Views on human trafficking law given

Views on human trafficking law given

About 300 people have given their views on a proposed human trafficking law and their suggestions will be considered when the new law is tabled in Parliament later this year.

Among them are representatives from civil society groups, religious bodies and students.

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

The task force noted that there was a consistent view that the proposed law should be closely aligned to international benchmarks.

"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," said the statement.

The United Nations protocol adopts a broad definition of human trafficking which includes sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, servitude and the removal of organs.

Although Singapore has not signed it, government agencies have been using its definition while investigating cases in the past few years.

The United States labelled Singapore as a "destination country for men, women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour" in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in 2011.

Although the Republic currently does not have a dedicated law to combat human trafficking, it outlaws the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation.

The task force stressed that most respondents felt the law should do more than just provide enforcement tools, and should also contain sufficient measures to protect and support trafficking victims.

These measures may include establishing places of safety, providing for in-camera court proceedings, and ensuring access to counselling and temporary shelter.

But there were differing views on where these measures should be explicitly spelt out in the law.

"Some respondents argued strongly that the measures above were fundamental entitlements and had to be legislated, while others felt that not all these measures needed to be hard-coded into the law," the statement noted.

Mr de Souza, an MP for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, is spearheading a Private Member's Bill - a law that is proposed by an MP instead of the Government - against human trafficking, and he has the Government's backing.

The new law is expected to be tabled by November.

This article was first published on May 26, 2014.
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