Why is the government in haste to pass anti-trafficking Bill 2018?

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The central government seems to be in an inexplicable hurry to pass the new legislation that aims to curtail human trafficking, but, without consulting the significant stakeholders whose interests are at question. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, which was tabled on the first day of the Monsoon Session 2018, was scheduled to be moved by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi in the Lok Sabha today, July 25.

The Bill has already created uproar among the civil society, activists, adult sex workers collectives, transgender community, etc. as the clauses in the draft bill do not resolve the problems or meet the interests of the vulnerable communities; instead, it further aggravates their problems – victimizing and targeting them. The anti-human trafficking Bill 2018 is supposed to be the country’s first comprehensive bill on curbing trafficking problem, focusing more on the prosecution of perpetrators and providing for rehabilitation of trafficking victims.

Voices that matter

Speaking to Tehelka, Tripti Tandon, Advocate and Deputy Director, Lawyers Collective, reiterates, “The Government’s hurry to pass the Bill is rather odd. Most new Bills are referred to a Standing Committee for examination. Why is the Trafficking Bill being treated as an exception? In fact, the more important and far-reaching a Bill, the more it deserves examination by a Parliamentary panel. The Government’s rush and avoidance of the Standing Committee only goes to show that they are not confident of the Bill’s contents.”

On being asked about the sundry experts, activists, NGOs, etc. who have shown a consolidated support against the newly drafted bill, Tripti said, “Those who have been involved in drafting the Trafficking Bill, which otherwise was an opaque and closed process, such as Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Sunita Krishnan of Prajwala, are bound to give full marks to it. But, if they are so confident of it, why should they oppose it being sent to a Standing Committee in Parliament? After all, scrutiny by a Parliamentary body will only improve the legal response to trafficking and not weaken it. Supporters of the Bill must have faith in democratic processes and Parliamentary institutions.”

Nisha Gulur, Advocacy officer, Sangama, an organisation that represents the voice of transgender and sex workers’ rights, opines that if the government really cares about their concerns than they should be heard and redressed accordingly. She adds, “This new Bill clearly violates our constitutional rights and freedom. How can you think of passing a legislation that is not inclusive of rights and interests of the marginalised vulnerable victims?”