Anti-Trafficking Bill: Survivors come face-to-face with lawmakers

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Hopeful survivors of human-trafficking came together, at the national capital from all over the country to showcase their resounding commitment for early passage of the anti-human trafficking Bill, which got introduced in the parliament on July 18.

Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society, on July 19, held a national consultation on Human Trafficking with the Members of Parliament and survivors of human trafficking. The survivors, hailing from different parts of the country, deliberated with the MPs, civil society organisations for an early passage of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 in this Monsoon Session of the Parliament.

Shatrughan Sinha, MP, Lok Sabha; Manoj Tiwari, MP, Lok Sabha and Kothapalli Geetha, MP, Lok Sabha attended the consultation and extended their strong support for the early passage of the Bill. Eleven survivors hailing from eleven states of India shared their experiences of human trafficking, ranging from sexual exploitation, bonded labour, forced marriage, organ trade and other forms of trafficking.

In his address, Amod K Kanth, Founder General Secretary, Prayas, said, “Today, as we recount stories of despair, we also wish to make a strong statement of courage! We stand with our leaders and extend the responsibility of bringing forth a strong anti-trafficking legislation to protect, rehabilitate survivors of human-trafficking and ensure prevention for one’s vulnerable to this crime to them! We strongly support the long overdue Bill as it takes care of all the concerns.”

Manoj Tiwari, MP, Lok Sabha said: “At times we don’t go into details of the bills introduced, but having heard the stories from the survivors, I will definitely support the Bill and put forward the arguments in the support. Your voice has inspired me to fight with these social evils with more energy and valiant. I assure you all that I will be with in this fight always.”

Kothapalli Geeta, MP, Lok Sabha said: “This subject is very close to my heart, because I am a woman and I believe every woman in Parliament will support this bill and this bill will be passed at the earliest.”

Shatrughan Sinha, MP, Lok Sabha said: “Survivors have narrated a horrific tale and the delayed justice is something we should worry about. One survivor talked about being trafficked to Mumbai from West Bengal and when she approached police, Mumbai police asked her to file a FIR at home station and home station asked her to report in Mumbai. It’s sad that this reality still exists. But the new bill has a provision for Inter-state Investigation and a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau, which will solve the problem. Yeh bill der se aaya hai lekin durust aaya (Though a little late, but it’s very good that this bill has been introduced) and I am hopeful that it gets passed in the monsoon session. After hearing the shocking stories of the survivors today I feel more committed to strongly support this Bill whenever it comes up for discussion.”

Human-Trafficking in the worst violation of human rights and the third largest organised crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe. Men and women including children continue to be vulnerable to human trafficking for domestic work, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery. The problem of trafficking is particularly prevalent in India since it is a source, destination and transit country for victims of trafficking.

The existing law around trafficking, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is centred around solely sexual exploitation and has been mostly used to persecute sex workers instead of the actual perpetrators by allowing for their arbitrary arrest and penalisation.

The new proposed legislation, Trafficking of Persons Bill (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) 2018 on the other hand, covers all aspects of human trafficking- including aggravated forms of trafficking like forced labour, begging, administering chemical substances and hormones for early sexual maturity, forced marriage, etc. It provides for prosecution of promoting or facilitating trafficking of a person which 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 Bill provides for designated Courts for fast-tracking trials and timely repatriation of foreign victims – within a period of one year from taking into cognizance, which is a highly commendable move as there are many cases of trafficking from across neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Srilanka. Another novel aspect of the Bill, is its provision for seizing property of the traffickers (even in international locations) considering the global nature of the crime. A dedicated mechanism is proposed to be created under this law at each of the District, State and Central levels to implement the Bill in its entirety.