Time for public feedback inadequate in Draft Trafficking Bill, say activists | India News – Times of India


MUMBAI: Activists groups say the two weeks being given by the Centre in calling for objections and suggestions to its Draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021, is highly inadequate for any meaningful or effective consultation with affected groups. It is in violation of its own pre-consultation legislative policy of 2014 requiring every draft bill to be placed in public domain for at least 30 days, said the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) in Kolkata.
The Bill was included for ‘introduction, consideration and passing’ in the List of Legislative Business to be taken up by the Lok Sabha. The DMSC which claims to be the largest community based organization of sex workers in India including transgenders and males too said it was “shocked’’ to see that onJuly 14 it was put on list of Bills to be taken up by the Rajya Sabha in the Monsoon session, which starts on July 19.
Given the complexities involved, DMSC with the aid of Lawyers Collective as well as other organisations said the government took more than two years to draft a new bill but are giving the public barely any time to suggest changes or give feedback from the marginalized community to the 38-page document.
They called the call for comments an “eyewash’’. In a press note on Thursday, organisations from 17 states had signed a petition to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to allow for more time for proper feedback from stakeholders. It said organisations fear that the Bill criminalises prostitution without preparing a roadmap for proper rehabilitation to the trafficked victims who are minor and unwilling.
The Bill likely criminalises sex workers and free choice of it as a profession, said Durbar adding that often the women themselves are allies in anti-trafficking and their role and participation in anti-trafficking measures was considered necessary by the Supreme Court in Budhadev Karmaskar v State of WB.
The problem with the Bill is that it has mixed up issue oftrafficking and sex work in clause 23 and 25. ‘Prostitution’ and ‘pornography’ have been added to the definition of ‘exploitation’ and ‘sexual exploitation’ and considered to be ‘trafficking in persons’ said the Dubar President Bishakha Laskar and Secretary Kajal Bose adding, “ Consent of the victim has been made irrelevant. This will mean that sex workers are either be seen as ‘victims’ of trafficking and put in rehabilitation homes or they will be arrested as ‘traffickers’, if they provide support to their peers.”
Some of the other “problems” that women activists have pointed to are that clause 35 of the Draft Bill makes it mandatory to report a person who has been or ‘may’ have been trafficked or exploited to the police. The DMSC release said, “Since trafficking is defined in a broad and vague manner and sex workers may be considered ‘victims of trafficking’, this will mean that Targeted Interventions (TIs) carrying out HIV prevention among sex workers will be bound to report to the Police. If they don’t, they can be punished with 3 months imprisonment or a fine of Rs 25,000 or both. This will breach the hard-earned trust between TIs and sex workers, and destroy the National AIDS Control Programme. ” It added, “When we identify a woman who is trafficked, we ask her what she wants to do. If she wants to approach the Police, we help her do it. But if she doesn’t want to, we cannot force her. Police are not always responsive to the needs of the women. Sometimes, they are in league with the higher ups -who profit from trafficking. With mandatory reporting, we will be risking the safety of victims as well as the integrity of the programme on the ground. ”
An issue that women activists say needs debate is the suggested “scale of punishment” which has been increased for traffickers to include “death sentence and life imprisonment.” DMSC said, “This is against human rights. Death penalty is not the answer to trafficking.”





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