NEW DELHI: Giving victims a different identity to start life anew, setting up a strong protection protocol for affected persons and forming an anti-trafficking fund are some of the key features proposed in India’s first anti-trafficking law.
Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill-2016 seeks to ensure that a trafficked individual forced into prostitution is not treated as an offender.
“It’s very nuanced. A t present, the law says the trafficked person and the trafficker are both criminals who should go to jail. With this, the trafficked person will be treated as a victim and spared a prison term. The new law is compassionate towards the victim,” Gandhi said.
When asked if the bill will pave the way for the de-criminalisation of prostitution, Gandhi said, “There is a grey area that needs to be further discussed. Suppose a girl has been in prostitution for 15 years… is she still a victim or a part of the trade? In this case, does the existing Immoral Traffic Prevention Act apply to her or the proposed new law? That has to be thought about too.”
The draft law has proposed a slew of stringent measures to check trafficking.
It makes the act of giving hormone shots such as oxytocin to trafficked girls for the purpose of accelerating their sexual maturity and forcing them into prostitution a crime — punishable with 10 years in jail and a fine of ` 1 lakh.
T he draft bill also proposes making registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic helps mandatory.
Once it is implemented, failure to register with the respective state authorities will invite a fine of ` 50,000.
“We will invite suggestions on the draft bill before taking it to the cabinet,” the Union minister said.
At present, there is no single legislation that deals with trafficking in the country.
The crime is covered under different laws administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries.
Nearly 5,500 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2014 – an over 50% jump from 2,848 cases in 2009.