In December this year, a new bill is proposed to be introduced in the Parliament that will address human trafficking in India. It will work with the ministries of law, home, labour, women and child as well as the national commission for women to “prevent trafficking of persons and to provide protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking and to create a legal, economic, and social environment against trafficking of persons”.
Titled, 'Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016', the bill is currently under draft stage with the WCD ministry that has invited comments from experts in the field.
Roop Sen, a researcher on trafficking and co-founder of Kolkata-based non-profit, Sanjog India, shares his views with THE WEEK on the draft bill.
♦ A central investigating agency will look into the crime of human trafficking in the new bill. Crime defies jurisdiction across states. It's a problem for the investigating police as the cost of investigation is given as reimbursements over 2-3 years – a natural disincentive for the police. Concrete suggestion to integrate all agencies.
♦ Law and enforcement is a state subject. In the case of the Sheena Bora case, it was handed over to the CBI who don't require permissions and have adequate funds. The National Legal Services Authority suggested having a national investigating agency and not leave it to the state police.
♦ In 2004, the National Human Rights Commission came out with a report on human trafficking for the first time. An expert in the field, Dr PM Nair, said there should be anti-trafficking units in all states. 223 such units came up but posed a problem since state police are short staffed by around 50 per cent. When there is talk of 'additional charge' with an official, it usually means 'disguised vacancy'. The reason why anti-trafficking units have failed is because the officers are paid less than Rs 10,000 a month.
♦ With the sex trade changing forms, the brothel manager who is prosecuted is generally an erstwhile victim. Some of the newer forms of prostitution are the massage parlours, escort services (not everything involves trafficking however). It's critical to differentiate between prostitution and trafficking.
♦ The forms of recruitment and scale has led to traffickers enjoying impunity hence the numbers have not gone down in these years. It's 'business as usual' for most.
♦ Have an integrated investigating system – prevention, deterrence, link existing gaps between investigation and prosecution.
♦ Special training should be given for organised crimes (which differ from regular crimes) to officers.
♦ Rehabilitation methods have failed because the existing models treat victims as prisoners, keeping them in closed institutions. Vocational training that includes teaching them to be beauticians etc doesn't help them when they go back to their villages.
♦ Positive step: inclusion of transgenders in the new bill.
Sanjog held a workshop for 23 trafficking survivors to understand the new bill. They wrote a letter to the WCD ministry with their views. Highlights:
♦ Rehabilitation has been recognised as a right
♦ Provision for shelter homes in every district for women
♦ Emphasis on medical check-ups and treatment after returning home
♦ Confiscation of the traffickers’ properties to pay for fines
♦ Provision of a fund for welfare and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking
♦ Provision for special court and special public prosecutor for trafficking issues
♦ Stricter punishments for traffickers
♦ Burden of proving innocence on the accused
♦ The proposed central team would do a deeper investigation
♦ Bill talks about women and children, no provision for men and boys who are victims of trafficking
♦ No definition of trafficking and protection
♦ Nothing in the law about preventing re-trafficking
♦ No provision for punishment of police officers who misguide or don't do their duties properly or prevent victims from giving their statement to the magistrate after being rescued
♦ No compensation for trafficking survivors or their families
♦ No provision for mistreatment at the shelter homes
♦ No time period specified for being kept in the shelter home
♦ No provision to address the stigma that survivors face or the trauma they go through
♦ No punishment for poor investigation
No provision for protection from traffickers