DRAFT ANTI-TRAFFICKING BILL
- Recently the Ministry of Women and Child Development released Draft anti-trafficking Bill, the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.
MORE ABOUT BILL
- The objective of the bill is to prevent and counter-trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them.
- The law will apply to all citizens of India, within and outside the country, persons on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be or carrying Indian citizens wherever they may be, and a foreign national or a stateless person who has residence in India.
- The draft bill also widens the definition of the “victim” by including transgenders, besides women and children.
- Once the bill becomes an Act, the central government will notify and set up a National Anti-Trafficking Committee, while state governments will set up these committees at state and district levels to ensure effective implementation.
- The bill proposes that any offence of trafficking shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees.
- 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 bill also says the investigation needs to be completed within 90 days from the date of the arrest of the accused.
- Investigation Agency – The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.
CRITICISM OF BILL
- The Bill also defines human trafficking as an organised crime with international implications and attempts to move away from conflating trafficking with sex work, while upholding the right of survivors to rehabilitation and compensation independent of criminal proceedings.
- It is not clear about how the NIA as a nodal agency will gather information and intelligence from different parts of the country through Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) at district level and State level.
- The draft Bill at present is largely silent on rescue protocols.
- There are also concerns about absence of community-based rehabilitation, missing definition of reintegration and also about the funds related to rehabilitation of survivors in the bill.
- The Draft Trafficking Bill has mixed up the issue of trafficking and sex work. Prostitution and Pornography have been added as definition of exploitation and sexual exploitation and is considered to be Trafficking in Persons. Consent of the victim has been made irrelevant.
- The Bill will have an impact on the lives of thousands of survivors of human trafficking across the country and particularly West Bengal which reports high incidents of trafficking from remote, economically backward areas of the State.
- Other than being a source for human trafficking, West Bengal — given its location bordering Bangladesh and Nepal — is also a transit point of human trafficking.
- Ministry should hold consolation with NGOs working in this area and incorporate changes recommended by experts on concerns raised.