As per the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime, South Asia, with India at its centre, is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia. Thousands of Indians largely poor, rural women and children are lured to big cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries or factories.
The draft of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 was released on 30th May 2016. Unveiling the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said 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.
The object of the Bill reads as, “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 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”
Salient features of the Bill
The draft legislation provides for special courts to expedite trafficking cases, more shelters and a rehabilitation fund to help victims rebuild their lives. 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 provides for Protection Homes and Special Homes for short term and long term rehabilitation support. For speedy trial with a view to increase prosecution and to reduce the trauma faced by the victims, the proposed draft Bill provides for establishing Special Courts in each district and experienced Special Prosecutors.
Anti-Trafficking Committee – The Bill provides for anti-trafficking committees – at district, state and central levels – with government officers and NGO representatives to mobilise efforts to prevent, rescue, protect and rehabilitate victims of trafficking, in addition to providing medical care, psychological assistance and skills development.
Special Agency – The Bill provides for a Special Agency to be constituted by the Central Government for investigation of offences under the provisions of the Act.
Anti-Trafficking Fund – The Bill provides for the creation of a fund for the effective implementation of the Act and also for the welfare and rehabilitation of the victims.
Punishment for disclosure of identity – Any newspaper, magazine, etc. who discloses name, address, etc. of a victim or a witness of a crime of trafficking shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.
Narcotic drugs, psychotropic or alcoholic substances for trafficking – Any person whoe uses any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, or alcohol, for the purpose of trafficking shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees.
Use of chemical substance or hormones for the purpose of exploitation – Any person who administers any chemical substance or hormones to a trafficked woman or a girl or a child for the purpose of early sexual maturity and exploitation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees.
Confiscation, forfeiture and attachment of property – The Bill provides for the provision for confiscation of property of any person accused of using narcotic drugs, psychotropic or alcoholic substances for trafficking or using chemical substance or hormones for the purpose of exploitation or accused of section 370-373 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Plus points of the Draft Bill
1. Rehabilitation has been recognised as a right
2. Provision for shelter homes in every district for women
3. Provision of a fund for welfare and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking
4. Emphasis on medical check-ups and treatment after returning home
5. Provision for special court and special public prosecutor for trafficking issues
6. Provision for Confiscation and attachment of the traffickers’ properties to pay for fines
Shortcomings of the Draft Bill
1. The draft bill has not clearly defined trafficking, whether it would include those taken for organ harvesting or forced labour.
2. There is nothing in the Bill about preventing re-trafficking.
3. The draft bill does not talk about modes of rehabilitation and who will be responsible.
4. It is not clear how the government intends to set up the Organised Crimes Investigation Agency, as ordered by the Supreme Court, to investigate trafficking.
5. There is 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. Also there is no punishment for poor investigation.
6. The draft bill talks about a special investigative agency, but its structure, composition, powers and function are unclear.
7. The draft bill talks of an Anti-Trafficking Fund, but it is not clear what the money will be used for.
8. There is no provision for the compensation to trafficking survivors or their families
9. There is no provision for mistreatment with trafficking survivors at the shelter homes