18 June 2009

South Africa: Country Scores Higher in U.S. Review of Human Trafficking

Johannesburg — According to the US Trafficking in Persons 2009 Report released yesterday, SA had been identified as a source, transit and destination country for trafficked men, women and children.

The report revised SA's standing from Tier 2 Watch-list to Tier 2, saying the government had taken encouraging steps in partnership with nongovernmental organisations .

Such ratings are regarded as the primary diplomatic tools with which Washington encourages partnership in the fight against forced labour, sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.

The report acknowledged that SA prosecuted at least 16 suspected trafficking offenders last year. SA established a legal framework and subsequently implemented its "comprehensive antitrafficking law by developing inter-agency operating procedures".

The report said that SA was training officials in the law, victim identification and agency roles.

"Foreign victims in SA, however, still face inadequate protection from the government. Labour trafficking does not receive as much government attention as does sex trafficking," the report observed.

Analyst Dr Dirk Kotzé of the University of SA said the review of SA's status should be welcomed as a recognition of the government's initiatives. However, the US report merely acknowledged the legal framework without assessing the "qualitative impact of these actions on society".

"Unfortunately the rating does not necessarily measure whether or not the legal activities and support for victims are effectively contributing towards discouraging criminals from using SA as their base or curbing trafficking," Kotzé said.

The US report has recommended that the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill be enacted, and the Children's Amendment Act of 2007 be enforced.

It urged the government to support prevention strategies developed by NGOs "to address demand for commercial sex acts and protect children from commercial sexual exploitation" ahead of the Soccer World Cup.

The annual report is compiled by the US secretary of state for Congress.

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