New Delhi: India is drafting a new law to tackle human trafficking, a government minister said Monday, with millions of victims, mostly children, pushed into the illegal trade every year.
The draft law is the first to deal exclusively with trafficking and will overhaul the current regime under which victims are sometimes punished, Maneka Gandhi, the Women and Child Development Minister, said.
“At present both trafficked and the trafficker are sent to jail. But this bill is far more of compassion and makes a distinction between them,” Gandhi said in New Delhi as the draft bill was launched for public consultation.
India’s present hotchpotch of laws dealing with human trafficking has done little to quash the thriving trade.
A US State Department report in 2013 estimated up to 65 million people were trafficked into forced labour, both into and within India.
Trafficking victims, mostly children, are typically pushed into prostitution, forced labour or begging.
The law would jail traffickers who use drugs or liquor to exploit their victims, or who use chemical substances or hormones on minors to hasten sexual maturity – offences that previously went unpunished.
“The proposed bill is an effort to plug loopholes and (include) additional crimes which have not found place in the Indian Penal Code,” Gandhi said.
The bill, which will be tabled in parliament at the end of the year, would double jail terms for some offences and set up special courts to speed up the prosecution of offenders. It would also prevent the identity of victims from being revealed.
More than 14 million adults and children are trapped in modern slavery in India, the most of any country, according to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2014 Global Slavery Index.
The proposed law also calls for joint working groups with neighbouring countries such as Nepal or Bangladesh to bring in preventive measures.
India’s official statistics appear to heavily underestimate the scale of the problem, with the National Crime Records Bureau finding only 5,466 cases of human trafficking in 2014.