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This Bill Could Help Thousands Of Human Trafficking Survivors Find Justice

Time and again, citizen-led movements have influenced the policy discourse of the nation. The Right to Information Act, 2005 and Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 are testimonies to the fact that citizens have been trailblazers in setting priorities for the nation every time human dignity has come in question. The fight against human trafficking deserves the same enthusiasm and spur by the masses so as to protect our fellow citizens from this heinous violation of their life and dignity.

A citizen-led movement called #IndiaAgainstHumanTrafficking has been initiated by the survivors of human-trafficking who wish for the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, to see the light of the day, and become a concrete law for the millions of victims who suffer from this abuse and indignity, with no proper means of justice.

This is an online portal which aims to bring together all citizens to collectively support the government in their fight against human-trafficking through sending letters of support to political leaders across parties, emphasising the need of a comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in India.

Human Trafficking – A Curse On Indian Society

Human trafficking is the worst violation of human rights wherein women, men, and children are traded and pushed into a life of cruelty and despair. Trafficking is a money-power nexus that is expanding by the day. It is the third largest form of trans-national illegal trade after arms and drugs. It generates more than 20 lakh crores annually which is equivalent to one-fifth of our nation’s GDP.

Humans are traded for different purposes such as commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, begging, adoption, child pornography, organ theft, among others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. As per National Crime Records Bureau, as of 2016, as many as 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported across India. West Bengal accounts for the highest number of human-trafficking cases, comprising 44% of the national total. Rajasthan is in second position contributing to 17.9% cases in the country. A total of 15,379 victims of human trafficking were reported in 2016, out of which almost 60% were minors. Research by experts estimate a much higher number, as it remains a grossly underreported crime due to its organised nature.

Worryingly, on an average, 174 children go missing every day, and half of them remain untraced. The dark reality behind kidnapped children and childhood in India is hidden under child trafficking, sex tourism, beggary, pornography, child labour-intensive industries such as carpet weaving, bangle making, beedi rolling, brick kilns, etc. The National Crime Records Bureau 2016 report estimated, more than one lakh children (1,11,569) have gone missing till 2016, and 55,625 of them remained untraced.

Victims of trafficking are often subjected to marginalised livelihoods, desertion by their families, sexual assault, and violence. Traffickers from organized gangs who know the system, who know how to lure, transport and sell victims on to future abusers, dupe people into their nexus under the pretext of a “better life”, promising attractive employment opportunities, following which, the victims are sold into a life of servitude and abuse. With no freedom of choice and options for a life with dignity, many go missing every year and are pushed into trafficking, forced to live a life crippled with abuse, indignity, social stigma, bondage, and a host of health hazards.

The current legislation and provisions have proven inadequate in curbing this menace. Most of the current efforts tend to halt at the rescue to stage and there have been no consistent efforts to effectively rehabilitate and reintegrate these victims back into society. Despite laws and provisions like Immoral Traffic (Prevention Act), Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, instances of and abduction and trafficking for various purposes are still rampant. Furthermore, the current legislation has also failed to identify the different forms of human trafficking such as trafficking for bonded labour, forced marriages, beggary, surrogacy, etc. Due to the lack of a comprehensive approach in dealing with this issue, Traffickers have set up and used elaborate networks to traverse state and national boundaries freely with no opposition.

The Proposed Anti-Human Trafficking Bill

As per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in W.P. No. 56/2004 (Prajwala Vs. Union of India & Ors.), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, began work to bring out a comprehensive law for the prevention of trafficking, and rescue and rehabilitation of the victims. An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) was constituted for the purpose, which prepared the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 for various aspects of trafficking. The Bill in its current form defines some new forms of trafficking as aggravated or otherwise, identified, based on gaps in existing legislations and prescribes stringent punishment. The Bill proposes the establishment of well-coordinated institutional mechanism from District to National level for prevention and investigation of offences as well as for rescue, protection and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking.

The Cabinet approved the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 in February to be introduced in Parliament for the second half of the Budget Session, in March 2018. This was after a series of revisions and conflict resolution between allied ministries, with a Group of Ministers (GoM) being set up. However, due to an indefinite logjam in the Parliament, the Bill couldn’t be tabled for discussion.

 

Survivors of Human Trafficking

About Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan:

Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan is a national movement led by survivors of human trafficking and manual scavenging, committed to eradicate inhuman practices violating human dignity, by forcibly pushing them into servitude and captivity. The collective started its first Nationwide March for total eradication of Inhuman Slavery of Manual Scavenging (“Maila Mukti Yatra”) from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh on 30 November 2012. Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan has liberated thousands of women, children and men from the clutches of trafficking, forced labour, and manual scavenging. The collective’s campaigns have fought for the empowerment of the women and children at state, national, and international level. Recently, in March 2018, survivors and social-workers from Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan met Parliamentarians from 5 political parties of the country to seek favorable support for passage of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 during the Budget session of the Parliament.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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