Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021

    0
    412

    In News

    Recently, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has invited comments/suggestions from all the stakeholders on the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.

    About

    • The draft bill aims to
      • Prevent and counter trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
      • Provide care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, while creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them.
      • Ensure prosecution of offenders and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
    • A previous draft had been introduced in 2018 and had been passed by Lok Sabha despite stiff opposition from both parliamentarians as well as experts. 
    • Experts say that nearly all the concerns raised in 2018 have been addressed in this new draft Bill.

    Key Provisions

    • The bill has increased the scope of the nature of offenses of trafficking as well as the kind of victims of these offenses, with stringent penalties including life imprisonment, and even the death penalty in cases of an extreme nature.
      • Imprisonment for some years: Penalty will hold a minimum of seven years which can go up to an imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh
      • Imprisonment for life: In most cases of child trafficking, especially in the case of the trafficking of more than one child, the penalty is now life imprisonment.
      • Death: When a person is convicted of an offence under this section against a child of less than twelve years of age, or against a woman for the purpose of repeated rape, the person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for twenty years, but which may extend to life, or in case of second or subsequent conviction with death, and with fine which may extend up to thirty lakh rupees.
    • The law will extend to all citizens inside as well as outside India, persons on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be or carrying Indian citizens wherever they may be, a foreign national or a stateless person who has his or her residence in India at the time of commission of offence under this Act, and the law will apply to every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.
    • Property bought via such income as well as used for trafficking can now be forfeited with provisions set in place, similar to that of the money laundering Act.
    • The scope of the Bill vis-a-vis offenders will also include defence personnel, government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.
    • The National Investigation Agency, which looks at national security concerns, will be the main investigative agency, and therefore will look at cross-border offenses.
    • Exploitation has been given a very encompassing definition, which includes, at a minimum, 
      • Exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography.
      • Any act of physical exploitation.
      • Forced labour or services, slavery and similar practices.
      • Forced removal of organs.
      • Illegal clinical drug trials.
      • Illegal bio-medical research.
    • The Bill also extends to now include transgenders as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking 
    • The Bill does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.
    • After the enactment of the Act, Centre will establish a National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, which will help in ensuring overall effective provisions of the law.
      • The Home Secretary will chair it and the Secretary of Women and Child Development will co-chair it.

    Related Constitutional and Legislative Provisions

    • Article 23(1): It prohibits the trafficking of persons.
    • 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.
    • Sections 366(A) of Indian Penal Code: It prohibits kidnapping and Section 372 of IPC prohibits selling minors into prostitution.
    • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986 and 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 Legislations
      • 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 selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.
    • Steps by State Governments: States have also enacted specific legislations to deal with the issue, like the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012.

    Measures Taken by Government

    • 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 fund for 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 are held at the High court level.
      • The aim is to sensitise the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure 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.

    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.
    • Although law enforcement increased victim identifications, they identified disproportionately few victims compared with the scope of the problem, with some organisations estimating eight million trafficking victims in India.
    • 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.

    Suggestions

    • 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.

    Conclusion

    • Given the heightened vulnerabilities to trafficking due to Covid-19, governments need to work right from seeking “appropriate” compensation for victims to vigorous investigations of all cases of trafficking, including bonded labour, as well as strictly deal with “official complicity”.

    International Conventions on Trafficking Implemented by India

    • UN Conventions
      • India has ratified the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) which has as one of its Protocols Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children.
      • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol. It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
        • Blue Heart Campaign: It is an international anti-trafficking program started by the UNODC.
      • Various actions have been taken to implement the convention and as per Protocol, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has been enacted wherein human trafficking has specifically been defined.
    • SAARC Conventions
      • India has ratified the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution.
      • A Regional Task Force was constituted to implement the SAARC Convention
    • Bilateral Mechanisms
      • For dealing with cross border trafficking and to address the various issues relating to prevention of trafficking, victim identification and repatriation and make the process speedy and victim-friendly between India and Bangladesh, a Task Force of India and Bangladesh was constituted.
      • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on Bi-lateral Cooperation for Prevention of Human Trafficking in Women and Children, Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-integration of Victims of Trafficking was signed in June, 2015.
    • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) establishes the right of every human to live with dignity and prohibits slavery. It is a non-binding declaration.
    • Sustainable Development Goals
      • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, 
      • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all and 
      • Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

    Source: PIB