Human trafficking, one of the worst forms of human rights violations, holds the potential of jeopardising the realisation of the goals set. Human trafficking is nothing but exploitation of vulnerability, and mostly of those who expose their vulnerability. Human trafficking, as an organised crime, is growing at a rapid pace. No country, irrespective of whether they are part of G20 or not, can claim to be trafficking free. Trafficking is a manifestation of greed, the need to dominate over others, and exploitation.
As the United Nations data says, still around 70% of the victims of trafficking are women and children. So, the gender justice, which is an important commitment of G20, would get an impetus if the human trafficking bill is passed. This government has shown the will and sincere commitment to bring about gender justice, by promulgating the Transgender Act, 2019, which has revolutionised the mainstreaming of transgender persons, and helped them access justice.
Across the globe, combating human trafficking was considered to be in the realm of the criminal justice system. Even in India, office memos were issued from ministry of home affairs, and the only institutionalised set up to combat trafficking was anti-human trafficking units, which was under police. The clear mandate was to organise raids to free the victims from the clutches of traffickers, and then finally reintegrate them into the community, preferably at the place from where they were trafficked. Primarily, prosecution dominated the action package of the government.
Actually, there are two ways of containing the menace of trafficking. One is to improve the social safety net around the vulnerable, and the second is to focus more on the perpetrator, in both the areas of prevention and prosecution. As the understanding of the subject grew, it was realised that prevention is a vital aspect, because a trafficked victim suffers more psychological damage than the physical, and healing psychological issues needs proficient intervention, which is largely missing in the system. So, prevention is often better than the limited cure available. Prevention requires addressing the factors causing vulnerability, which lie mainly in social inequities and that can be taken care of only by the social justice system. The government has acknowledged this paradigm shift and that is the reason why the bill is tabled by the women and child development ministry instead of the ministry of home affairs.
The modus operandi of the trafficker is to frighten victims. He scouts and spots victims who expose their vulnerability, then convinces them that they deserve better. He then lures them with the false pretence of a better life elsewhere, recruits them and begins the cycle of exploitation. If there is a strong safety net is created by the social justice system at the place of origin, where the traffickers scout and spot the victims, then the chances of them getting trafficked are reduced. A robust social justice system can also ensure a role reversal, wherein the traffickers can be scouted and spotted at the place of origin, and handed over to criminal justice system, thereby breaking the trafficking network. If human trafficking bill is passed then it will set the tone for all governments in the federal structure to galvanise their resources and take proactive steps for prevention, protection and prosecution. The bill is promising as it has highlighted many more dimensions of trafficking, than originally available in UN Palermo protocol definition of 2000 or the definition given under Section 370 IPC. It is high time that the long awaited human trafficking bill becomes an Act. This will give more teeth to the agencies working against human trafficking, and also help fulfil the commitment of G20.