File Photo - One of the primary suspects in the human trafficking ring is arrested by members of the Durban Organised Crime Unit and the Hawks. Photo: Sibusiso Ndlovu

KwaZulu-Natal legislators on Friday called for harsh sentences for human traffickers.

“We will campaign for the harshest sentences to be handed down to those convicted of this barbaric crime,” said Makhoni Ntuli, chairwoman of the legislature's women's caucus.

She urged women to unite against the practice of turning women into sex slaves by “drug lords and sex perverts”.

On Friday, the State withdrew charges against one of four people accused of human trafficking and keeping a brothel. Prosecutor Val Daffol told the Durban Magistrate's Court that charges against Urmila Budram, 59, had been dropped. She did not say why.

Budram was arrested with three other people when 16 girls, eight of them minors, were rescued from a building in Durban's Point area.

Some of the girls were as young as 12, and some allegedly under the influence of drugs when they were rescued. They were thought to have been used as drug mules.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson said it was premature for the State to say why the charges had been withdrawn against Budram.

The other accused are Nonduzo Dlamini, 23, Bhabha Dubazini, 29, and Sandile Zweni. They face charges of dealing in cocaine, human trafficking, keeping a brothel, and living off the earnings of prostitution.

The three told the court they would be represented by private attorneys. The matter was postponed to March 20, for them to apply for bail, Daffol said. – Sapa