Today 30th July is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. As practically the entire world grapples with the problem of human trafficking either as a source, destination or a transit; India takes another bold step to fight this organized crime from all ends making it one of the most holistic and comprehensive legal document. While the Loksabha passed the bill on 26th July,2018; the Bill still has to be passed in Rajyasabha.
As I sit here and write this article, I get a call from a senior police officer that little children as young as 7-8yrs old were just now rescued from a brothel around 45kms from my office. My fingers stumble and I am numbed for a moment. My whatsapp buzzes, the pictures of the rescue has arrived ...I am shocked see the faces of five little children huddled in a corner of a brothel. For a minute I give up on writing this piece, too shocked. I somehow dispatch my team to assist the police. I want to close my eyes as my head feels heavy and I sense the beginning of anger inside me…the picture haunts me. I know I need to calm down and write why there is such an urgency for a comprehensive legislation. For many who are opposing this Bill on presumptions and assumptions fearing for their livelihood, I want to just tell them lives of millions of children is at stake. While they worry about an imaginary crises, we are living with day today human tragedy of hundreds of lives lost in sex slavery.
It is in this context that I want put forth before you 10 reasons why I think the ‘Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection & Rehabilitation) Bill should be passed.
1. It is comprehensive as it addresses gaps that so far remained unaddressed. It focuses on the prevention of trafficking, time bound trial, repatriation, relief, rehabilitation, protection of victims, witnesses, complainants and more. Not only is it about criminalizing and widening ambit of penal law, but also contains provisions for prevention, prosecution, protection and rehabilitation of victims.
2. All those components that is not covered in Sec 370, IPC such as buying and selling human beings, bearing child, begging, forced marriage, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones to make the victim attain early sexual maturity, trafficking by encouraging or abetting any person to migrate illegally into India or Indians to some other country, etc. is covered.
3. An institutional framework is legally mandated in the form of “National Anti Trafficking Bureau” which will be located in National Investigating Agency and will be responsible for all inter-state and cross-border cases of trafficking. This is perhaps the first step of its kind to fight the organized crime of human trafficking in an organized manner.
4. A dedicated Rehabilitation Fund is set up which will ensure legal assistance and support, counselors, translators, social workers, mental health professionals are available to the victims for care and protection at the cost of the state.. The rehabilitation measures are not merely restricted to placing victims in Rehabilitation Homes, but extend to providing physical, psychological and social support, including access to education, skill development, physical and mental healthcare, legal aid etc. The rehabilitation of the victim is not contingent on the conviction of the offender.
5. For the first time victim protection and witness protection is part of a legal document. (Sec. 52)
6. All the stakeholders and duty bearers (law enforcers, service providers etc.) are made accountable, so that no victim is subjected to secondary victimization.
7. The criminal syndicate and the proceeds from the crime will be systematically targeted and there will be definite dent in the organized criminal gangs.
8. The structural framework to both tackle the crime or to provide protection to the victims is from national to the local level.
9. ‘Exploitation’ is the core component to identify the crime. Anyone rescued in a place of exploitation who is able to convince the judicial officer that he/she was not exploited and is not speaking under duress will be released immediately.
10. The victims (adult or children) are entitled to interim relief within 60 days of charge sheet being filed; this is for the first time such a legal mandate is provided for the welfare of the victim. Till date as a State Scheme only two states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have given interim relief to victims of trafficking.
Trafficking of persons is not an intellectual debate or a political agenda; it is the lives of millions whose bodies, mind and spirit are destroyed in this trade of human misery. They cannot form unions or become a powerful lobby as their voices are submerged and crushed under the weight of social stigma and ostracization. So those of us who have taken the responsibility of fighting this war on behalf of these victims and survivors it is our duty to ensure that these voices are heard loud and clear. I urge all concerned citizens to understand the need for such a legislation and use their good offices to influence our temple of democracy ‘the parliament’ to pass this Bill. Not that all problems will be solved overnight with this legislation, but at least it will be one step towards it.