June 14th, 2011

Our response to “Singapore toughens stance on human trafficking”

AWARE’s Letter to the Straits Times Forum Page, published June 14, 2011

We refer to the report “Singapore toughens its stance on human trafficking” ( ST June 11). We are very heartened to learn that the government intends to sign the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol, 2000).

This is welcome news as the world is moving closer to accepting a universal definition on trafficking in persons. Singapore will soon also join hands with many other countries and agencies to combat the problem of global trading in people and to offer assistance to the victims.

Signing the trafficking treaty will align Singapore more closely to the ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children that was adopted in 2004. It also means that Singapore will fulfil its obligation under Article 6 of CEDAW ( Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) which it ratified in 1995. We also note with appreciation that an inter-agency task force chaired by MHA and MOM, has already been set up.

As the government prepares the ground processes for ratification of this UN treaty, we ask that two groups of women not be forgotten:

– The foreign lower-skilled women who work under exploitative conditions such as in some karaoke lounges or in some homes as domestic workers.
– Foreign less educated women who are deceived or coerced into marrying Singaporean men, and find themselves being exploited and/or abused.

The government says it will sign the UN trafficking treaty once it has put in place domestic measures to ensure adherence to it. We would like to suggest that these measures do include the following:

– Amend Section X1 of Women’s Charter Articles 141 and 142, 146 to 148 to increase the punishment of traffickers and pimps from the current imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
– Put in place speedier investigation and prosecution processesso that victims do not have to stay in Singapore for too long and can return to families faster.
– Include civil society that work on issues related to women and migrants in the discussions to implement the UN Protocol on Trafficking.
– Introduce, in due course, legislation, in the form of perhaps an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women.

Ms Braema Mathi
Chair, AWARE CEDAW Sub-Committee

For the original article referred to in our letter, click here. To read the published letter, click here.

One Comment ...

  1. sureesh

    Just how serious is the problem of human trafficking.

    I wonder why people who force women into prostituition should not be charged with abetment to rape, as these women are forced to have sex with men against their will. Men who patronise “forced” sex workers should also be liable to answer a charge of rape. After all anyone who has sex with a women against her will is said to be raping that woman. So why can’t sex with a “forced” sex worker be define as rape. Why not make the laws tough to stop a serious problem.