Trafficking in Persons Bill signed into law

More than three years since it was introduced in Parliament, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill has received presidential assent - paving the way for a single statute that will address human trafficking holistically and comprehensively, writes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch.

According to a media statement issued yesterday, once in force the Act will make all forms of human trafficking an offence - regardless of the victim's age and whether or not sexual exploitation is involved. In addition, the new statute makes 'very specific offences' of debt bondage; using the services of a victim of trafficking; facilitating human trafficking; and withholding, tampering with or destroying a victim's travel documents. Provision is also made for appropriate protection measures once an intervention has been made, along with various levels of assistance including therapy, rehabilitation and skills development.

Responding to an investigation conducted by the South African Law Reform Commission, the new legislation gives effect to South Africa's international obligations under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. These include providing a South African court of law with extra-territorial jurisdiction in respect of a trafficking activity undertaken outside the Republic's borders and affecting a South African citizen or resident - irrespective of whether or not the activity is an offence under the laws of the country concerned.

Once the necessary regulations are in place, the new law will have implications for a raft of statutes including Criminal Procedure Act 51/1977, Children's Act 38/2005, Immigration Act 13/2002 and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32/2007. According to the media statement, every effort is being made to ensure that the Act is 'put into operation as soon as possible'.