Syllabus– General Studies 1 (Society)
- Trafficking is a pernicious offence, one that societies and governments must have zero tolerance for, and yet, handling the offence of trafficking needs precision, not a sledgehammer.
- The draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 seems to be lacking in nuance, even if well intentioned to stamp out exploitative trafficking.
The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021
- It extends to all citizens inside as well as outside India,
- Persons on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be or carrying Indian citizens wherever they may be,
- A foreign national or a stateless person who has his or her residence in India at the time of commission of offence under this Act, and
- The law will apply to every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.
- Victims Covered:
- It extends beyond the protection of women and children as victims to now include transgenders as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking.
- It also does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.
- Defines ‘Exploitation’:
- The exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography, any act of physical exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research.
- Government Officers as Offenders:
- Offenders will also include defence personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.
- A minimum of seven years which can go up to an imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh in most cases of child trafficking.
- In case of the trafficking of more than one child, the penalty is now life imprisonment.
- Investigation Agency:
- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.
- The transgender community, and any other person, has been included which will automatically bring under its scope activity such as organ harvesting.
- Also, cases such as forced labour, in which people lured with jobs end up in other countries where their passports and documentation is taken away and they are made to work, will also be covered by this new law.
- The Bill, which will shortly be introduced in Parliament, aims at
- preventing and countering trafficking in persons, particularly women and children,
- to provide for care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and
- creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them.
- This is the Bill’s second iteration, the first being passed in the Lok Sabha, in 2018, but then meandered into nothingness as it was never introduced in the Upper House.
- Notably, the Bill has expanded the area under coverage to include offences taking place, not only within India but also outside of the country.
- It envisages the setting up of anti-trafficking committees at the State and national levels to implement the provisions, when passed.
- In the days the Bill was up in the public domain for comments, civil society activists and legal experts have criticised various provisions, submitting that an overzealous approach would blur the nuances and an understanding of the contributing factors, including vicious poverty, debt, lack of opportunity, and development schemes missing their mark.
- Vociferous opposition has arisen over the key aspect of handing over investigation in trafficking crimes to the NIA both by those who believe that it would burden the already stretched unit further, and those arguing that this move would be an attack on federalism, by removing local enforcement agencies out of the picture.
- Another key criticism of the Bill has been its broad definitions of victims, smacking of refusal to consider consensual sexual activity for commerce. This would only land up criminalising sex work and victimisation of the exploited.
- Bringing pornography into the definition of sexual exploitation would not allow even for any adult consumption of non-exploitative, consensual material. Reporting of offences has been made mandatory with penalties for non-reporting, but those with an understanding of the tortuous processes, point to the fact that victims often do not want a complaint to be recorded.
- The mention of the death penalty for various forms of aggravated trafficking offences needs to be flagged too.
Question- Bring out positives and pending issues with respect to Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.