MUMBAI: Women and child rights activists have demanded numerous changes in the draft of India’s first anti-human trafficking law, saying the proposed legislation is flawed and does not address all aspects of the fast-growing crime.
South Asia, with India at its centre, is the fastest-growing and the second-largest region for human trafficking after East Asia, according to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime.
While there are no official figures on the number of people trafficked in India, activists say thousands of women and children are trafficked. Many are sold into forced marriage or bonded labour to work in fields, factories, brick kilns and as domestic servants, or are brutally confined in brothels.
Thus, the Trafficking of Persons bill, unveiled in May, seeks to unify the existing anti-trafficking laws, prioritise survivors’ needs and provide for special courts to expedite cases.
But the new law will only create confusion among those working on the ground, said PM Nair, chair professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, and an expert on human trafficking.
“The bill in its current form is a disaster. It needs to be completely re-drafted… “It doesn’t list out all trafficking offences, and does not take into account existing legislations,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, 5,466 human trafficking cases were registered in India in 2014 — an increase of 90 per cent over the last five years. But activists say this is a gross underestimate.
The bill does not define the key terms, including “trafficking” and “sexual exploitation”, and does not go far enough to ensure prevention of the crime or the rehabilitation of survivors, the National Coalition to Protect our Children said in a letter to Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child development.
“The Bill in its present form does not create deterrence for the crime of trafficking,” it said in the letter.
The draft also does not include bonded labour as a form of trafficking, and ignores the important role of the anti-human trafficking units set up nationwide from 2006 to fight the crime, human rights group International Justice Mission said in its recommendations.
There must be coordination with existing laws such as the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act to make sure the new law is effective, IJM said.
The deadline for feedback on the bill was June 30, although some campaigners have called for an extension. It will now go to government ministries for their recommendations.
A final bill could be brought before the parliament by the end of the year, Maneka Gandhi has said.