Police protection, short stay at shelter homes, cooperation from the police and lawyers and no harassment during trial are some of the provisions that a group of victims want in a proposed law on prevention of trafficking.
Twenty-three survivors from some villages in West Bengal, Pune, Mumbai, Goa and Delhi have written to union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi to suggest changes in the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), Act, 2016.
“Some of us were rescued from brothels, hotels, lodges and flats where we had been forced into prostitution. Some of us ran away from these brothels. We were kept as bonded labour and as slaves. Some of us were kept in shelter homes for 1-3 years after being rescued. But in the draft law, trafficking and protection have not been clearly defined. Unless these are made clear, we won’t get justice,” the victim said in the letter.
The group said they were disappointed because the draft law will not ensure that the victims are not trafficked again. They said it will not punish police officers who misguide the trafficked people and do not let them record their statement with a magistrate after being rescued.
“The police also often scare us and don’t let us lodge cases against the traffickers. This should be dealt with,” said one of the girls.
Tafteesh -- a group of 11 NGOs and community organisations, 20 lawyers and researchers and health professionals have also submitted a memorandum to the women and child welfare ministry, suggesting changes in the Bill.
“Trafficking has not been clearly defined. Forced labour is left out. Poverty is the main reason behind trafficking and the Bill should have provisions for it,” said Kaushik Gupta, a legal expert and a lawyer in the Calcutta High Court.
The victims have also demanded that a portion of the trafficker’s family property should be confiscated in order to pay for the survivors’ compensation.
“The traffickers often buy property in the name of their family. According to this bill, only the traffickers’ property will be confiscated. Do the survivors of trafficking get no compensation for repairing the harm done to us and our families?” asked one of the survivors.
The letter also fails to mention harassment that the women face during their stay in shelter homes, she said.
“The bill talks about the creation of a new agency to investigate trafficking cases,” said Dr Chandrani Das Gupta, psychologist and researcher.
“If that is the case, what will happen to the anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) formed across the country? The bill has not defined rehabilitation, right to health, etc. If changes are not made, it will an opportunity lost,” she said.