Human Trafficking

News: Details of the conviction of cases involving human trafficking were recently shared in Parliament.

Background:

  • According to the Trafficking in Persons report 2021, released by the US State Department, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in vulnerability to human trafficking and interrupted existing anti-traffic efforts. While India did not meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, the government was making significant efforts, although these were inadequate, especially when it came to bonded labour.

Details:

  • The conviction rate in human trafficking cases has been declining over the past four years. It has dropped from 27.8% in 2016 to 10.6% in 2020. The number of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) in the country has increased to 696. Absence of a strong and robust mechanism to investigate human trafficking cases often span across state borders leading to acquittal of traffickers across the country.
  • The conviction rate will remain low unless India has a comprehensive legislation that provides for a strong investigation mechanism clarifying the roles and responsibilities of investigating agencies such as AHTUs and the NIA (National Investigation Agency). The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has prepared the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.

Highlights of the latest bill:

  • The bill proposes stringent punishments for offenders, including hefty fines and seizing of their properties.
  • The Bill also 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. The draft 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.
  • Exploitation has been defined to include, at a minimum, 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 etc.
  • The law will extend 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.
    • Every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.
    • Defence personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.

Constitutional and Legal Provisions:

  • Trafficking in Human Beings or Persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1).
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • 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.