Human trafficking is a prominent concern in almost every part of globe. It has been nearly two decades since the enactment of the Palermo Protocol and various anti-trafficking legislations, but the crime still remains. Target 16.3 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls to “Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all”. Human trafficking is the second-largest organized crime in India. While exact data is hard to find, but according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted each year, leaving 11,000 untraced.
1. Constitution of India: The Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in persons and guarantees many of the internationally acknowledged various human rights norms such as the right to life and personal liberty, the right to equality, right to freedom, the right to constitutional remedies. The right to be free from exploitation is also assured as fundamental right under Article 23(1). It staes that 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 law.
2. Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking including trafficking of children for exploitation in any form including physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.
3. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986
The government of India ratified the ‘International Convention for the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others’ in 1950. India also passed the ‘Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act’ (SITA) in the year 1956. In the year 1986 the act was further amended and changed which was known as the ‘Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986’ (PITA). The offences included are taking persons for prostitution, detaining persons in premises where prostitution is carried on, seducing or soliciting for prostitution, making life on the earnings of prostitution, seduction of a person in custody, keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel and so on.
4. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Since the poverty, exclusion and lack of awareness are the main driving forces for human-trafficking, the tribal belts and the areas populated by marginalized caste have become a fertile ground for the traffickers since the task of recruiting the victim is an easy process and people can be motivated and convinced by the traffickers with less efforts and with a promise of good economic returns in these regions. Thus, this act gives an additional tool to safeguard women and young girls belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and also to create a greater burden on the trafficker or offender to prove his lack of connivance in the matter.
5. Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, which has come into effect from 14th November, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It provides precise definitions for different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment.
6. Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC): Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) (CS Division in 2006 to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking. MHA conducts coordination meetings with the Nodal Officers of Anti Human Trafficking Units nominated in all States/UTs periodically.
7. Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021: It laid down a stringent punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment for aggravated forms of trafficking, which include buying or selling of persons for the purpose of bonded labour, bearing a child, as well as those where chemical substances or hormones are administered and a survivor acquires life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS. The Bill proposed a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau (NATB) for coordinating, monitoring and surveillance of trafficking cases. It also provided for a Relief and Rehabilitation Committee and Rehabilitation Fund with an initial allocation of ` 10 crore. It prescribes forfeiture of property used or likely to be used for the commission of an offence.
India has consistently features in US Department of States’ “Trafficking in Persons” report. Tier-2 governments do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to tackle human trafficking. Generating awareness, recognizing the role of civil society in its prevention and focusing more on the prevention at source are the need of the hour. Creating a synergy between enforcement agencies, Police and NGOs for combating human trafficking and to take forward the movement to youth and Panchayat level for effective prevention are some effective solutions. Also, reintegration of rescued survivors of trafficking back into the society. A PPP model in collaboration with government, NGOs and CSR participation can help in successful rehabilitation and empowerment of these women.