By Mujeebu Rahman K.C.
Earlier this year, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 for introduction in the parliament. While, the bill aims to address the issue of trafficking from various aspects, including prevention, rescue and rehabilitation, it is just one step in the long journey the country has to take to combat this,”pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting the most vulnerable persons especially women and children,” as outlined by the bill.
What does the bill outline?
Firstly, the bill separates trafficking into two categories, with one being termed as “aggravated trafficking” and another “trafficking.” According to the bill the “aggravated forms” includes “trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage.” These offences would carry a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment, and could also lead to a life sentence.
Additionally, anyone involved in abetting, promoting or assisting trafficking, would be viable to serve three years in jail. This includes anyone involved in producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake certificates, registration or stickers as proof of compliance with Government requirements.
Another important aspect of the bill is rehabilitation facilities provided for victims. Not only is the rehabilitation of the victim not going to be contingent on the criminal proceedings or outcome of the case, there will also be the creation of a rehabilitation fund. This will provide for the physical, psychological and social well-being of victims, including investing in their health care, education and safe accommodation.
Global development of trafficking laws
Trafficking laws have been developed over the years worldwide attempting to provide an overall framework which takes into account the widespread nature of this issue.
The latest framework used by several countries was introduced as a response to the gaps in the previous framework. This framework encompasses sexual as well as non-sexual labour. According to this structure, trafficked individuals are considered as migrant workers who left home in search of livelihood and exploited in different sectors. It also considers that trafficked persons are victims of human rights violation, stopping and punishing trafficking requires multi-level game of coordinated development, communication concerning activities of transnational criminal groups, mutual assistance in law enforcement, provision of social services to trafficking victims, economic development in source countries, and reform in migration policy, involving both state and non state actors at the international, national and local level.
The labour migration framework is usually recognized as the most inclusive framework as it takes into consideration both genders as being vulnerable to trafficking, recognizes that individuals are trafficked for all kinds of work, admits the agency of the trafficked persons, and, finally, it places trafficking in a global process requiring global action. Being in this framework, the new proposed bill to combat trafficking in India, Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, gives a lot of hopes for the anti-trafficking initiatives in India.
In fact, one of the key takeaways from the bill is that it addresses the “transactional nature” of the crime, and instructs the National Anti-Trafficking Bureau to coordinate with “authorities in foreign countries and international organizations” as well as “facilitate inter-State and trans-border transfer of evidence and materials, witnesses and others.”
Trafficking: a structural problem
The bill marks a major step towards combating the issue of human trafficking in India, however, it does have certain pitfalls. The bill helps to take into account three key areas of combat, however, one needs to remember that trafficking in human beings is not an episodic phenomenon affecting a few individuals. It is instead a structural problem, with extensive implications on the social, economic, and organisational fabric of our societies. A variety of reasons such as deepening poverty, deteriorating living conditions, persistent unemployment, human deprivation, and hopelessness promote human trafficking, and till the time we aim to combat these basic social problems, the structural cycle promoting human trafficking will continue to exist.