Melissa Diehl, survivor of human trafficking has very rightly said and I quote-
“Remember that every person on the streets, in a club, on the internet, in a hotel room, wherever they may be, have families and loved ones and hurts just as you do, and that they are worthy and enough. When you see us, could you just offer a small smile? Extend a small bit of compassion even though you may not personally understand? Small, simple actions have the potential to make a large impact, and now is the time more than ever before.”
Human trafficking is such a blotch on the society and its conscience that it must not be tolerated in any form. The ideas of Liberty, Justice, Equality and opportunity that form the basis of any nation’s strength are well and truly destroyed by the very existence of human trafficking in that country. It targets the most vulnerable sections of the society and steals their fundamental right to life, right to dignity and right to freedom. It also attacks the community at large by taking away the security and well -being of the society as well as the economy by hindering the process of freedom of labor. Any form of trafficking in people-be it trafficking for forced labor, or trafficking for sex, must not be tolerated by any country.
It is said that those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves, and to bring this thought to action, The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021, that is likely to be presented in the Parliament Soon has elicited a great response from all arenas including the organizations that have been working in the field of anti-human trafficking tirelessly for many years now. The Draft bill has also brought a ray of hope to all those who had suffered owing to the various lacuna in the legislation owing to which trafficking in persons, especially women and children, had reached an all-time high.
The bill also talks about providing care and protecting and rehabilitating the victims while ensuring that their rights remain intact and also giving them a supportive legal, economic and social environment. The draft bill calls for stricter prosecution and endeavors that no offender is allowed to go Scot free while ensuring that the victims are provided all the help that they need.
As per the Draft bill, The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has now been made the national investigating and coordinating agency which shall be held responsible for preventing and combating the trafficking in persons along with the other offenses that have been numerated under this act. Most of the inputs of the said bill have been said to be received from the feedback and the critique of the 2018 bill by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and hence it can be said that the current draft bill showcases the will of the masses.
The draft bill 2021 defines human trafficking as an organized crime with international implications and attempts to move away from conflating trafficking with sex work, while upholding the right of survivors to rehabilitation and compensation independent of criminal proceedings. It also proposes a common law to address all forms of human trafficking, be it sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude or forced labor. This bill also makes a concentrated effort to remove all inconsistencies between the various legislations that are applicable to different forms of trafficking currently.
Just like all coins have a flip side, this bill too despite having been an outcome of a lot of thought and consideration, still seems to be ridden with various maladies. The bill needs to make an effort to strengthen the role of Anti Human Trafficking Units in different states for better law enforcement as it is still not clear about how the NIA as a nodal agency will gather information and intelligence from different parts of the country through Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) at district level and State level which have been mandated for conducting interstate investigations in cases dealing with human trafficking and allocated budgets to them.
Today, the problem of human trafficking is widespread and extremely difficult to control. West Bengal continues to be the hub of this issue and there have been multiple instances wherein young children were found to have been sold by their very own family members. The financial hardship that has been aggravated due to the pandemic induced economic slowdown is also contributing to this ailment. To make matters worse, a trafficking survivor even after returning home, still faces severe stigma from society and is shunned by her own people. Such trafficking survivors have to ultimately take shelter in shelter homes which further disassociates them from the regular society and alienates them from their people.
To add insult to injury, the traffickers who are often acquitted due to the lack of evidence, make sure that these survivors are re- trafficked. The Survivors further have already been alienated from their own society which treats them like an outcast and refuses to accept them and hence they have nowhere to go but to return to their traffickers. Hence the vicious circle continues.
It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is no bigger sin than the abuse of power. To put it further, Human Trafficking is the worst form of power abuse. As a country that wants to emerge as a world super power and that prides itself on its human resource, utmost efforts should be made to ensure that no human being in the nation is preyed upon for trafficking purposes.
All the agencies of the government must work in collaboration to make sure that human trafficking is eradicated. In fact, not only the government agencies, but also the individuals, businesses, faith-based communities, academic institutions, NGOs, media along with the law enforcement agencies should all tie up as all are stake holders and hence have an important role to play. A lot more can be accomplished if all the stake holders work in collaboration with each other rather than in opposition in order to address the insecurities that exist in the vulnerable and marginalized communities that face the threat of human trafficking.