On July 26, 2018, a comprehensive law to deal with human trafficking titled Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, was passed by the Parliament. The Bill is touted as one legislation dealing with all form of human trafficking.
The Bill provides for confidentiality of victims, witnesses and complainants, time-bound trials and repatriation of the victims. Maneka Gandhi, Women and Child Development Minister, during the discussion on the draft law said that the bill is intended to go after human traffickers and not the victims. Further, talking about the need for the Act, she 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 every day for months, how do we save her? We have no institutions, no processes to do so”
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 INR 1 lakhs (USD 1425 approx.). With provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation, the proposed law also covers aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging and marriage.
The Bill provides for attachment and forfeiture of property and also the proceeds of crime. The Minister, however, said that no property would be attached without giving notice. A National Anti-Trafficking Bureau would be set up to perform functions of international coordination with authorities in foreign countries and international organizations.
The bill rates offences like administration of hormones for early sexual maturity, exposing a person to life threatening diseases like HIV and abetting a person to illegally migrate as “aggravated trafficking offences”.
The Bill has also raised concerns for sex workers. Earlier this month, members of civil society had submitted a representation before the Minister, with endorsements of about 4000 sex workers, highlighting the concern that the Bill could result in harassment of voluntary adult sex workers.