Strengthening punitive measures against all those who subject victims of human trafficking to exploitation, the draft anti-trafficking Bill proposes stringent imprisonment of anywhere from seven to ten years for such persons. The punishment can extend to a life term in case the victim is a minor or in a similarly vulnerable position. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has sent the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 to the Cabinet for its approval so that it can be tabled during the Winter Session of Parliament.
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The draft Bill proposes that whoever knowingly subjects victims of trafficking to exploitation will be punished with a rigorous imprisonment of not less than seven years which may extend to ten years. This exploitation can take any form such as forced labour, trafficking for bearing child, begging, under the pretext of marriage or for sexual exploitation. “In case the victim is a minor, mentally challenged or forced for cultural reasons such as under the Devdasi system, it has been proposed that the punishment be extended up to life imprisonment,” said sources.
The existing Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956, awards a much more lenient punishment to those who use the services of trafficked women. The punishment is a mere three months imprisonment which can go up to six months in case of a repeat offender. The original draft was released in May this year only to undergo some eight revisions following rounds of consultations with anti-trafficking groups. The first version of the Bill dealt mainly with only prostitution and slavery. It had punitive measures for just two kinds of offences which include administering drugs or alcohol to the victims for the purpose of trafficking or growth hormones/chemical substances for the purpose of exploitation.
The original draft also proposed setting up of a probe agency to look into all cases of human trafficking. The draft Bill now has provisions for setting up of a National Human Trafficking Investigations Bureau which will go beyond merely investigating such cases and look at prevention and rehabilitation issues. It has been proposed that the bureau should be under the ministry and headed by an ADG-rank IPS official.