Friday, March 28, 2008

Syria: Targeting Sex Traffickers

SYRIA - Backers of a draft law against sex traffickers in Syria are hoping that the new legislation will be passed by presidential decree and take effect within a few months, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported.

The law will increase the minimum punishment for trafficking from three to seven years imprisonment and will impose a fine of $20,000, said IRIN, which provides editorial services and is part of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We want to have the best legislation in the world to counter the issue of trafficking," said Farouk al-Basha, a leading member of the committee drafting the bill on trafficking, and a member of the Committee for Family Affairs.

"Most importantly, for the first time the trafficked person will be considered a victim and not punished. We will go after the perpetrators and the causes of trafficking," he said.

According to IRIN, there are no separate laws on trafficking in Syria. Offenders are prosecuted under standard criminal law, which sometimes punishes the victims more than the traffickers.

Article 509 of Syrian Criminal Law makes prostitution illegal, and stipulates prison terms for offenders of between three months and three years, or a fine of up to $115 for anyone involved in the sex industry.

"Syrian law does not protect the rights of women," said women's rights activist Maysa Hilyoa. "The same punishment applies for a woman, who is the victim, as for the man, who is often the one forcing her into the work."

IRIN said that there are now an estimated 100 recruitment agencies in Syria offering young girls for domestic service and that many of the girls have been brought into the country against their will.

Trafficking for the sex and entertainment industries is also significant, according to the report...


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