Public consultations for proposed bill against human trafficking slated for March and April

Four public consultations have been targeted in March and April for a proposed private member's Bill which seeks to combat human trafficking.

"We are aiming to gather the views and insights of voluntary welfare organisations, religious and secular volunteer groups, business and students communities some of whom have already expressed interest in getting involved with the Bill," said Mr Chistopher de Souza, Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in a press statement on Friday.

He said the aim is to table the bill in November and conclude its second reading in first quarter of next year. Mr de Souza had been given the greenlight by the Home Affairs Ministry in November last year to introduce the bill.

A Private member's Bill - one that is introduced by MPs who are not Cabinet ministers - are rare, The last such Bill to be successfully passed in Singapore was the Maintenance of Parents Act, which was introduced by then-Nominated MP Walter Woon in 1994.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli had said last year that the Government supported Mr de Souza's initiative. He has also asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons to support the MP on developing the bill.

Mr de Souza has spoken about human trafficking in Parliament several times since 2008 and his draft bill will consolidate existing laws and includes relevant examples from overseas, such as the United Nations' Palermo Protocol on human trafficking and International Labour Organisation conventions.

Since 2004, Singapore has been criticised by the United States in its annual Trafficking in Persons report, though some findings have been disputed by the Singapore Government.

Latest figures show that there were about 100 reports of alleged human trafficking in 2012, six of which have been convicted and the rest are under investigation.

One of those recent cases involved a Singaporean owner of night clubs in Keong Saik Road and Kampong Bahru Road, who was sentenced on Dec 11 to 18 months in jail and fined $3,000 for living off the earnings of prostitutes.

Court documents in that case of a human trafficker brought to book, showed that Govindaraju Sivakumar, 42, had lured many of the women to Singapore, some of whom had no idea they would become sex workers. But because they had already arrived and were in debt to Govindaraju, they felt they had little choice but to do as he demanded.