Policy dive: All you need to know about Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2017

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Policy Dive picks a policy issue, traces the debate around it, the different schools of thought and the choices involved.
More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.(Shutterstock/Representative image )

The government had listed the bill aimed at protecting trafficked persons, especially young girls and women, for introduction in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded budget session. But continued disruptions, which virtually wiped out the second part of the session, prevented the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017 from being introduced.

Here is all you need to know about the proposed law

Issue

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017, government data shows. Around 100,000 are yet to be traced and it is feared that many of them could have been trafficked.

In 2016, for instance, 111,569 children were reported missing. Of these, 55,944 children were traced but only 8,132 trafficking cases were reported.

Many of these children are victims of modern slavery — forced into prostitution, labour or domestic work.

They are also used as drug mules and even given up for adoption illegally. Poverty and lack of opportunity also pushes a lot of young women, especially from the interior parts of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, into prostitution.

Despite the enormity of the problem, India lacks a single comprehensive law for human trafficking. At present, trafficking is covered under half-a-dozen laws resulting in confusion and poor enforcement.

Significance

For the first time, a standalone law to address the problem has been proposed that will treat a trafficked person as a victim and not an offender. It not only prescribes stringent punishment but also addresses the crucial issue of rehabilitation of victims, many of whom are lured by traffickers on the promise of a better life and jobs.

The rehabilitation is not contingent on criminal proceedings. A special rehabilitation fund has been proposed for immediate protection of rescued persons. The punishment for traffickers varies from 10 years rigorous imprisonment to life sentence and Rs 1 lakh fine in cases of aggravated crimes.

Also in a first, a national anti-trafficking bureau run by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has been proposed to coordinate with other countries, as many times the victims, mostly women, are smuggled out of the country.

The proposed law also makes registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic helps mandatory.

Debate

The bill has been debated intensely, within the government and also among activists and organisations. When the bill was being drawn up, the ministry of external affairs said the law should address trafficking of persons within India as well as overseas.

The women and child development ministry (WCD), which is piloting the bill, had countered, saying the bill already covered the movement of trafficked person from one place to another within the country and also overseas.

Activists and non-government organisations such as Lawyers Collective have criticised the proposed law, saying it has nothing new to offer and all its provisions are already covered under existing laws. The new law will only end up “complicating the legal framework and its enforcement”.

The government says because the laws dealing with trafficking were not consolidated, the issue could not be tackled effectively. Hence, the need for a comprehensive standalone law.

Activists have also said no substantial research has gone into the bill, an argument rejected by the WCD ministry.

Lawyers’ Collective has pointed out that the provision to charge a person who encourages another person to “migrate illegally into India or Indians to some other country” with aggravated form of trafficking punishable with 10-year imprisonment could have serious implications for cross-border movement of people, including refugees.

The WCD ministry has said the argument does not hold.

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Meet the Sex Workers Leading the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Child Marriage

The Wire

Rescuing young girls with the help of legal authorities has helped them change people’s attitudes and develop a sense of self-worth.
In 2017, these women helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Representative image. Credit: Reuters

In 2017, these women helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Representative image. Credit: Reuters

Sex workers in the districts of Anantapur, Kadiri, East Godavari and Belagavi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are often married off at a young age or trafficked to larger cities.

Statistics released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have put Andhra Pradesh at second, after West Bengal, in terms of the prevalence of human trafficking. A large number of minor girls are being trafficked and UNODC states that in January alone, 939 minor girls were reported missing.

Many of the women who have been victims of trafficking or child marriage are now working closely with legal authorities and the police to help put an end to the two.

Their success in this endeavour can be gauged from the fact that in 2017, they helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Many of these traffickers were trafficking young girls of about ten or 12. In order to ensure these rescued girls do not come to harm, the sex workers helped get them admitted into residential Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalayas. These are free schools being run by the state government in every mandal of Andhra Pradesh.

How has this incredible turnaround taken place? How have these women picked up the grit to challenge those very people who had been at the forefront of exploiting them for years on end?

These women best describe their journey.

Rajeshwari

Take the case of Rajeshwari from Kadiri in Andhra Pradesh, who has been engaged in sex work for the last two decades. A three-day workshop in 2015 by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) was a turning point in her life. There she received training on different laws including Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO), the Nirbhaya Act and the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act by a retired judge and his team of lawyers. She was also taught how to cope with sexual violence and sexual harassment.

These women also received training on becoming paralegal volunteers. The minimum requirement is clearing the matriculation examination (class ten). Rajeshwari was a class four drop out. An exception was made for her and the other sex workers who had participated in this workshop.

“We were given a crash course on different laws including POSCO, Nirbhaya law and the JJ Act. We were also taught how to deal with cases of domestic violence and marital discord and in cases of trafficking and child marriage, we had to inform the district authorities by using the child helpline. In fact, we are paid Rs 250 for every case that we report,” said Rajeshwari.

The workshop gave her enough confidence to start working closely with the police and district authorities. “Being a sex worker, I know the situation on the ground. When a young girl was sold by a trafficker in Bhiwandi in the Thane district of Maharashtra, the local police and some NGOs sought my help,” said Rajeshwari with a sense of pride.

“I was actually taken all the way to Bhiwandi to help bring the girl back and restore her to her parents who live in Kadiri. The local agents here threatened to kill me. When they see me, they abuse me to my face. But now that I am a member of Jan Jagarata (JJ), a local community-based organsiation (CBO), I enjoy a great deal of support,” she said.

She cites the example of another young girl who was trafficked to Mumbai for a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh. “The madam put her to work and had 20 men arriving to have sex with her every day. We got the girl rescued and put her into a school in Hyderabad. The trafficker who took the girl to Mumbai has been arrested and is housed in the jail in Anantapur while another fellow is presently in the Kadapa jail,” said Rajeshwari.

Rajeshwari’s own life bears a startling similarity with the girls she helps rescue. Giving broad details of her life, Rajeshwari said: “When I was in my early 20s, I was taken to Dubai under the pretext of doing domestic work. After three years of sexual exploitation, I sought police protection. The police did not help me. Rather, they too exploited me and shamelessly used me for two years. It was only with the help of a local agent that I was able to return to India.”

Mahalaxmi

Mahalaxmi from Gooty village, who is presently the treasurer for the CBO Ushodaya being run in the neighbouring city of Kalyandurg, cites how a minor girl was kidnapped by three local boys in her area.

After raping her for three days, these boys abandoned her outside her parents’ home in the dead of night. The parents had four marriageable daughters and felt that by taking their eldest child back, they would suffer disrepute in their village and thus were reluctant to take her back.

They had the good sense to seek the help of Mahalaxmi, who insisted they go to the police station and file a complaint against the three boys.

The police tried to misguide the parents and refused to lodge an FIR. Mahalaxmi warned them that in case they did not file an FIR, she would seek the help of the district child protection officer since the girl was only 14, a minor.

When the local cop failed to heed her warning, Mahalaxmi rang up the sub-inspector, warning him that if action was not taken, she would take the matter up with the State Child Rights Commission.

Mahalaxmi said: “The cop got scared and an FIR was registered. The girl was taken for examination to the local government hospital where the rape was confirmed and all three boys have been arrested and jailed.”

Fearing for the girl’s life once the boys were released on bail, the rape victim has been sent to Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya in Hyderabad where she is presently continuing her studies.

Usha

Usha, the manager of Ushodaya, who had been engaged in sex work for over a decade, also admits that participating in the legal workshop in Hyderabad provided a new direction to her life.

“It helped me develop a sense of confidence. I also understood for the first time that if I am subject to violence, I can turn to the police and the district machinery for help. Nowadays, we meet the police and the district legal authorities on a regular basis. When the district judge goes to visit a jail, he takes a group of us paralegal volunteers along. This has led the local community to change their attitude towards us. More importantly, we have developed a sense of self-worth,” added Usha.

Recently, Usha was informed of how a mother, a former devadasi, had pulled her two daughters out of the local school because she wanted them to be initiated into the same trade.

“A group of us complained to the police. The district child protection unit intervened and the girls have been put into the SOS school in Tirupati to grow up in a more protected and nurturing environment,” said Usha.

How Jan Jagarata was formed

In 2007, the sex workers in Kadiri felt they needed to start their own NGO and that is how JJ came about. Initially, it provided basic HIV/AIDS services to these women. But they soon realised HIV/AIDS was just one of the problems they were facing. Equally pressing were issues of social stigma, discrimination and problems of violence by the hands of clients and partners.

In 2011, after having lengthy interactions with several local NGOs including REDS and CFAR, they picked up enough confidence to get JJ registered.

“Now we have hired two rooms in Kadiri where we have set up an office. We meet every week with a special focus on health. We also hold annual general body meetings to elect a president, secretary and a seven-member board of directors,” said Rama Devi, an office bearer.

But registering their organisation has resulted in other spin off. Members of their organisations are now in a position to access government loans to start their own business. And most importantly, they do not have to offer any collateral for these loans. Their membership in JJ is enough.

Ease in getting loans

Another important initiative these women have taken is to undertake an informal survey of the number of sex workers in and around their district. This helps them provide assistance to someone who is needy and also to keep an eye on anti-social elements.

Adi Narayan amma took a loan of Rs 10,000 two years ago and bought ten sheep with that money. “These have now multiplied to 20. I have succeeded in repaying my first loan. I hope to get a second loan so I can expand my business,” she said.

Another JJ member, Sailaji, received a small amount of money to start a small department store selling groceries and cigarettes from which she earns Rs 7,000 a month.

“My position is now much more secure and I do not have to do sex work anymore,” said Sailaja.

Renuka amma was deserted by her husband at a young age. “I had to bring up my daughter on my own. When my daughter was 16-years-old, she ran away with a man. After having three daughters, she came to my house, left her girls with me and disappeared. I subsequently learnt she was abandoned by her husband. I gave one daughter each to my two sisters and brought up one girl myself. I approached the Single Windows and they helped get my granddaughter admitted to Prajwala Home. Ten years later, my daughter returned because her partner deserted her.”

“Meanwhile, I took a loan of Rs 30,000 to start a business but have used the money on spinal surgery. I take solace in the fact that at least my granddaughter has settled well in her school and is a good student,” she added.

Muni amma was also married off at a young age and is the mother of three children. She worked for several years as a daily labourer but did not earn enough, so she took to sex work to earn additional money.

“Leaving my three children with my in-laws, I was taken to Mumbai to do sex work but the conditions there were miserable. I was not given proper food to eat, even the water to drink was filthy. I got a truck driver to bring me back to Kadiri,” she recalled.

Muni amma also received a loan of Rs 15,000 but has spent the money on her treatment. While she has succeeded in getting two of her children educated, her youngest daughter is studying in college. “I am working hard to stop child marriages in my district and in the last two months have succeeded in stopping six such marriages,” she said.

Legal empowerment

Padmaja been working as lawyer in the district court in Anantapur for the last nine years. She is one of the lawyers appointed by the state government to teach these sex workers paralegal work.

“Our attempt has been to take these women out of this profession and you can do this only if you empower them legally. We also try and ensure they get support of the district legal authority. Now that they are empowered, we have sought their help in fighting cases of trafficking,” said Padmaja.

Rammohan Reddy is another senior lawyer working in Kadiri who is in the forefront of helping these women. “These women tell us we want our children to study and not lead the kind of lives we have led. The state government has opened 25 schools for girls of sex workers and we assist them in getting their girls admitted there. Of course this has created a situation where traffickers are very angry and these women are constantly being threatened by them,” said Reddy.

These women are targeting other social evils as well. Adolescent girls are forced into marriage (often at the instigation of their mothers) to their maternal uncles. Renuka amma cited her own example. She is a widow with two daughters. One morning, her maternal cousin arrived at her place and forcibly wanted to take her 14-year-old daughter who is a class VII  student to get her married to his son. If the mother dared refuse, he warned he would kidnap the girl.

She phoned the Ushodaya team who immediately took her daughter under their protection. They informed the child services and the district child protection officer. The girl has been transferred to a residential school while the cousin was let off with a warning from the police.

Another Ushodaya member, Lalita amma, was married off to her maternal uncle when she was only 13. She is now assisting a campaign launched by several NGOs to stop marriages between blood relatives.

Akhila Sivdas, executive director of CFAR, started the Single Window initiative in 2013 to provide basic services to these women. Although the initiative has now come to an end, CFAR continues to provide guidance to these women. Sivdas said, “They are playing an important part in community policing. They understand the social dimensions of these issues and also provide community support. In many ways, these women are operating like mohalla committees.”

More and more parents are turning to them for support. Recently, in Kotter village in Anantapur district, a boy cheated on a girl and she became pregnant and has delivered a baby boy. The boy’s parents have agreed to have their son undergo a DNA test. If child is fathered by their son, they will get the couple to tie the knot. This entire process is being supervised by the court.

The struggle continues.

Govt plans anti-human trafficking unit under NIA

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Taking note of the rising cases of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, the Centre is planning to set up a dedicated anti-human trafficking wing under a central investigation agency like the National Investigation Agency. Functioning under the ministry of home affairs, Rs 324 crore is proposed to be allocated from the Nirbhaya Fund by the women and child development ministry as this is also being seen as a major ‘women safety’ issue. “The WCD had written to the home ministry earlier asking it to create a dedicated set up within a investigating agency like NIA to probe trafficking cases and coordinate investigation into trafficking networks operating across states and beyond India,” sources in MHA said.

“The ministry has reverted saying that it was agreeable on designating an agency under it for the job. While it has not yet finalised NIA as its choice yet, it appears most suited for thess job. Once the WCD ministry formalises the proposal and prepares a Cabinet note in this regard, the home ministry will have to assess how NIA needs to be empowered under the law to investigate trafficking crimes,” said a senior home ministry official.

The planned anti-trafficking wing will give a boost to efforts of investigators when the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017, becomes a reality. A group of ministers (GoM), at present examining the bill, may approve expansion of the definition of trafficking to include persons who are smuggled to foreign countries in the garb of labour for jobs but end up as victims of abuse and exploitation.
Also the structure of advisory board of the proposed National Commission on Trafficking in Persons under the bill may be reworked to enable better inter-departmental coordination. The bill, referred to a GoM chaired by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, has completed its meetings and the final draft is expected to be approved soon so that it can be presented before the Union Cabinet.
The WCD ministry is hopeful of introducing it when the budget session resumes after recess in March, sources said.

 

Human Trafficking: 4 GH Girls Rescued From Bihar

The Shillong Times

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The Railway Protection Force (RPF) on Sunday rescued four teenage girls of Garo Hills while being trafficked to Muzaffarpur in Bihar. 
North Garo Hills Police has dispatched a women’s team to bring back the four girls to Meghalaya.
The police said illegal trafficking of men and women is a major problem as it continues unabated in Meghalaya.
According to the police, the four girls went missing soon after the New Year celebrations. An unidentified man from North Garo Hills lured the girls to come along with him to Muzaffarpur on the promise of giving them good jobs there with hefty salaries.
One of the parents filed an FIR with Mendipathar police station after receiving a call from his daughter that she was being taken to Muzaffarpur on the promise of a high salaried job.
After the FIR was filed, the police contacted a Church leader of North Garo Hills for help who, in turn, contacted Impulse NGO.
Subsequently, the Commissioner of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and IGP of Delhi Police for NE were contacted to launch a rescue mission.
The Impulse NGO also contacted NGOs and social welfare organisations in West Bengal and Bihar resulting in the rescue of the four girls.

Godman running trafficking racket: DCW after rescuing 2 girls from Delhi ashram

The girls were confined illegally at an ashram run by spiritual leader Virender Dev Dixit in Karawal Nagar.
DCW chief Swati Maliwal has demanded a CBI probe into ‘human trafficking racket’ being run by Virender Dev Dixit. (Photo: PTI/File)

DCW chief Swati Maliwal has demanded a CBI probe into ‘human trafficking racket’ being run by Virender Dev Dixit.

Two girls were on Tuesday rescued from illegal confinement at an ashram run by spiritual leader Virender Dev Dixit in Karawal Nagar in a joint operation by the police and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), officials said.

Some literature was also confiscated from the ashram where the girls were  confined, as crackdown continued on the controversial spiritual leader’s premises, they said.

DCW chief Swati Maliwal along with Ajay Verma, advocate appointed as amicus curae by the Delhi High Court, had visited the centre at Karawal Nagar on Monday. They found six women, including the two minors, living in confinement there.

Maliwal, who visited another centre run by Dixit at Nangloi on Monday, demanded a CBI probe into what she suspected was a human trafficking racket being run by him.

“It appears that Baba Virender Dev Dixit is running a human trafficking racket. The CBI should urgently and simultaneously conduct raids at all ashrams of Dixit across India and close them down. By delaying the raids, he is getting time to cover up his action,” she had said.

On December 23, the DCW along with the Delhi Police raided Dixit’s ashram in Mohan garden area of Uttam Nagar and found 25 women confined there.

The issue had come to light due to a PIL filed by an NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment before the Delhi High Court.

The NGO had informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined there.

Victims of Human Trafficking, These Chhattisgarh Girls Are Now Proud Bakers

The Better India

Reports suggest that close to 1500 cases of children who, as per a UNICEF survey, were trafficked from only five blocks in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district alone, from 2012 to 2014.

Beti Zindabad’ is a flagship project undertaken by the Chhattisgarh government. This unique initiative is helping survivors of human trafficking by setting up bakery units in Jashpur, in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is among top five states in the country, as far as figures for women and girl trafficking is concerned.

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The ten women survivors who run this unit have been subjected to trauma, trafficking, enslavement, and even physical abuse. While many organisations across the state are working on rescuing these girls, little is being done to rehabilitate them and help them live their life with dignity. Running this bakery unit has given their life a new meaning, and these women are embracing it well.

After spending some of the darkest days of their life, they were rescued from different parts of the country.

Aged between 15 and 21, the girls were excited with a long list of orders for nearly 100 cakes to deliver during Christmas, as reported by Times of India.

To prevent them from victims again, the idea of baking was introduced – Fresh out of the oven

As per a report in Nyooz, “Girls suffer from social stigma and their economic and social emancipation is crucial for their survival after their rescue. Breaking the pattern of obsolete skill development programmes, youths in Jashpur are being trained in hospitality, construction work, plastic engineering, fire safety and other occupational skills.

One of the girls in the group said that she was trafficked to Hyderabad a few years ago and was forced into domestic slavery. She was then left locked in a house by the owners with a mobile phone and very little to eat when they went on holidays.

“I was desperate to return home and totally exhausted. It was while watching a crime show on TV through which I learnt about a helpline number for children and I immediately called up for rescue. Though the traffickers were also arrested, I hadn’t brought anything back after nine years of slogging,” she narrated.

She was sexually and mentally assaulted, and her parents assumed she was dead as she wasn’t allowed to contact them all this while, as reported by the Times of India.

Here’s wishing this project the best and hope that many more survivors can live their life with dignity.

 

New anti-trafficking law soon: Life term for repeat offenders

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The bill has proposed 10-year punishment for those engaging in “aggravated forms of trafficking". For repeat offenders, it suggests imprisonment for life. The bill has also proposed the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau.
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 The government is set to introduce a law to guard against human trafficking, proposing a 10-year punishment for those engaging in “aggravated forms of trafficking” while seeking life imprisonment for repeat offenders.
A bill to identify various forms of trafficking, including for the purposes of bonded labour, sexual exploitation, pornography, removal of organs and begging, has proposed severe punishment for those engaging in the heinous crime.

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2017, initiated by the Women & Child Development Ministry, is currently with a Group of Ministers (GoM) that will take a final view on the matter, official sources told TOI.

The bill proposes the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau, which shall be entrusted with the gamut of issues aimed at controlling and tackling the menace under various forms. These include coordination, monitoring and surveillance of illegal movement of persons and their prevention. The bureau will also be entrusted with increasing cooperation and coordination with authorities concerned and organisations in foreign countries for strengthening operational and long-term intelligence for investigation of trafficking cases, and driving in mutual legal assistance.

Listing out the ‘aggravated forms of trafficking’, the bill speaks about offences such as forced labour, or bonded labour, by using violence, intimidation, inducement, promise of payment of money, deception or coercion. Also, it mentions trafficking after administering any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance or alcohol, or for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage.

The aggravated form also includes trafficking for the purpose of begging or forcing those who are mentally ill or are pregnant. “Whoever commits the offence of aggravated form of trafficking of a person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years, but which may extend to life imprisonment and shall be liable to fine that shall not be less than Rs 1 lakh,” the bill proposes.

For repeat offenders, it suggests imprisonment for life “which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life”, apart from a fine that will not be less than Rs 2 lakh.

As per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human trafficking numbers rose by almost 20% in 2016 against the previous year. NCRBsaid there were 8,132 human trafficking cases last year against 6,877 in 2015, with the highest number of cases reported in West Bengal (44% of cases), followed by Rajasthan (17%).

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Of the 15,379 victims who were caught in trafficking, 10,150 were female and 5,229 males. NCRB said the purpose of trafficking included forced labour; sexual exploitation for prostitution; other forms of sexual exploitation; domestic servitude; forced marriage; child pornography; begging; drug peddling; and removal of organs. It is believed that the numbers recorded by NCRB are a far cry to actual incidences of trafficking as many cases went unreported with many people still unaware of the crime or lacking confidence to seek police help.

For those engaging in ‘buying or selling’ a person, the bill proposes rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than seven years which can be extended to 10 years with a fine upwards of Rs 1 lakh. The bill also seeks punishment for those engaging in trafficking with the help of media, including print, internet, digital or electronic. It stipulates a punishment of not less than seven years which can go up to 10 years and a fine not less than Rs 1 lakh.

“Whoever distributes or sells or stores, in any form in any electronic or printed form showing incidence of sexual exploitation, sexual assault or rape for the purpose of extortion or for coercion of the victim or his/her family members, or for unlawful gain, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but may extend to seven years.”

Apart from the national bureau, the bill also aims at having state-level anti-trafficking officers who shall also provide relief and rehabilitation services through district units and other civil-society organisations.
The bill also spells out measures towards relief and rehabilitation for the victims of trafficking, and seeks the formation of a committee for this purpose. The committee is proposed to be headed by the women & child development secretary and would have members from the ministries of home; external affairs; labour and employment; social justice and empowerment; panchayati raj; and heath and family welfare.