16 March 2010
South African internet service providers may, from as soon as April, be obliged to report internet addresses on their servers that are suspected of containing information that facilitates human trafficking.
This is among the provisions contained in the new Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which is aimed at curbing human and child trafficking in the country.
Presented by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe in Parliament in Cape Town this week, the draft law will give South African courts further jurisdiction in respect of acts committed outside South Africa if those acts would have been an offence under the Bill had they been committed in South Africa.
Radebe said the Bill, once it becomes an Act of Parliament and is fully operational, will be one of the most comprehensive laws in the fight against human trafficking in the country.
He rubbished claims that the Bill had been rushed ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, which starts in June.
“This has got nothing to do with the World Cup … it’s been a work in progress since 2003. Of course 2010 will come with its challenges because of the World Cup and we have a duty to make sure the country is safe,” said Radebe.
Trafficking in persons is said to be a worldwide phenomenon and is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises globally. People are trafficked mainly for sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Radebe said it was possible that people may use the tournament to engage in human trafficking and other crimes.
The new Bill emanates from an investigation carried out by the South African Law Reform Commission into the causes of human trafficking. The commission identified some of the main causes as attributable to poverty, war and political instability.
Also, South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
“We are therefore required to pass domestic legislation in order to fulfil our international obligations. It therefore follows that we could not have been motivated by the 2010 Fifa World Cup to pass legislation,” Radebe said.
Current law ‘fragmented’
Radebe conceded that the current law regarding human trafficking in South Africa was fragmented and cited the Sexual Offences Amendment Act which criminalises an act of trafficking in persons for sexual purposes only, while the Children’s Act addresses more comprehensively the trafficking of children.
“It is clear that the two Acts have limited operational scope,” he said, adding that the lack of proper legislation on human trafficking made it difficult for South Africa to keep statistical data on the extent of the problem.
There are a number of reforms that the Bill promises to bring into place including the provision for prosecution of persons involved in trafficking and also for appropriate sentences to be imposed while preventing and combating trafficking in persons, as well as for the protection and assistance of victims of trafficking.
Furthermore, the Bill creates new offences linked to human trafficking such as the possession, destruction, confiscation, concealment of and tampering with travel documents of victims of trafficking, using the services of victims of trafficking and conduct facilitating trafficking in persons.
Carriers which transport victims across the borders of South Africa also commit an offence if the victims do not have the required travel documents with them.