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Charissa Yong, Walter Sim
Friday, Oct 10, 2014

Singapore

Anti-human trafficking Bill tabled

The Straits Times | Charissa Yong, Walter Sim | Friday, Oct 10, 2014

A proposed law to prevent human trafficking in Singapore was introduced in Parliament yesterday, one of 10 Bills that was put before the House.

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill formally defines human trafficking, empowers specialist officers to investigate suspected traffickers, and sets out harsh penalties for those found guilty of trafficking or abetting such activities.

Singapore does not have specific laws against human trafficking but outlaws trafficking in children, and in women for sex, through other legislation.

The human trafficking situation in Singapore has been kept under control thorough laws and active enforcement, said Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who tabled the rare Private Member's Bill. This is a Bill proposed by MPs, in contrast to government Bills tabled by ministers.

But Singapore remains vulnerable to trafficking due to its status as a regional economic and transport hub, said Mr de Souza in a joint statement with a national anti-trafficking taskforce spearheaded by the Home Affairs and Manpower ministries.

Under the Bill, the penalty for trafficking is a jail term of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $100,000, as well as up to six strokes of the cane. Repeat offenders face a jail term of up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $150,000 but caning of up to nine strokes will be mandatory.

People who receive payment in connection with the exploitation of a person whom they know has been trafficked will also be committing a crime.

Yesterday, an umbrella group opposed to such trafficking handed Mr de Souza a petition with 1,050 signatures from migrant workers and Singaporeans. Among other things, the Stop Trafficking SG group wants victims to be shielded from prosecution for immigration infractions. It also wants them to be given the right to continue working in Singapore while their cases are ongoing.

Another Private Member's Bill tabled yesterday proposes tougher penalties for acts of animal cruelty, and will let the authorities adopt a code that sets new standards on animal welfare. The amendment to the Animal and Birds Act requires "owners and persons in charge of animals" to take reasonable care of them, and will allow harsher penalties to be meted out to offenders, said Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC), one of six MPs behind the Bill.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who chairs the committee driving the Bill, said it was important to balance the different views and interests on animal issues between animal lovers and those who may not be comfortable with animals.

charyong@sph.com.sg

waltsim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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