ILFAT believes that a comprehensive law against trafficking must be inclusive of all forms of trafficking right from forced and bonded labor, sex trafficking to begging and servitude. Currently, there is a multiplicity of laws, which deals with different forms of trafficking under the different laws in silos. Some laws define and penalize only one part of human trafficking, punishment to traffickers is weakened by fragmented prosecution of this organized crimes under different laws, and it has been observed that multiplicity of laws is indeed weakening the implementation of these laws on the ground.
Problem: Many of the survivors in ILFAT were put in shelter homes post their rescue. Shelter homes, which are meant for their rehabilitation and relief, are far from equipped to do that. They are not good enough to provide for basic needs. There have been more scandals in shelter homes, including suicides by women forcibly held in shelter homes, sexual exploitation of children and women, violence and torture on shelter home inmates. There is every indication that shelters run with no transparency and accountability. The shelter homes do not have adequate counselling to help the survivors deal with the trauma and emotionally recuperate.
Recommendation: Survivors want the bill to give greater emphasis on the agency and consent of the adult survivors. No survivor should be forced to stay in a shelter home against his or her wishes. The bill must lay down minimum standards of care for the shelter homes and must have a robust mechanism for continuous monitoring and evaluation by the government. Provisions to ensure the re-integration of survivors in the community by ensuring opportunities for social, personal and economic development is important. The rehabilitation of a survivor won’t happen in isolated spaces but in an open society. This is a gap that ILFAT believes needs to be fixed.
Problem: Survivors undergo immense mental trauma and are made to undergo tremendous hardships. They have had to struggle to fulfill their basic needs such as hunger, contact with family and decent living conditions. They were physically and sexually assaulted. As mentioned above the provisions made to look after the mental health of the survivors are woefully inadequate.
Recommendation: There is a need for better counselling from dedicated individuals who are there to ensure the wellness of the survivors and treat them with dignity and care. The bill must lay greater emphasis on the mental health of the survivors in their rehabilitation period.
Punishment to the Perpetrators:
Problem: Almost all survivors have faced discrimination, stigma and the plain refusal of services from duty bearers who are responsible for providing services of justice and rehabilitation. The present laws don’t give them any avenues of holding officers accountable – if one tries to lodge complaints, they are often subjected to the anger and wrath of officer. To ensure a strong case the police must use all the provisions of the Indian Penal Code namely 370, 372, 373 to ensure that the trafficker and the buyer get indicted.
Recommendation: The quality of investigations and the rate of convictions in cases of human trafficking too is a testimony to the fact that the law enforcement needs to be sensitized, trained and be held accountable by the survivors if they fail to discharge their basic duties honestly. The bill needs to fix accountability of informing the victims that they are entitled to seek compensation. Trafficking should be a non-bailable offence and the perpetrators must be sentenced to a minimum of life sentence. With better conviction rates and harsher punishments, they believe it would at least have some deterrence effect.
Problem: Victim compensation for trafficked survivors should not be conditional upon rescue. Lack of awareness, and a cumbersome process fraught with legal hurdles have contributed to the glaring gap between the number of people trafficked and the number of those who have received compensation. The elaborate paperwork needed for the compensation adds to the humiliation and trauma, which survivors are often made to recount. Currently, facilitating meaningful access to compensation often falls to non- governmental actors. Survivors usually have little knowledge of the legal system and struggle to navigate the complex and often bureaucratic government processes necessary to receive the compensation to which they are entitled. Often, they come to know about the compensation schemes years after their rehabilitation. Since compensation is age-specific (children below 14 years can claim more), age proof becomes imperative. However, most of the survivors do not have any documents with them. They do not even have FIR copies. When trafficking happens inter-state, coordination between different state authorities becomes another problem.
Recommendation: The survivors must be given interim relief compensation within 15 days. Post that they should be given the stipulated compensation, irrespective of conviction, in full, to enable them to make essential investments. ILFAT demands that the government and all stakeholders work together to define and construct a robust victim-centric system for compensation. They also believe that the government should make provisions for the survivors getting government jobs.
In conclusion, a lot needs to be done and several amendments need to be made. Above are just a few of the issues which have been highlighted. These are the most prominent gaps in the current bill.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.