The Union Minister for Women and Child Development on Monday unveiled draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, the country’s first-ever comprehensive anti-human trafficking law, which would treat “survivors” as “victims” in need of assistance and protection rather than as “criminals”.
According to United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, South Asia is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world. While there are no accurate figures on the number of people trafficked within South Asia, activists claim that they are in several thousand, mostly women, and children. Many are sold into forced marriage or bonded labour to work in middle-class homes as domestic servants, in small shops and hotels or confined to brothels where they are repeatedly raped.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 5,466 human trafficking cases registered in India in 2014, an increase of 90 percent over the past five years, though many claim this as an underestimate.
Currently, the Immoral Persons (Trafficking) Act (IPTA) of 1956 is used to deal with human trafficking cases, but a large part of the Act is not being implemented. Under the Act, sex trafficking victims are sometimes jailed as criminals. Such grey areas remain, which causes the crime to go unreported.
As per the new bill, the victim will not be punished along with the offender.
The draft bill aims to unify existing anti-trafficking laws, prioritise survivors’ needs, and prevent victims such as those found in brothel raids from being arrested and jailed like traffickers. It provides for special courts to speed-up adjudication of trafficking cases, more shelters and a rehabilitation fund to help victims rebuild their lives. It also provides for anti-trafficking committees at three levels (district, state and centre) that will oversee prevention, protection, and victim rehabilitation.
The bill would strengthen prosecutions and boost the number of convictions by setting up a special investigative agency to coordinate work between states and collect intelligence on trafficking offences. There is also a provision for the recovery of fines from the convicted in the draft bill and victims who are not paid wages while in servitude will be reimbursed.
The draft bill makes providing narcotic drugs or alcohol for the purpose of trafficking, and using chemical substances or hormones for purposes of exploitation, offences. It penalizes disclosure of identity of the victim of trafficking and witness as well as the use of chemical substances or hormones for the purpose of exploitation.
Given the trans-border nature of the problem, concerning our neighbouring countries, protocols will also be worked out for those trafficked from other countries.
Voice your opinion
The draft bill is available at http://wcd.nic.in/acts/trafficking-persons-bill-2016-draft and public has been asked to submit their suggestions at https://www.mygov.in/home/discuss/ by June 30, 2016. The final bill would be brought in the parliament by year-end.
The Logical Indian praises the government for bringing in the much-needed provision for prevention of and rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking. Thousands of rural poor women and children are lured to big cities by traffickers, who promise good jobs, but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries such as textile workshops. In many cases, they are unpaid or held in debt bondage. Life of victims of human trafficking is deplorable. Immediate measures ought to be taken. Hopeful of the proposed Act coming into place soon, we also anticipate strict implementation of the provisions so that justice is delivered and the inhuman crime is reduced.