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Anti-trafficking bill victim-centric; law will break backbone of this crime: Kailash Satyarthi

The anti-trafficking bill is “comprehensive and victim-centric” and once the legislation comes into force, it will “break the backbone” of this organised crime, Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi has said. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, saw a smooth passage in the Lok Sabha earlier this week and currently awaits the nod of the Rajya Sabha.

“I think it was a historic day for India when the bill was passed in Lok Sabha. The bill deals with not only prevention and rescue of trafficked persons but also their rehabilitation. Earlier, the victims would be just rescued, and so the rehabilitation aspect makes the bill very important,” he said.

Known for his extensive work in curbing of child labour in the country, the noted activist described trafficking as a “form of slavery”, prevalent even at a time when the country is changing fast.

“The bill is quite clear, comprehensive and victim-centric. The country needs such legislations to banish the scourge of this organised crime, where there are many levels of perpetrators. “Once it comes into force, the legislation, will break the backbone of this nefarious organised crime,” Satyarthi told PTI in an interview.

The bill provides for confidentiality of victims, witnesses and complainants and time-bound trials and repatriation of the victims.

It also proposes to create institutional mechanisms at the district, state and central levels. The bill calls for punishment ranging from 10 years of rigorous imprisonment to life term and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh.

“If anything more is needed in the legislation, it can be brought in later through the rules… The bill also proposes National Anti-Trafficking Bureau and similar bodies at state and district levels, seeking to nip the crime in the bud.

“The bill is very stringent about minors being forced into flesh trade and in case the woman is an adult and claims that she voluntarily entered the profession of a sex worker, she will be counselled and cross-examined to check if she was coerced into lying about her forced prostitution,” Satyarthi said.

Asked about the stigma such victims face in society, the 64-year-old activist suggested that faith leaders of all religions must speak out publicly and often, and they should say ‘these are our daughters and children’ so that they do not face ostracisation.

“Officially, (West) Bengal is high on the list when it comes to trafficking-prone states, then northeastern states, especially Assam, and Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rajasthan as well as eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

“The rehabilitation also provides for skill-training so that those victims do not go back into the same hellish life for lack of a source of livelihood,” he said, adding that trafficking for forced begging, use as bonded labours also come under its ambit.

Members cutting across party lines supported the bill in the Lok Sabha.

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