Cabinet approves the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018
Why in news
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, has been passed by the Lok Sabha recently.
What is human trafficking?
The action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation.
As per the definition given by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – ‘Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.’
Status of human trafficking in India
- As per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human trafficking numbers rose by almost 20% in 2016 against the previous year.
- NCRB said there were 8,132 human trafficking cases last year against 6,877 in 2015, with the highest number of cases reported in West Bengal (44% of cases), followed by Rajasthan (17%). Of the 15,379 victims who were caught in trafficking, 10,150 were female and 5,229 males.
Schemes and initiatives launched by Government to tackle human trafficking
- Ministry of Home Affairs has set up of a dedicated nodal Cell in the MHA for prevention of trafficking. The cell is responsible for providing state governments with the necessary research, studies and information.
- The ministry organises workshops for NGOs on issues relating to trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation. A special module for counsellors of trafficked victims has been formulated.
- Training to all stakeholders such as police, government officials, etc. to better understand the situation and hence respond properly to a suspicious activity or person.
- The MWCD runs Shelter based homes Short Stay Homes, Swadhar Homes for women in difficult circumstances.
- Ujjawala: A comprehensive scheme for prevention of Trafficking and Rescue and Rehabilitation and Re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitations.
Why this law?
- No single law: Currently, there is no single law dealing with human trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries, including WCD, home, labour, health, Indian overseas affairs and external affairs. More often than not, this results in lax enforcement.
- Trafficking on the rise: Statistics reveal that heinous crimes like trafficking is on the rise. This is shocking and calls for a comprehensive mechanism to tackle the situation
- The weakness of the ITPA 1956 act: The law is inadequate as it talks only about prostitution which is an outdated concept for human trafficking.
Highlights of Bill:
Aggravated forms of trafficking
- It takes into consideration aggravated forms of trafficking. It includes trafficking for purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity etc.
- It comprehensively addresses transnational nature of the crime.
- It prescribes punishment for promoting and facilitating the trafficking of the person. It includes producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake certificates, registration or stickers as proof of compliance with Government requirements or commits fraud for procuring or facilitating the acquisition of clearances and necessary documents from Government agencies.
- The punishment prescribed under it ranges from rigorous minimum 10 years to life and fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh. In order to break the organized nexus, both at the national and international level, it mandates for attachment & forfeiture of property and also proceeds for the crime.
Confidentiality of victims and witnesses
- It deals with the confidentiality of victims and witnesses and complainants by not disclosing their identity. It will be maintained by recording their statement through video conferencing (it will help trans-border and inter-State crimes).
Trial and repatriation
- It has provision for time-bound trial and repatriation of the victims. It will be within a period of 1 year from taking into cognizance.
- It provides immediate protection of rescued victims and their rehabilitation. T
- The victims will be entitled to interim relief immediately within 30 days to address their physical, mental trauma etc. and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of charge sheet.
- It creates Rehabilitation Fund for the first time.
- It will be used for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim including education, skill development, health care and psychological support, legal aid, safe accommodation etc.
- It mandates designation of courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.
- It creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at District, State and Central level. They will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.
- The tasks of Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level will be performed by National Investigation Agency (NIA).
- The bill proposes the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau, which shall be entrusted with the gamut of issues aimed at controlling and tackling the menace under various forms.
- Functions include coordination, monitoring and surveillance of illegal movement of persons and prevention.
- The bureau will also be entrusted with increasing cooperation with authorities in foreign countries for boosting operational and long-term intelligence for investigation of trafficking cases and driving in mutual legal assistance.
The significance of the bill:
- Human Trafficking is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. At present, there is no specific law to deal with this crime. The bill addresses the issue of human trafficking from point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation.
- The Bill addresses one of the most pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting most vulnerable persons especially women and children.
- It will make India leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking, as UNODC and SAARC nations are looking forward to India to take lead by enacting this law.
(a) Drafting error
- It proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation
- A/c to Section 36 “any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner” has wide amplitude as Bill does not define what constitutes “promotion”.
- For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting lustful interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.
(b) Will Promote censorship
- In June 2016, the Union government banned 240 escort sites for obscenity even though it cannot do that under Section 69A or Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, or Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
- In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging “morality” and “decency”, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism.
- If historical record is any indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.
(c) The excessive scope of the bill
- Section 39 proposes a weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising “which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished” (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years.
- In effect, the provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
- The excessive scope of this provision is prone to severe abuse since, without any burden of showing a causal connection, it could be argued that anything “may lead” to the trafficking of a person.
(d) Multiplicity of institutions
The bill is silent on whether existing institutional structures – such as child protection units at the state, district, block and community levels established under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme – will work parallel to the proposed institutions under the anti-trafficking bill. This can give rise to the distinct possibility of child victims of trafficking being passed around from one authority to another.
(e) Consent of Victim is disregarded
The bill will lead to greater surveillance and adult victims will be sent to rehabilitation homes or repatriated to their places of origin. There is no provision provided if ‘victims’ do not want to go to rehabilitation or accept repatriation which is against Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which guarantees the fundamental right to work.’
(g) Illegal organ trade ignored
Bill doesn’t address the issue of illegal organ and skin trading, which is a form of human trafficking. There are thousands of victims who complain of being duped after being lured to migrate and sell their organs for hefty money (often deceitfully).
- Further measures that can be undertaken
- Increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking
- Developing Standard operating procedures for Victim Identification and training officials in the same.
- Improving Inter-state co-ordination.
- Developing a national action plan to combat trafficking.
Trafficking of persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill is an important legislative step in dealing with the pervasive malaise of human exploitation and trade in humans. It is comprehensive in its coverage, lays down an institutional mechanism, provides for international cooperation and is sensitive towards the needs of the victim.
- Human trafficking is a grim reality in India. In this context critically examine the recently passed ‘The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018’.