SCO’s Protocol on Trafficking

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    • Recently, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states in its 19th meet (of Prosecutors General) held in New Delhi, adopted a protocol to strengthen cooperation in preventing and combating the growing menace of human trafficking, especially women and children. 

    What is Human Trafficking?

    • Human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.
      • Exploitation includes, 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.

    Salient Features of the Protocol

    • Strengthen cooperation in preventing and combating the growing menace of trafficking in persons especially, women and children.
    • Continue exchanging the national legislation to combat the menace of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
    • Provide protection and assistance to victims of trafficking within their competence.
    • Develop cooperation between the educational (training) organizations (institutions) of the SCO member states in the field of training and advanced training of prosecutors, whose competence includes combating trafficking in persons especially, women and children.
    • Conduct bilateral and multilateral activities, including video conferencing, on countering and combating the threat of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

    Relevant Laws in India

    • The problem of trafficking in human beings by the Government of India is reflected in various legal provisions to counter-trafficking provisions:
      • As enshrined in the Indian Constitution
        • Article 23(1): It prohibits the trafficking of persons.
        • Article 24 (Right Against Exploitation) of the Constitution of India.
      • IPC: 
        • Sections 366(A) of the Indian Penal Code: Prohibits kidnapping and Section 372 of IPC prohibits selling minors into prostitution.
      • Legislations: 
        • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA): It aims to stop immoral trafficking and prostitution in India and is divided into 25 sections and one schedule.
        • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986 
        • Juvenile Justice Act: All of these prohibit bonded and forced labour.
        • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012: It is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
      • Other Specific Legislation:
        • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
        • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
        • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
        • Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994
        • Specific Sections in the IPC, like Sections 372 and 373 dealing with the selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.
      • Steps by State Governments:
        • States have also enacted specific legislation to deal with the issue, like the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012.

    Measures Taken by Government of India

    • Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC): 
      • It was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2006 to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking. 
    • Women help desks were established in 10,000 police stations across the country.
    • MHA under a Comprehensive Scheme Strengthening law enforcement response in India against Trafficking in Persons through Training and Capacity Building has released funds for the establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units for 270 districts of the country.
    • Strengthening the capacity building: 
      • To enhance the capacity building of law enforcement agencies and generate awareness among them.
    • Judicial Colloquium: 
      • In order to train and sensitize the trial court judicial officers, Judicial Colloquium on human trafficking is held at the High court level.
      • The aim is to sensitise the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure a speedy court process.
      • So far, eleven Judicial Colloquiums have been held at Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
    • Various programmes & schemes initiated by the Government of India like: 
      • Ujjawala
      • SwadharGreh Scheme
      • Sakhi
      • Universalization of Women Helpline
      • Providing for a supportive institutional framework and mechanism for addressing concerns of women affected by violence. 

    Image Courtesy: FII 

    Challenges

    • Official complicity in trafficking remains a concern: The success rate in convictions in human trafficking cases is very poor and the acquittal rate for traffickers in India remains high at 73 per cent.
    • The police in India continued to file trafficking cases under the Juvenile Justice Act and other sections of the IPC, which criminalised many forms of forced labour.
      • However, these provisions were unevenly enforced and some of their prescribed penalties were not sufficiently stringent, allowing for only fines or short prison sentences. This might be addressed by the Draft Bill.
    • Three Indian states reported a third of all trafficking cases, but that was most likely due to “more sophisticated reporting in those states and territories rather than larger trafficking problems”. Better reporting mechanisms required.
    • Efforts to audit government-run or -funded shelters remained inadequate and significant shortcomings in protections for victims, especially children, remain unaddressed.
    • Many victims waited years to receive central-government mandated compensation and often state and district legal offices did not proactively request the compensation or assist victims in filing applications.
    • Some foreign trafficking victims remained in state-run shelters for years due to lengthy or non-existent repatriation processes.

    Way Ahead

    • Joint activities & experiences of SCO Member States shall help to curb the pressing problem of human trafficking and be a driving force for the consolidation of efforts globally.
    • Encourage state and territory compliance with the Supreme Court’s recommendation to audit all government-run and -funded shelter homes.
    • Cease penalisation of trafficking victims.
    • De-link provision of the 2016 bonded labour scheme’s overall victim compensation from conviction of the trafficker.
    • Cease detention of adult trafficking victims in government-run and government-funded shelters.
    • Amend the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC to include labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
    • Increase oversight of and protections for workers in the informal sector, including home-based workers.
    • Lift bans on female migration through agreements with destination countries that protect Indian workers from human trafficking.
    • Update and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
    • Provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel.
    • Continue to disseminate and implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and train officials on their use.

    Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

    • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation of Eurasian Nations with a secretariat in Beijing.
      • They represent 40% of the world population and approximately 20% of World GDP along with about 22% of the world landmass.
    • It is a political, economic and military organisation that aims at maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.
    • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
    • It currently has 8 members with the latest being India and Pakistan who were made members in 2017.
      • Note: Turkmenistan is not a party to SCO.
    • There are 4 Observer States and multiple Dialogue Partners.

    Origin: Journey from Shanghai Five to SCO to the inclusion of India and Pakistan

    • Shanghai Five
      • Shanghai Five emerged in 196 from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks between 4 former USSR republics and China.
      • Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
      • The aim was to ensure stability along the borders.
    • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
      • With the accession of Uzbekistan to the group in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
      • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2003.
      • It is a statutory document that outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
    • India and Pakistan
      • India and Pakistan both were initially observer states.
      • Both were given full membership in 2017.

    Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

    • Heads of State Council
      • It is the supreme SCO body that decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations.
        • It also considers contemporary international issues.
    • Heads of Government Council
      • It approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related to economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
    • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs 
      • It considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
    • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS)
      • It was established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.
    • SCO Secretariat 
      • It is based in Beijing. 
      • It provides informational, analytical & organisational support.

    Importance of SCO for India

    • Regional Integration
      • SCO can help in achieving regional integration, promote connectivity and stability across borders.
      • Further, it also helps India to have a multilateral talk with friends like Russia and adversaries like China and Pakistan.
    • Regional Connectivity
      • Although India opposes the Border and Road Initiative due to CPEC, it understands the importance of connectivity with Central Asian Nations.
      • With Afghanistan and Pakistan are adverse as of now, SCO can help in connectivity with Central Asia.
    • Security
      • RATS can help India to improve its counterterrorism abilities by working toward intelligence sharing, law enforcement and developing best practices and technologies.
      • Through the SCO, India can also work on anti-drug trafficking and small arms proliferation.
    • Challenges of terrorism and radicalisation.
      • The whole of Central Asia including is aware of the Taliban and ISKP in Afghanistan which mandates regional cooperation.
    • Geopolitical Advantage
      • Central Asia is a part of India’s Extended Neighbourhood.
        • And SCO provides India with an opportunity to pursue the “Connect Central Asian Policy”.
      • It will also help India to have a check on the ever-growing influence of China in Eurasia. 

     

    Sources: PIB + ET