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Parliament unanimously passes anti-trafficking in persons Bill

Parliament unanimously passes anti-trafficking in persons Bill

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A Bill for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons was made law on Thursday, September 29, as legislators on both sides of the House of Assembly unanimously showed support for the law,{{more}} which is expected to suppress human trafficking and punish persons engaged in the activity.

The Bill had its first reading in the House on August 18, 2011 and was put to a select committee.

It was made law at a time when a report issued from the United States State Department placed this country in a Tier 2 watch list, claiming that St. Vincent and the Grenadines had shown limited capacity in seriously dealing with the issue.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that there were already existing pieces of legislation to deal with the issue, however he described the Bill as “very comprehensive” and said that the penalties are severe.

“Several governments in the world are pushing to address issue,” Gonsalves said.

“The United States, Canada, Europe and even the Caribbean, and even though the region does not have extensive trafficking, one instance of trafficking is one instance too much.”

According to the prime minister, this country was already cooperating with a number of US-based agencies: intelligence-based and immigration.

But he said that it was important in order that those involved in the illegal trade be brought to justice.

Opposition Senator Anesia Baptiste, in her contribution to the debate, agreed with the prime minister that there were already pieces of existing law to deal with the issue of human trafficking; however, she noted that it was important for Vincentians to understand how the Bill applied to them.

“It is all good to talk about what goes on outside St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but by definition, it speaks to situations that can be domestic,” Baptiste said.

Opposition Senator Vynnette Frederick spoke passionately on the issue, saying that enacting this piece of legislation gave legislators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines the opportunity to act and put into focus the situation that some women and children in the country face.

She contended that human trafficking was more than just getting persons together and shipping them off for money.

Frederick further explained that the Bill opened up the opportunity to tackle the issues affecting women in the country.

“I have sat down with women who have had to make decisions to do sex acts for groceries, because they see no way out,” the Senator said.

“The mother who organizes her underage or of age daughter to have sex with the landlord to pay rent; that is not fiction, that is something that takes place in this country.

The US have provided us with an opportunity to tackle problems that we could never pigeon-hole with our existing legislation,” Frederick lamented.

She said that she could not wait to test the legislation, adding that this piece of legislation needed to be enforced.

Frederick expressed her concern that the piece of legislation would only end up in the books.

“This piece of legislation must be enforced, once it is passed,” she said.

“We have to make this good legislation mean something to the population and I believe that it is up to the government to ensure that social services increase its capacity,” Frederick explained. (DD)

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