NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha today passed a comprehensive law to deal with the menace of human trafficking, with Union Minister Maneka Gandhi stating that the legislation does not intend to harass sex workers.
Assuring that she would incorporate in the Rules any “lacunae” that the members have pointed out, the Women and Child Development Minister said the bill is intended to go after human traffickers and not the victims.
Members cutting across party lines supported the bill.
Even as Congress and CPI(M) demanded that the bill be sent to the standing committee, Gandhi said “the bill is long overdue. The law is victim-centric and conviction rate will hopefully improve after the bill is enacted”.
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, provides for confidentiality of victims, witnesses and complainants, time-bound trials and repatriation of the victims.
“This bill is not intended to harass those social workers who are voluntarily in the profession. This is a bill that has a compassionate view of people who have been victims of sex racket,” Gandhi said.
“When 11 year-old Tara is trafficked from her village and sold into bonded labour, beaten and burnt by her owner, how do we save her? When she is sold to marriage to a 45-year-old man and raped everyday for months, how do we save her? We have no instituitions, no processes to do so,” she said.
“And today if we are not passing this bill, we are choosing to deny Tara and all the millions like her fundamental right to life and liberty,” Gandhi added.
The legislation proposes to create institutional mechanisms at the district, state and central levels.
It calls for punishment ranging from 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine not less than Rs 1 lakh.
Besides prevention, rescue and rehabilitation, it covers aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging and marriage.
“Begging is an aggravated crime. Often we get to see at traffic lights that women are begging holding a baby which is drugged and sleeping and is being fed milk. They are hired on an hourly or daily basis,” Gandhi said.
She said a lot of countries have written to India saying that it is a good bill and they will also draft their respective anti-human trafficking law based on this.
For the first time, buying and selling of human beings is being made a cognisable offence, she said adding that the bill is pathbreaking step and SAARC and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) nations are looking forward to India to take a lead by enancting this law.
“The proposed bill will hit organised nexus of trafficing,” Gandhi said.
A rehabilitation fund with an initial corpus of Rs 10 crore would be created for the first time which willbe used for the physical, psychological and social well being of the victims.
Also there would be designated courts in each district for speedy trial of the cases.