Gov’t tables comprehensive bill to combat human trafficking

The fight against human trafficking in Guyana has taken a major step forward with the introduction of a new bill in the National Assembly.

On Monday, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, tabled the Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Bill 2023, which is designed to provide more comprehensive measures to combat trafficking in persons.

This new bill, once passed, will replace the Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act 2005, and will be aligned with international best practices and changing socio-political needs.

Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and the new bill seeks to protect the rights of individuals and prevent and combat trafficking of persons both within and across the borders of Guyana.

Part One of the bill defines key terms and outlines the main objectives of combatting human trafficking, including the trafficking of children.

In Part Two, criminal offences related to trafficking in persons are outlined with extraterritorial effect.

Those found guilty of this offence face imprisonment for five years on summary conviction or life imprisonment on conviction or indictment. Property forfeiture and restitution to the victim may also be ordered. Ancillary offences are also provided for in this part.

Moreover, transporting a person or child across an international border for the purpose of prostitution is criminalised under this part.

A further protection that this part offers the victim, is immunity from prosecution for immigration offences.

A Counter-Trafficking in Persons Unit to protect, and assist victims of trafficking is catered for in Part Three of the bill. The unit will work closely with the Guyana Police Force, and engage with the Ministerial Task Force to carry out its duties effectively.

The Child Care and Protection Agency will be responsible for, and collaborate with the Unit on matters related to child victims of trafficking. Notably, this section mandates the court to conduct case management procedures to ensure that cases are heard expeditiously.

In addition, this section dictates that all possible measures must be taken to identify individuals who have fallen victim to human trafficking, and the authorities are required to offer protection to both the victims and their families.

Part Four sets out provisions relating to investigation and court procedure.

Importantly, Part Six of the bill addresses the prevention of human trafficking by mandating the President to set up a Ministerial Task Force.

The Task Force will comprise members from various sectors, including immigration and law enforcement, legal affairs, foreign affairs, public health, Amerindian Affairs, and human services and social security. The responsibilities and activities of the Task Force in preventing trafficking are also defined under this Part.

A secretariat will also be established and will be responsible for carrying out the administrative functions of the Task Force.

During a recent interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI) Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud reported that the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Unit (C-TIP) has successfully trained 2,003 individuals to identify potential victims of human trafficking.

According to the minister, the C-TIP Unit has recorded three cases of Trafficking in Persons so far this year. Of the three cases, two of the individuals have benefitted from restitution.

“We’re hoping more of these perpetrators will have to not only face the law but those persons will have to pay restitution to those who would have suffered at their hands,” Minister Persaud stated.

These measures demonstrate the PPP/C government’s commitment to tackling human trafficking and its determination to protect vulnerable persons from exploitation.