Massage parlours, child sex abuse imagery may come under anti-trafficking bill
Massage parlours, domestic help recruitment agencies and child sex abuse imagery could come under the ambit of an amended anti-human trafficking bill, which could be introduced in the Parliament in the budget session, an official involved in drafting the legislation said.
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha in July 2018 during the last government’s tenure and then lapsed, has been amended to introduce these changes.
The bill, which is awaiting Cabinet approval, has been sent to an inter-ministerial group for consideration, an official at the women and child development ministry said on condition of anonymity. It could be reintroduced in the second phase of the Budget Session of the parliament. The first phase, which started on January 31 ends February 11, and the second phase extends from March 2 to April 3.
Significant among the changes is the inclusion of massage parlours and agencies that run domestics help services under section 31 of the Bill, which lists the offences and penalties. Any massage parlour or recruitment agency found to have trafficked people will come under the ambit of “aggravated” trafficking, said the official.
Aggravated trafficking is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of up to ₹1 lakh. It remains unclear whether massage parlours will be regulated.
Those aiding the filming of trafficked minors in sexually explicit imagery will also be deemed to have committed aggravated trafficking. While the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Actm 2012, penalises child sex abuse material, the trafficking bill will take into account imagery involving trafficked children.
Commercial carriers through which trafficking takes place will also be put under greater scrutiny under the amended act. Trafficking that causes death will invite greater punishment; under the last version it was identified as an aggravated form of trafficking. Only those convicted of repeated offences of trafficking were to be awarded life imprisonment and a fine of up to rs 5 lakhs.
The rationale for these amendments, said the ministry official cited above, is to break through the organised nature of trafficking. “There should be no scope for trafficking to be a money-spinning venture that preys on the vulnerable, using exploiting means of rape and slavery,” said the official.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 174,021 women went missing in 2016, 188,382 in 2017 and 223,621 in 2018. In addition, 63,407 children went missing in 2016, 63,349 in 2017, and 67,134 children in 2018.
The Bill was made mandatory under the directive of the Supreme Court in the petition filed by the anti-trafficking NGO Prajwala in 2004 seeking a “victim protection protocol” for women and child survivors of trafficking.
The women and child development ministry, in response, drafted a bill after inter-ministerial consultations, which penalised forced labour, begging, the administering of chemical substance or hormones for early sexual maturity, and the trafficking of a woman or child for marriage, among other violations.
The Bill also made provisions for a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau, a Rehabilitation Fund, and mandated district courts for trafficking cases. These key features, said the official, continue to remain.
The hope is that the new version will ensure rehabilitation of the victims of trafficking, said Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala.
“I hope that the new legislation allows for an organised fight against trafficking, and in makes rehabilitation a right, by taking into cognisance the victimisation meted out to survivors,” said Krishnan.