People caught giving young trafficked girls hormones and drugs to accelerate sexual maturity and force them into prostitution will face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. This is part of the stringent steps proposed by the government in its first anti-trafficking law.
Campaigners have been pushing for harsher punishment for human traffickers who give hormone shots — oxytocin — to prepubescent girls to induce sexual maturity before selling them to brothels. Under the finalised draft bill, Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehab), the women and child development (WCD) ministry also proposes mandatory registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic help. Failure on behalf of these agencies to register with the respective state authorities will invite a fine of Rs 50,000.
In 2014, nearly 5,500 cases of human trafficking were reported – a more than 50% increase from the 2,848 cases reported in 2009. Another measure proposed by the ministry is confiscation of property of convicted traffickers on lines of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Giving narcotics and psychotropic drugs to trafficked girls/ women will also invite up to 10 years in jail and Rs 1 lakh fine.
“We will soon start inter-ministerial and stakeholders’ consultations on the draft bill before taking it to the cabinet for approval,” said a WCD ministry official.
At present, there is no single law dealing with trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries including the WCD, home, labour, health, Indian Overseas Affairs and external affairs. Overlapping jurisdictions often result in lax enforcement. For the first time, specific measures to protect and rehabilitate victims, like creating an anti-trafficking fund, have been covered in the proposed law.
Earlier, an inter-ministerial panel, set up in November, 2015, on directions of the Supreme Court to finalize the contours of the law, had proposed that the minimum jail term for human trafficking be raised to 14 years, double of the punishment under the existing laws.
“But the law ministry struck it down,” said a government official, adding that under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the minimum punishment for trafficking is seven years, extendable to 10 years and fine.