The minister of women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, will be presenting the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill in parliament during its winter session. In all likelihood, the bill may be converted into a law, which experts feel is required.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, India ranks fourth in terms of slavery in the world. A recent research has also shown that the number of people tricked into slavery in India is five times than that of any other nation, worldwide. And within India, states like Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and Punjab lead in trafficking.
The draft bill is still being deliberated upon extensively by all stakeholders, including NGOs and rough edges are being ironed out. The exercise is likely to be completed by this month-end.
As of now, the laws that deal with this social evil are rather weak and the lacunas are too disconcerting for the victims, who can’t be provided protection or rehabilitated. Moreover, the grey areas pose insurmountable problems for the law enforcement agencies.
The draft bill, if passed by parliament, will become the first full-fledged law to deal with trafficking of all kinds. As of now, there are separate laws to deal with, say trafficking for sex, trafficking of children or sundry other labor laws.
However, all doesn’t seem well with the present draft bill. According to a report published in Mint, a letter dashed off to Maneka Gandhi by none other than 23 victims of human trafficking who are now free has highlighted the minuses of this draft bill.
The loopholes pointed out in the letter include stigma attached with women who have been extricated, or have managed to free themselves. It highlights the fact that often it is the kith and kin of the victim who subject her to inhuman treatment.
There is no help or procedure enumerated in the draft bill for girls (18 years or more) who may reject the option of staying at a shelter home and instead choose to go back home the letter states.
Highlighting the abject conditions of shelter homes in India, the letter brings to the fore issues like torture and humiliation faced by inmates. It notes that there is no provision in the draft bill to take legal action against people who resort to such behavior.
Citing their experiences, the women have raised concerns about the possibility that shelter homes would become the only option for survivors.
—India Legal Desk