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 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.
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.
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.