Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill

February 13, 2018
11 months

What is the issue?

  • Government is planning to introduce the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016.
  • There seems to be some flaws in the basic understanding and approach towards the social menace of trafficking.

What are the notable provisions?

  • Penalties - The Bill has stringent penalties like life imprisonment for aggravated forms of trafficking.
  • The burden of proof lies on the traffickers.
  • Also, there are provisions for stripping traffickers of their assets.
  • Institutions - An anti-human trafficking wing is proposed to be set up.
  • This would be under a central investigation agency like the National Investigation Agency.
  • A district-level anti-trafficking unit with an anti-trafficking police officer is also proposed.
  • A designated sessions court for speedy trials is also part of the provisions.
  • Fund - State governments need to create a Rehabilitation Fund.
  • This will allocate financial resources for protection homes.
  • They also offer legal assistance to victims and provide skill development programmes.
  • The fund will also be used for victim and witness protection, and for generating awareness to prevent human-trafficking.

What are the present legal protections?

  • The Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986 are noteworthy anti-trafficking provisions.
  • The social welfare legislation on contract and bonded labour, and inter-state migrant work are also in place.
  • In India, a combination of penal, labour and contract laws are used to impose obligations for better working conditions.
  • These clutch of laws often delay the trial process.
  • The Trafficking Bill would thus be an umbrella legislation in this regard.

What are the shortfalls?

  • Understanding - The policy makers largely mistake trafficking to be equivalent only to sex trafficking and sex work.
  • Thus, the criminal laws like the ITPA generally target the men traffickers.
  • The current definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC is also not limited to sex work.
  • Approach - The present Trafficking Bill is clearly neoabolitionist.
  • This is an approach which perceives trafficking only through the sensationalist accounts of “modern slaves”.
  • This is seen as victimisation tricked by unscrupulous traffickers.
  • Their only hope for rescue is believed to be the law-enforcing personalities.
  • The Bill thus pursues the classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model.
  • It also seems to be extending the same model beyond sex work to other labour sectors.
  • Machinery - The Bill also creates a range of new institutions with unclear roles.
  • They are offered with enormous powers including for surveillance.
  • However, there seems to be no accountability mechanisms.
  • There is no clarity on how the Bill relates to the ITPA and to labour laws.

What should be done?

  • The legislation should be comprehensive enough to address all forms of trafficking.
  • It is thus essential to create the necessary regulatory response to reduce incidence of trafficking in the first place.
  • The policies should consider:
  1. a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy
  2. a robust implementation of existing labour laws
  3. improved labour inspection, including in informal economy
  4. corporate accountability for decent work conditions
  5. self-organisation of workers
  • There is also the need for systemic reforms to counter distress migration, and to end caste-based discrimination.
  • Proper enforcement of the rural employment guarantee legislation would help in this regard.
  • This would also avoid voluntary sex work and protect migrants’ mobility and rights.
  • Working on these fronts is essential for India to meet its Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.
  • It relates to eradicating forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking, and ending child labour by 2025.


Source: The Hindu, Hindustan Times

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