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The Senate on Friday (Jan. 26) passed the Trafficking in Persons Act, which will provide for the prevention of human trafficking, especially of women and girls, and punish those involved in such acts.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator A. J. Nicholson, who piloted the Bill, said that the legislation sought to introduce specific provisions to deal with trafficking in persons, including protection of the victim; prosecution of the perpetrator; and the prevention of future acts.
The Bill, he said, found 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 Senator Nicholson, the Jamaican government was concerned about incidences of human trafficking within the island, the practise of which has been described as a modern day form of slavery, involving victims, who are defrauded or coerced into labour or sexual exploitation. The United States’ State Department in its 2005 report, said that, “there is internal trafficking of persons within Jamaica, that is, from rural areas to urban centres”.
In the meantime, Senator Nicholson told the Upper House that the government was working to provide shelters for persons affected by trafficking.
“The government is far advanced in the establishment of dedicated shelters for trafficking victims. It is a very expensive process, but it is on the way,” he said.
The Minister noted that the Victims’ Charter, which would be laid in both Houses of Parliament before the 2007/08 budget debate begins, would serve to complement efforts to address human trafficking.
In her contribution, Opposition Senator Dorothy Lightbourne said that the Opposition was in support of the Bill and suggested that the legislation be reviewed periodically. “I am going to suggest that we review the Bill from time to time because we have to ensure that we prohibit and prevent trafficking, we facilitate effective investigation and prosecution and punishment of traffickers and we protect the victims of trafficking,” she stated.
She further expressed pleasure that the government has been in consultations with non governmental organisations (NGO’s) in regards to the prevention of trafficking in persons.