Daily News Analysis

DRAFT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS BILL 2021

20th July, 2021 Society

Context:

  • There are high hopes and some concerns surrounding the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021, likely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Need of the bill

  • To prevent and counter Trafficking in persons, especially women and children,
  • to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights,
  • creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them,
  • ensure prosecution of offenders, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Key aspects

  • The National Investigation Agency shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for prevention and combating of Trafficking in persons and other offences under this Act, as well as for investigation, prosecution and coordination in cases of Trafficking in persons and other offences under this Act in accordance with the provisions of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, including cases which are inter-state or international in nature or such other cases as may be assigned to it by the Central Government.
  • The Central Government shall, by notification, establish a National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, for ensuring overall effective implementation of the provisions of this Act, for coordination as needed for prevention and countering of the offences under this Act.
  • Provide for protection homes and rehabilitation homes to enable immediate and long-term sustainable rehabilitation of victims.
  • Ensure effective coordination between the concerned authorities both within the country as well as with other countries for repatriation of victims.
  • To coordinate with the Agency, appropriate Governments and other concerned authorities to maintain an updated national database of traffickers and other offenders under this Act.
  • Seek reports from appropriate Government, State Anti-Trafficking Committee, District Anti- Trafficking Committee, on the quality of services and the functioning of the protection homes and rehabilitation homes and other setups under this Act.
  • Enhance public awareness about the provisions of this Act and its rules;
  • Perform such other functions as may be prescribed as considered necessary by the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee for effective discharge of the provisions of this Act.

Constitutional provision:

  • Article 23 of the Indian Constitution deals with the aspect of prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.
  • Article 23 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Right against Exploitation.
  • As per clause (1) of Article 23, traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.

Challenges with the legislation:

  • Extensive power to NIA: The proposal to hand the responsibility of investigation in trafficking crimes to the NIAhas been criticized for the following two reasons:
    • This could further burden the already stretched NIA.
    • This also amounts to an attack on federalism, given that this will only decrease the power of local enforcement agencies with respect to the implementation of the proposed provisions.
  • Broad definition of Human trafficking : Another key criticism of the Bill has been its broad definitions of victims and failure to distinguish consensual sexual activity for commerce from human trafficking.This would end up criminalising sex work and victimisation of the already exploited.
  • Overzealous provisions Various civil society activists and legal experts have criticised some overzealous provisions adopted by the draft legislation to counter human trafficking.
    • Reporting of offences has been made mandatorywith penalties for non-reporting.
    • The proposal of the death penaltyfor various forms of aggravated trafficking offences.
    • Though societies and governments must have zero tolerance for human trafficking, the use of overzealous provisions as those proposed risks the adoption of a purely legal and punitive approach to solve what is essentially a socio-economic problem.
  • Failure to acknowledge root causes: In its current form, the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 seems to be inadequate to stamp out human trafficking given its failure to acknowledge the contributing factors to human trafficking, including vicious poverty, debt, lack of opportunity, and ineffectiveness/inefficiency of the development schemes.

Conclusion:

  • Tackling human trafficking needs a wholesome approach that is cognizant of the causative factors.