THE portfolio committee for Justice and Constitutional Development is finalising submissions made for South Africa's new Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which several civil organisations have urged should be passed into law.
The bill was tabled in Parliament in March last year.
Human trafficking is now third on the list of priority organised crimes to be investigated by the Hawks, after dealing in drugs and arms.
Last month a number of organisations such as the Family Policy Institute and Stop Trafficking of People protested outside Parliament, saying it was "unacceptable" that South Africa did not have a law to combat a crime that was becoming a big money spinner in the country.
Errol Naidoo, director of the Family Policy Institute, said: "Some of the women in safe houses come from horrific situations but we know that is just the tip of the iceberg and that the crime is a lot more prevalent than we realise. We need comprehensive legislation and we need to invest |in stronger investigative resources so that we can fight the scourge."
The absence of a law in South Africa also means it is in contravention of the UN Palermo Protocol of which the country is a signatory. As a result, it must have a law in place to combat trafficking.
But the chairman of the portfolio committee, Luwellyn Landers, said the bill was a priority for the committee and was not being delayed.
The committee will be meeting for the entire week from today to discuss concerns raised by departments which will be involved in the implementation of the law.
Landers said work was continuing on the bill which was one of five before the committee. The bill would not only establish a comprehensive legal framework, it also contained measures to prevent trafficking and protect and assist victims.
The bill proposed that responsibility in combating and monitoring the crime fall on the departments of Justice and Constitutional Development, Social Development, Health, Home Affairs and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
The National Prosecuting Authority and the SAPS will also be responsible for the implementation of the law. One of the issues under deliberation is the obligation of the Department of Home Affairs to grant refugee status or permanent residence to victims of trafficking.
Landers said the Department of Home Affairs had some reservations about this obligation but he was engaging the department on the issues.
The bill also proposed setting up an Intersectoral Committee on Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons.
Representatives on the committee will be the directors-general of the departments of Justice and Constitutional Development, Home Affairs, Health, Labour and Social Development, and representatives from the National Prosecuting Authority and the National Intelligence Agency.
The Intersectoral committee will be responsible for developing a national policy framework on trafficking and implementing strategies contained in the framework.
The committee will also gather information to help with effective monitoring.
The information that they will be required to compile will include issues such as where victims had been brought from, why they were being trafficked, the profile of traffickers, which routes and transport methods traffickers used to get victims in and out of the country and which travel documents were used.