As Women’s Month draws to a close, the passing of the Prevention and Combating of Human Trafficking Act puts the exploitation of women back into the spotlight. The legislation focuses on the plight of trafficked victims, providing them with protection and assistance to overcome their traumatic and life threatening experiences.
“Traffickers especially target women and children from rural areas, and often lure them away under the pretext of jobs in the big city,” Shaheema McLeod Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children said. The centre, which is based in Manenberg on the Cape Flats, participated in discussions on a national level while the bill was being drafted.
“There is a definite increase in cross-province trafficking, where young girls are lured into jobs that promise to be lucrative and life-changing. These people are poor, there are no jobs. These are innocent girls who go away to work because they think they can get a better life and escape the poverty cycle.”
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. 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.
According to a United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, around 2.5-million people are trafficked into forced labour at any given time, 5.2% of forced labour (including sexual exploitation) happens in sub-Saharan countries.
“Human trafficking is not only a dehumanising crime, it creates a myriad of other complex social and health issues,” McLeod said. “The bill is instrumental in combatting the scourge of human trafficking, the magnitude of which is almost impossible to track.”
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 462 1723 / 082 824 8617
On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod