TBS – Fighting for children´s rights

A couple of weeks ago it was announced by Justice Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Luwellyn Landers that the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill will be passed in parliament this month. The news has been met with jubilation from Child Welfare South Africa (CWSA), ECPAT and The Body Shop. The organisations have been actively involved in pressuring the Committee to push this essential piece of legislation which will put a stop to the exploitation of children through forced labour and prostitution brought about by their trafficking.

According to The Body Shop South Africa’s Campaign Manager, Lana-Anne Scheepers, “The announcement is particularly pertinent given the Human Rights Day celebrations that took place last month. Up until now child-sex trafficking of girls and boys within our country and across international borders has remained largely unaddressed. This was due to the lack of proper legislation for the prosecution of trafficking crimes that has enabled individuals and organisations to operate without fear of repercussion. The passing of the Bill will not only criminalise and combat the trafficking of children and young people but will also provide for their protection, treatment and recovery.”

Trix Marais, Acting National Executive Director of CWSA says, “Child Welfare South Africa welcomes the announcement that the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill will be passed. Trafficking is nothing less than contemporary slavery and the Bill is an important step forward in protecting the victims of trafficking. It is essential however that we now train our law enforcement and service providers on the new legislation so that we can implement it effectively – this Bill must not be a paper tiger. We need to know how to use the Bill so we can enforce it. We look forward to government continuing to show their commitment by allocating resources to support its implementation.”

Last year CWSA and The Body Shop South Africa led a march to parliament where they handed over a petition containing 43 000 signatures to lobby the government to approve the Bill.  On reception of the petition Landers stated, “Child trafficking is an abomination. Nelson Mandela did not spend 27 years in prison so that some criminals could traffic our children today when we have freedom and liberation under democracy.”

The march formed part of an on-going, global campaign initiated by The Body Shop, to urge governments to do more to protect the 1.2 million children and young people being trafficked every year for sexual exploitation. In October 2011, the campaign resulted in one of the largest petitions ever to be presented to the United Nations, with 7.2 million signatures collected from all over the world – all calling for governments to take urgent action to stop sex trafficking. To date the campaign has inspired change on an unprecedented scale with 14 countries across the world committing to adopt new legislation in response.

Corinne Sandenbergh, Director of Stop Trafficking of People (STOP) says, “South Africa deserves to have a Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill in place. This nation needs to be part of a first world initiative to stop human trafficking. STOP commits itself fully in helping with the implementation of this bill in our nation, and will employ every effort to assist in this matter.”

The major sponsor of the campaign, The Body Shop South Africa, has also donated 100% of the proceeds of its ‘Soft Hands, Kind Heart Hand Cream’, R550 000, to CWSA. An additional R120 000 was donated to Stop Trafficking of People to build a safe house and a further R50 000 to Missing Children South Africa.

Sean Kristafor, General Manager of The Body Shop South Africa concludes:  “It’s more than 20 years since Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, first used the window of The Body Shop stores to campaign to ‘Save the Whale’, our first major campaign. And we have again been a force for good by combating the trafficking of women and children in this country and internationally.  I think that Dame Anita would have been so proud of her team and customers for reinforcing our core values.  From humble beginnings, and still after 30 years, The Body Shop is a force to be reckoned with and with our ongoing campaigning and commercial strength, we will continue to set ourselves apart from mainstream business and maintain the role of ethical consumerism!”

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