Did you come across the #ISupportTraffickingBill hashtag on social media and wondered what it is all about? The Trafficking of Persons (Preventions, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, originally drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, was approved by the cabinet in February 2018. It will be tabled during the monsoon session of parliament that has begun on July 18. While some are strongly in favour of the bill, a set of lawyers, sex workers, child rights activists, transgender activists, educators and others have also spoken out against the new anti-trafficking bill. But what is the bill all about?
Understanding the Anti-Trafficking Bill
The anti-human trafficking bill aims to solve the problem of human trafficking in India. The bill is aimed at prevention of human trafficking, and rescue and rehabilitation of people who are victims of human trafficking. It helps ensure that all the victims are sent to rehabilitation homes that are run by the government and other voluntary agencies.
The anti-trafficking bill aims at maintaining the confidentiality of the victims and also provides them time-bound trails and repatriation. It seeks to provide them help within a year. The victims are guaranteed an immediate relief of rehabilitation within 30 days of the filing the chargesheet. The bill also ensures there are designated courts in every district. Also the National Investigation Agency (NIA) will serve as the National Anti-Trafficking Bureau.
Why Is It needed?
The problem of human trafficking in India is massive. As per the Global Slavery Index 2016, published by an Australian rights group, more than 18 million people in India are living in conditions reminiscent of modern slavery. Also, in 2016, more than 8,000 cases of human trafficking was reported, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The NCRB also states that 54 percent of the victims were trafficked for the purpose of forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Nobel laureate and child rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, tweeted in support of the bill.
This bill is a resounding victory for children, women and the marchers of Bharat Yatra. I thank PM Sh. @NarendraModi @PMOIndia for responding to demand of 12 lakh Indians who marched for 12,000 kms across 22 states to demand Trafficking Bill. #ISupportTraffickingBill
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) July 18, 2018
Why is it being opposed?
Various groups of people are opposing the bill for several reasons. The bill is seen as being vague in terms of defining certain things. For instance, there is no mention of terms like "sexual exploitation" or "prostitution" anywhere in the bill. Also, it does not define any punishment for the offenders and protection of marginalised and minor girls. Also, sex workers have not been consulted before the drafting of the bill even after they expressed an interest in having a dialogue with the policy makers and government in this regard. And the bill does not differentiate between the consulting sex workers and victims of trafficking.
Moreover, it is also unfavorable towards the transgender community, because they are not conclusively covered under the bill. Plus, it also creates an aggravated offence for pregnancy occurring in the course of trafficking and has an unclear provision criminalising trafficking for marriage or under the facade of marriage; which may threatening to a woman’s choice.