JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (Dec. 5) passed the Trafficking in Persons Act, which will provide for the prevention of human trafficking, especially that of women and girls, and punish those involved in such acts.
National Security Minister and Leader of Government Business in the House, Dr. Peter Phillips, who piloted the Act, said the legislation was important, not only because it was in keeping with specific international commitments, but because the Government saw exploitation as a very serious offence against human beings.
“It requires that we be vigilant and indeed determined to root out all forms of exploitation, sexual and otherwise of our women and our children from Jamaican society. Trafficking in persons has been described as a modern day form of slavery, involving victims, who have been defrauded and or cohersed into labour and it is now a significant part of the international crime landscape,” Mr. Phillips pointed out.
The Bill finds its legal and human rights basis in the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, which Jamaica ratified four years ago and supplementary agreements such as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially children, which came into force globally in 2003.
According to Dr. Phillips, the provisions of the Act will, among other things “criminalize the trafficking in persons and to provide assistance to victims…strengthen border controls and report to the United Nations the actions that are taken.”
He said that the legislation, when enacted, would form part of a package of laws, which were aimed specifically at enhancing the legislative provisions designed to protect Jamaica’s children.
“This legislation includes provisions on the exploitation of children by those involved in child pornography, which is an ever expanding international criminal industry,” Dr. Phillips stated, adding that further legislation relating to this matter would be introduced in the House in short order.
The National Security Minister told the House that since the matter of trafficking has been placed “front and centre of our preoccupations, a number of raids have been conducted on nightclubs, and a number of breaches have been detected in relation to underage women performing in our clubs”.
In addition, some nine victims of trafficking in persons have been rescued since April 2006, with six of these victims being over the age of 18 years and three between the ages of 13 and 17.
“Five persons were charged with trafficking a child under.the Child Care and Protection Act and this will represent just a brief picture of activities, which have been uncovered in Jamaica involving the sexual exploitation of minors,” he said.
State Minister for National Security, Donald Rhodd in his support of the Bill, said that trafficking in persons was “a nasty and repulsive business that ought to receive unanimous moral condemnation, not only from the members of this House but from Jamaicans, who recognize that we have a solemn duty to preserve and safeguard the dignity of our people, not just the rich, privileged and the fortunate, but those who are poor.”
“The Bill is signaling to all those involved in such acts that they will no longer benefit from the perceived weak legal and bureaucratic capacity of the state as this Government is waging a zero tolerance on trafficking in persons and corruption,” he added.
Opposition Member of Parliament from Central St. Catherine, Olivia Grange, said that while the Bill was timely, it was being discussed too late, as Jamaica had in 2002, ratified the international protocol demanding such legislation.
Dr. Phillips noted however, that legislatively, three years was not a long period, as time was required to draft and allow for adequate discussion on the issue.

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