has resulted in legislation that also “provides compensation to victims, payable by the offenders”.

“The new law sets penalties for these offences. For the main offence of trafficking in persons, an offender found guilty can get a maximum penalty of R100-million or life imprisonment or both in the case of a conviction,” said Solomons.

Solomons and his team started lobbying for anti-trafficking laws after their report on its effect in South Africa was published in 2000.

“Our report illustrated how unsuspecting teenage girls were being targeted, recruited, forced, abducted, rapped, held captive, drugged and prostituted through various trafficking operations and methods,” said Solomons.

“One of the cases we uncovered back then was that over a period of six years, more than 50 girls between 12 and 17 from in and around Cape Town were trafficked into a gang for purpose of sexual exploitation, right under our noses.”

Molo Songololo has found that trafficked children and adults had been forced into “sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced marriage, illegal adoption and removal of body parts”.
Its report had also pointed to the “lack of legislation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons”.

While arrests had been made for rape or abduction, trafficking investigations could not lead to prosecution due to the “complex nature of these cases, lack of evidence and fragmented legislation,” said Solomons.

“We now have a single new law to prevent, protect victims and prosecute human trafficking and related offences. The new law creates the offence of trafficking in persons, and related offences such as debt bondage, the possession, destruction and tampering with travel documents and using the services of victims of trafficking,” said Solomons.

He said the new law also “obligates the state to put in programmes and resources to prevent these crimes from happening”.

“It also makes special provision for assistance to and support for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children,” said Solomons.

Mac Maharaj, spokesperson for the president’s office, said this week the country for the “first time will have a single statute which addresses the scourge of trafficking in persons holistically and comprehensively”.

“The legislative framework dealing with this issue has been fragmented. For instance, the legislation dealing with sexual offences addresses the trafficking of persons for purposes of sexual exploitation only, while the Children’s Act addresses the trafficking of children specifically,” said Maharaj.

“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 life threatening experiences.”

He added: “Its operationalisation is dependent on regulations that are required to be made by a number of role-playing departments such as home affairs. This is receiving urgent attention and the plan is to have the act put into operation as soon as possible.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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