India' first comprehensive anti-trafficking bill seeking to deal with the crime from the point of prevention, protection and rehabilitation was introduced in the Lok Sabha today.
The bill was approved by the Cabinet in February and while it was hailed by many as a path breaking legislation, it had faced severe criticism from activists on the ground that it violated the rights of sex workers and threatened free speech and labour rights.
Besides taking up prevention, rescue and rehabilitation, it covers aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging and marriage.
"This bill is a resounding victory for children, women and the marchers of Bharat Yatra. I thank PM @NarendraModi @PMOIndia for responding to demand of 12 lakh Indians who marched for 12,000 km across 22 states to demand trafficking bill," Kailash Satyarthi tweeted minutes after the bill was tabled.
The bill provides for confidentiality of victims, witnesses and complainants and time-bound trials and repatriation of the victims.
It proposes to create institutional mechanisms at district, state and central levels. It calls for punishment ranging from 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine not less than Rs one lakh.
However, various groups have pointed out that the bill does not mention terms like "sexual exploitation" or "prostitution" and is unfavourable towards the transgender community, because they are not conclusively covered under the bill.
Currently, India uses different laws to deal with human trafficking cases depending on the facts of the case.
The police sometimes uses the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act to raid brothels and rescue' the women in it while in other cases, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is used to prosecute traffickers while in some cases labour laws are invoked.
This bill, when passed will be the only legislation dealing with all form of human trafficking.
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