The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 was passed in the lower house of the Parliament on Thursday. Maneka Gandhi’s anti-trafficking Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.
Maneka Gandhi’s anti-trafficking Bill provides for stringent punishments ranging from 10 years in prison to life imprisonment for exacerbated forms of trafficking like buying or selling a person(s) for bonded labour, carrying a child, and circumstances where the victim the was administered chemical substances or acquires a life-threatening condition like AIDS.
The Bill also proposes the establishment of a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau (NATB). This institution will be dedicated to the coordinating, monitoring and surveillance of trafficking cases. “Trafficking is a borderless crime but jurisdiction issues come in the way of investigation. This Bill provides for the NATB to effectively address this aspect,” said Maneka Gandhi while introducing the Bill. Maneka Gandhi’s anti-trafficking Bill also provides for confiscation of property related to trafficking to benefit this institution.
Questions were raised during the debate on the bill. Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor raised the issue that the Bill lacks safeguard to ensure that sex workers who are voluntarily in the business are not harassed. CPI’s Badaruddoza Khan raised the issue of protection for Transgender persons under the Bill.
Maneka Gandhi did respond to all the concerns and said that any vacuum in the Bill will be filled and addressed when the rules are framed. She also assured that Bill was not to go against sex workers as it intends to aim the traffickers and not the victims. The cabinet minister also said that “If the provisions of this Bill are implemented, the hellholes of Kamathipura and G.B. Road will be a thing of the past because these will come directly under confiscation of property.”
Maneka Gandhi’s anti-trafficking Bill will also ensure that the victims are given witness protection during the investigations. It also provides for the State Government to appoint a State Nodal Officer who will be responsible for follow up actions.
“Human trafficking is a borderless crime. Special crimes need special attention. How can we stay silent when women and children are sold as goods. Let us make this bill a reality today to protect and provide for the millions of victims who have suffered silently for years,” Maneka Gandhi said. “We are accountable to all the affected, especially the most vulnerable ones — women and children. Today, we have a chance to deliver to them a law which guarantees their rights and ensures that the perpetrators of crime are brought to book,” she added.
Maneka Gandhi’s anti-trafficking Bill is far from perfect and has some serious lacunae that need to be addressed. However, it is a step in the right direction showing the Governments concern over the issues of the downtrodden.
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