Survivors' wait for composite law to tackle trafficking gets longer

They are then allowed to go back to the community without any support of rehabilitation and reintegration. Till 2013, the only legislation that punished the offence of trafficking was the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. However, it dealt only with trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, explained Kaushik Gupta, an advocate at the Calcutta High Court who represents human trafficking survivors on issues such as compensation and rehabilitation.In 2013, Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code was amended and the definition of trafficking in its different forms was included.


PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 17-08-2022 12:43 IST | Created: 17-08-2022 12:39 IST
Survivors' wait for composite law to tackle trafficking gets longer
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A stringent composite law that deals with all kinds of trafficking, including commercial sexual, labour and organ, looks at holistic rehabilitation and provides the framework to combat stigma... For India's trafficking survivors, that's the wish list pending for decades.

As another Parliament session ended last week without the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill 2022 being tabled, the wait for a law that will help them overcome some of the odds of their lives has gotten longer, they said.

"Where is it written? Show us" is the common response from authorities when asked for stringent action in human trafficking cases, said Sunil Lahiri, a 27-year-old labour trafficking survivor.

Lahiri was 16 when he was trafficked from Champa in Chhattisgarh to Rohtak in Haryana to work in a brick kiln after his parents were unable to pay the loan his parents took from a loan shark. "I have fought long and hard for justice to get compensation but to no avail," Lahiri, who lobbied for labour trafficking to be included as an offence and wants to be identified, told PTI.

He also pressed for a common rehabilitation policy for all survivors of trafficking.

"For instance, adult women and children rescued from sex trafficking are sent to institutional care setups for custodial rehabilitation. In the case of labour trafficking, the protocol is for the survivor to obtain a release certificate and present it to the administrative officer. They are then allowed to go back to the community without any support of rehabilitation and reintegration." Till 2013, the only legislation that punished the offence of trafficking was the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. However, it dealt only with trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, explained Kaushik Gupta, an advocate at the Calcutta High Court who represents human trafficking survivors on issues such as compensation and rehabilitation.

''In 2013, Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code was amended and the definition of trafficking in its different forms was included. Till date, we do not have a composite law which deals with trafficking, its prevention, the reintegration, rehabilitation, investigation and compensation,'' he said. ''We cannot even claim to imagine the impact of such an offence on the physical and mental health of those individuals. Therefore, an anti-trafficking bill needs to be tabled and passed in parliament as soon as possible,'' he added.

Suresh Kumar, executive director of the NGO Centre Direct, said the present legislation through IPC's Section 370 defines only trafficking in persons and talks about punishment. But human trafficking survivors need support in a time bound manner and this is missing from the present legislation.

''The present legislation also does not have any rehabilitation plans for survivors. Moreover, AHTU (Anti-Human Trafficking Units) are not operating properly to their full capacity,'' he said. The government presented the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill first in 2018. It was passed in the Lok Sabha but did not reach the Rajya Sabha due to general elections the following year.

In 2021, the draft bill was listed to be tabled in Parliament with some new provisions but was not brought up for discussion. It was listed again this year but not tabled.

For those who have survived the trauma of being trafficked, the lag is a serious issue.

A group of trafficking survivors, including Lahiri, travelled to the national capital to meet parliamentarians to ask for early passage of the bill and also push for changes in the draft.

Banded under the ILFAT (Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking) banner, the group included a 23-year-old who was trafficked from North 24 Parganas to Malda in West Bengal on the pretext of marriage by her lover. She managed to escape thanks to the police but the stigmatisation continues.

"Community based rehabilitation is the most crucial aspect of rehabilitation for trafficking survivors like me," she said on the condition of anonymity.

''The bill emphasises reintegration but does not define community based rehabilitation or how it will ensure re-integration and its outcome parameters,'' she added.

Another woman, also 23, added that survivors must be given the freedom to choose their vocation and not just be forced to undergo a limited set of skills training mandated by the state.

''At shelter homes, we are either taught sewing or beautician work and we are not even given certificates so we cannot seek employment based on that. There should be provided employment as per our aptitude,'' she said.

''When we eventually go back home after spending our precious youth years in these shelters, we are left to fend against poverty and stigma in the communities and often find it difficult to reintegrate,'' she added.

This young woman was only 15 when she was trafficked from Erode to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to work at a textile factory.

In her view, there should be government sponsored counselling for survivors as well as their families.

A 26-year-old woman, who was caught in a sex trafficking ring for six months and was also in Delhi, spoke of the need to provide compensation to survivors rescued through other means other than police.

''There was a missing complaint on my name and I escaped with help from a good samaritan but there was no provision for my compensation since the police were not involved. There are rescues which happen through other means too and there is a need to give compensation to such survivors too,'' she said.

She said there must be stringent monitoring of shelter homes in collaboration with NGOs because some government-run shelters are unsafe.

This is the second time these survivors have come to the national capital to push for the bill. They were in Delhi during the winter session too.

According to the draft anti-trafficking bill that was to be tabled in the recently concluded Monsoon session, a person found guilty of trafficking can be imprisoned for a term not less than seven years that may extend to 10 years.

The convict shall also be liable to a fine not less than Rs 1 lakh that may extend up to Rs 5 lakh. Severe punishment has been proposed for offences classified as aggravated forms of trafficking.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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