More than 300 views received on proposed human trafficking law: Taskforce

More than 300 views received on proposed human trafficking law: Taskforce
Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza (centre) speaking on 19 March 2014 at a panel discussion during a dialogue on the Bill to prevent human trafficking. With him were Ministry of Manpower’s divisional director of workplace policy and strategy Alvin Lim (left) and the Inter-agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons co-chair Ng Yeow Boon.

Their suggestions included how labour and sex trafficking should be defined and how human trafficking victims should be helped, said Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza and the Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking-in-Persons in a joint statement.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the press release issued by Mr Christopher de Souza and Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking-in-Persons:

Response to Public Feedback on Private Member's Bill on the Prevention of Human Trafficking

Over March and April 2014, the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking-in-Persons ("TIP") and Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Mr Christopher de Souza, together with REACH, conducted four public consultation sessions on the proposed Private Member's Bill on the Prevention of Human Trafficking ("the Bill"). These complemented two prior private dialogue sessions by Mr de Souza with the public and interested stakeholders from civil society. A consultation paper was also hosted on the REACH portal from 19 March to 18 April 2014.

We canvassed feedback from about 300 individuals who comprise civil society representatives, academics, industry representatives, religious persons, grassroots leaders, students, and members of the public. Views were sought on the key pillars of this dedicated law, such as the definition of human trafficking and issues specific to labour trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking, and victim protection. A summary of the key feedback received and our responses are provided below.

Definitions and scope

3 There was broad agreement that Singapore's definition of key TIP terms in the proposed Bill should be closely aligned to international benchmarks, and that consent of victims could not be taken at face value for TIP cases. It should also be able to go after all parties involved in the TIP chain (e.g. middlemen, facilitators and beneficiaries of TIP).

We concur with the suggestions to keep the coverage of the law wide, and to cover TIP perpetrators as well as abettors/facilitators. We will adapt the definition of TIP and other key terminologies from the UN Palermo Protocol and nuance them to suit the local context and needs. The Bill will also state expressly that the consent of a victim shall be irrelevant when the required elements of TIP are established.

Issues Specific to Labour Trafficking

The general sentiment was that there are many indicators of labour trafficking, and the law would need to be specific as to what types of indicators would come together to constitute TIP offences, as opposed to employment law offences. While there were calls for the Bill to include all forms of deceptive recruitment practices, others felt that situations of labour trafficking should be reserved only for the most serious of cases where worker well-being was severely compromised. Many respondents commented that corporate entities should be more involved in ensuring their supply chains are free from TIP practices. Suggestions included encouraging corporations to be more transparent about their practices, making corporations accountable for the actions of outsourced partners, and imposing sanctions for malpractices within the organisation and supply chain.

We will study the suggestions carefully. While we understand the desire for the Bill to comprehensively cover various situations where workers are mistreated, many of these wrongs are already addressed by existing employment laws which provide deterrent penalties against errant employers as well as avenues of redress to the workers. These levers can be reviewed to better address the concerns raised. This approach ensures that the Bill remains focused at targeting genuine egregious trafficking cases.

Issues Specific to Sex Trafficking

Generally, respondents felt that sex trafficking concerns would be well covered under the UN Palermo Protocol's definition. This would cover both male and female victims and would require an element of deceit, fraud, or coercion. To strengthen our enforcement levers, some respondents suggested tightening the regulation of vice activities at the upstream (which can fuel TIP) and conducting more active enforcement on the ground against such activities.

We will adopt the UN Palermo Protocol's definition and criminalise persons living on or trading in the earnings of trafficked persons. We will also continue our efforts to keep the vice situation in Singapore under control.

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