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Nexus of traffickers, terror networks dangerous, should be urgently addressed: India at UN

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has described the nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages as a “dangerous phenomenon” that should be urgently addressed using counter-terrorism financing tools and sanctions regimes.”The nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages is a dangerous phenomenon,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal said at a UN Security Council debate on ‘Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations’, here on Wednesday.Lal said the low rates of conviction for crimes of trafficking across countries needs to change.”The persistence of this transnational organised crime and its links with terrorist networks despite the various collective efforts of the international community is a challenge that requires a stepping up of our efforts, more effectively using the existing counter-terror financing tools and mechanisms and sanctions regimes in this regard,” he said.Lal also voiced concern that situations of armed conflict provide fertile ground for trafficking in persons especially from the vulnerable groups, including women, children and refugees for sexual slavery and forced labour or as fighters.He said that in recent times, heinous actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram specifically targeting women and children in situations of armed conflict as a deliberate tactic of war add an even more serious dimension to such crimes as such groups continue to act with impunity.”The primary focus of the Security Council is to address threats to international peace and security. While increased focus on addressing trafficking in persons and its linkages to terrorism and armed conflicts is timely, we must strengthen international collaboration to better implement the various existing mechanisms, including through more effective coordination of the various entities at the UN,” he said.While the Security Council should retain its focus on situations of armed conflict, Lal said broader mechanisms should be more fully utilised to strengthen national capacity building including in criminal justice capacities, regulatory frameworks of banking and financial institutions to disrupt illicit financial flows and improve regional and inter-regional cooperation.Outlining the measures taken by India to address issue of trafficking, he said India unveiled a comprehensive draft legislation this year aimed at prevention of trafficking and protection and rehabilitation of trafficked persons.India also continues to work closely with UN agencies including UN Women and the Office on Drugs and Crime.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the plight of victims of human trafficking, underlined at the debate the need to ensure justice for victims and accountability forperpetrators, as well as to address underlying factors by focusing on human rights and stability.”If conflict gives oxygen to traffickers, human rights and stability suffocate them,” Ban told the Security Council at its ministerial-level meeting on trafficking.Ban said there is need for strategic leadership in ending war and also in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace, noting the UN’s commitment to supporting its member states in early action and in preventive diplomacy.

Give legal recognition to sex workers: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Supreme Court panel formed to look into the status of sex workers in the country has recommended that sex work be given legal recognition in India. The panel, formed in July 2011 after the Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal case, was headed by advocate Pradip Ghosh. Panel members included advocate Jayant Bhushan, who was the co-chair, Dr Samarjit Jana of the Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Bharti Dey of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, and Saima Hassan.“… The most apparent problem for sex workers was their lack of legal status in the country. As sex workers are criminalised, it is difficult for them to acquire proof of identity such as ration cards or voter ID cards, owing to lack of proof of residence. The local district authorities do not recognise the identities of sex workers and their children, even though every citizen of India is entitled to basic human and fundamental rights. Consequently, sex workers cannot access the schemes meant for their rehabilitation, even if they want to. Similarly, sex workers have no access to credit facilities offered by the state because of their inability to open bank accounts, due to lack of supporting documentation,” said the report, which submitted its report in the last week of September. Recommendations include that state authorities should issue ration cards to sex workers, that sex workers should be given voter identification cards, and that the children of sex workers should be given admission in government schools. The panel was appointed by the apex court in 2011 while dismissing a criminal appeal and affirming the conviction of the accused, Budhadev Karmaskar, for brutally murdering a sex worker in Calcutta in 1999. The appeal was converted into a public interest litigation to look into various aspects of sex workers’ rehabilitation and to provide them with a dignified life. The panels has prepared fifteen interim reports till now. The panel has also recommended that rehabilitation be made a right for those who seek it, and recommended that a scheme should be made to protect, rehabilitate, provide livelihood alternatives, and prevent re-trafficking of sex workers. The scheme should allow for monetary provisions of up to Rs50,000 for sex workers to eke out alternative work. “The Panel was quite surprised to learn that there existed no exclusive scheme for rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, either at the central and/or at the state levels,” said the report, noting that existing schemes, like Ujjwala, are mostly aimed at trafficking victims. The panel also noted that all rescued sex workers, irrespective of whether they seek help or not, are sent to state-run shelter homes, keeping them away from their families and friends. The panel has also called for recommendations to amend the existing Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act. This includes the recommended that section 7 of the Act be amended to include the clause that sex work will not be illegal if conducted near a public place like a temple, hospital, educational institution, etc., in cases where these public places have “come into existence subsequent to the prostitution has started.”Some of the other recommendations include changing the definition of brothel (section 2a), not penalising those living on the earnings of a sex worker (section 4), deletion of the section on soliciting (section 8), and the doing away of the section on the removal of a prostitute from any place (section 20), among others. The Pam Rajput Committee, too, in its report, submitted to the women and child ministry early this year, recommended for the decriminalisation of sex work.

Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill not a ‘single comprehensive act’, will apply alongside 12 other laws

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill may have been dubbed as a “comprehensive” legislation when it was launched earlier this year but activists say an umbrella law for this offence is not possible in the Indian context. Final touches are being given to the draft bill before it is sent to the Cabinet. The government is holding discussions with NGOs on the proposed bill aimed at addressing various aspects of human trafficking.At the unveiling of the draft bill on May 30, the then Secretary of Women and Child Development V Somasundaran had said, “Trafficking is the third largest organised crime and time has now come to deal with it through a single comprehensive act.” However, the proposed legislation to curb trafficking is not a “single comprehensive act” as it was initially tipped to be.Activists say it will apply alongside at least 12 other laws which have provisions to deal with different kinds of trafficking. These include Immoral Trafficking of Persons Act, IPC Section 176(a) and 363-374, CRPC, Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Abolition Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Prevention of Child Sexual Offences, IT Act, Transplantation of Human Organs Act, Inter-state Migrant’s Workmen Act, among others.The activists say subsequent drafts have in fact corrected what was a flawed approach of having a composite law, which would address different kinds of trafficking within its ambit.”The previous drafts have brought out one prominent failure in the entire exercise, namely carving out a single, comprehensive law seeking to address the essence of human trafficking with or without addressing each of the destination crimes of human trafficking,” according to Pravin Patkar of Prerana.He also says several laws that currently deal with different aspects of human trafficking are adequate and, therefore, what is needed is to merely fill the gaps that exist. “Most of the existing separate laws dealing with the known destination crimes of human trafficking (e.g., sex trade, sweatshops, beggary rackets, human organ trade, exploitation of children in the labour sector, bonded labour) are, by and large, adequate. “… Bringing all of the laws together under one law will only be possible by physically pinning the pages of the distinct laws together with a single cover page. It will not be a new organic identity,” says Patkar.NGO Prajwala’s Sunitha Krishnan, who is part of a committee formed to frame a new law on trafficking, too says it is not possible to have an umbrella law for this offence. “You can’t have a comprehensive law because there are existing legislations. The idea is to have provisions in the new law that are missing in other existing laws. At the same time the new law should be read along with existing laws.” The proposed legislation defines “trafficking of person” as per Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, which is, “Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or persons commits the offence of trafficking.” The draft bill also clubs together different forms of trafficking under the category of “aggravated trafficking”, with punishment of up to life imprisonment. This category includes bonded labour, trafficking for the purpose of bearing a child, trafficking for the purpose of marriage, trafficking for begging, trafficking of a pregnant woman or resulting into pregnancy, among others.The draft also seeks to create a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau for preventing, investigating and protecting cases or victims of trafficking.

The new HIV/AIDS Bill is great, but ineffective when the vulnerable are criminals under other laws

After years of deliberating on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, the Union Cabinet has finally approved it, with amendments, on Wednesday in a meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The Bill is a long-awaited legislation that seeks to end societal stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) and ensure their right to privacy.

The Bill takes a human-rights approach to public health, and makes antiretroviral treatment a legal right of HIV/AIDS patients. This would mean that it is now obligatory for the Central and State governments to provide for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and arrange for the management of risk reduction of vulnerable populations. The legislation prohibits arbitrary and discriminatory acts by the state against PLHIVs and their families. The HIV/AIDS Bill, therefore, has the foundations of civil liberties at its centre, providing for positive and negative obligations for the State towards approximately 21 lakh PLHIVs in India.

Populations who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS are female sex workers (FSWs), men who have sex with men (MSMs), transgenders and intravenous drug-users. The Bill seeks to protect these high-risk groups from discrimination, both through administration of treatment for their infections as well as improving their access to welfare schemes and services. Any discrimination or unfair treatment against PLHIVs and their families in their employment, education, healthcare and provision of insurance is prohibited; they also cannot be banned from housing or renting property and from standing for public or private office. Moreover, by bringing in legal accountability in the treatment and care of the PLHIVs, the Bill also mandates for a formal mechanism to probe on complaints of violations of the Act. Most importantly, it seeks to safeguard the privacy of the PLHIVs by stating that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research will be conducted on a person without his/her informed consent.

The Bill also makes it mandatory for institutions and establishments keeping records of PLHIVs to adopt data protection measures. By providing for a progressionist approach that safeguards the human rights of the affected, while simultaneously providing for risk and vulnerability reduction, that has its roots in social and economic justice, the Bill is an example of sound affirmative action.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

However, will the adoption of this Bill be action enough for a bias-free environment for the people living with HIV and their families? While the Bill mandates for prevention of HIV/AIDS, will it be able to protect those who are most vulnerable to infections, namely the high-risk groups (intravenous drug-users, FSWs, MSMs, and transgendered individuals)? Moreover, the Bill does not elucidate on the legal dissonance between its provisions of non-discrimination and other acts and case-law that discriminate against sex-workers, homosexuals and transgenders.

For example, the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956, that, despite its silence on the legality of sex-workers, is used by law enforcement to criminalize, punish and prosecute female sex workers. Moreover, the LGBTQI population also faces egregious human rights violations by the State and law enforcement; the Supreme Court judgment in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation sought to reinstate the archaic Section 377 of the IPC, thereby validating the criminalizing treatment of the State towards the LGBTQI community. By not safeguarding the rights of sex-workers, MSMs and transgenders, the State continues to push them into further victimhood. How does the HIV/AIDS Bill, then, epitomise the clauses on anti-discrimination of the PLHIVs, when the most vulnerable continue to live, in the fringes of society, their identities, governed by morality, but still unprotected by any legislation?

The HIV/AIDSs is, by all means, a cause for revelry within the communities as well as for advocates for the vulnerable. However, in my opinion, the HIV/AIDS Bill cannot be isolated from all the other issues currently tabled in the Parliament and the Supreme Court – the passing of an Anti-Trafficking Bill that does not incriminate all sex-workers; the ratifying of the Transgender Persons Bill, 2016 that provides for a comprehensive understanding of the transgender identity; the five-judge Constitution Bench that will decide the fate of Section 377, and therefore, the fates of the MSM, gays and transgender communities.

It cannot be denied that HIV/AIDS patients have had an arduous journey, legally. In December 2010, the Supreme Court struck down all reservations of the Central government to repudiate its obligation towards PLHIVs by stating that receiving second-line ART treatment to all HIV/AIDS patients was subsumed under Article 21 of the Constitution – the right to life. The Cabinet’s nod to the Bill is, therefore, commendable. The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda has stated – “The Bill seeks to prevent stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. These amendments will allow families that have faced discrimination to go to court against institutions or persons being unfair”; but how will the Bill have this power when many of the vulnerable don’t have the luxury to express themselves or define their identities and are continued victims of violence and stigma in both public and private spaces?

The author is a human rights lawyer and researcher based in Bengaluru.

Include us in the consultation of drafting Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2016, say sex workers

Over 35 women from the National Network of Sex Workers from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala had attended a three day consultation in Bangalore to provide their suggestions and recommendation to the Ministry of Women and Child.In May 2016, the Ministry of Women and Child, Government of India put out Draft Bill Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 on its website and has called for comments.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Draft Bill is another in a series of attempts to punish acts of trafficking. A sizable number of persons through fraud, deceit and coercion get trafficked for forced labour in various areas. Domestic work, factories, small scale units in a variety of areas from metal forging to zari work and manufacture of crackers, as well as brick-making and agriculture are some common areas where persons are duped and forced to work for a pittance and in terrible work conditions.A significant number of poor persons get duped for organ transplantation. However, the Draft Bill makes no provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation for such persons who may have been coerced into forced labour or for organ transplantation. Indian laws continue to be centred around trafficking for sexual exploitation and abolishing of sex work.The supportive organisations of NNSW translated the draft bill into Kannada, Marathi and Malayalam. The sex workers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were offered Tamil and Telugu translations during the consultation. The bill was discussed section by section and women gave extensive recommendations on each section which is being shared with the Ministry of Women and Child. Many women and supportive activists shared that there are many concerns around the draft bill pertaining to sex workers rights.The draft bill has been introduced with a plethora of existing laws on trafficking such as ITPA and Sections 370-373. There is no clarity how these will coexist.Despite requests to be included in the consultations, the draft bill has been made without inputs or discussions with networks, collectives of sex workers or rights activists working with sex workers. “We continue to be kept out of drafting processes, though it is well known that are victims of badly drafted anti trafficking laws and policies and NGOs who want to rescue us. We call on the Minister to include us in all consultation”, Mukta, Uttara Karnataka Mahila Okkuta and a members of National Network of Sex Workers, India.”No one should be sent to the Corrective Homes forcibly. The consent of the victim should be taken. The corrective homes should provide counselling services. The corrective homes should keep major and minors separately”, Bharathi, General Secretary of Karnataka Sex Workers Union and member of National Network of Sex Workers.

Terrorism, smuggling and drug activities are linked: Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi:  President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said unless the common thread of terrorism, smuggling and drug activities was broken, it would be very difficult to fight all three.

File photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTIFile photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

File photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

Alcoholism and substance abuse have caused havoc in the social life of India and across the world, the president said while presenting National Awards for outstanding service on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

He told the award winners not to remain complacent and to continue with their efforts to eradicate the twin menace.

Mukherjee complimented the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for its initiatives vis-a-vis the problem and stressed the need for civil society and NGOs to work closely with the government in eradicating the menace.

Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot and many others were present on the occasion.

Mumbai: Prostitution racket busted, Savdhaan India TV actress involved

Three women including a small-time actress were rescued and two persons arrested for human trafficking, with police suspecting involvement of more women from the television industry in the racket.While Ashraf Khan (22) and Saira Shafi (21) were arrested on Wednesday from the suburban Goregaon, police are looking for the suspected kingpin, identified as Kabir, an official said on Wednesday.Acting on a tip-off, the sleuths of Social Service Branch (SSB) of the crime branch sent one of their personnel as a decoy customer to the duo. Khan and Shafi were arrested after they accepted money from the decoy customer, police said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A small-time actress, working as an ‘extra’, was among those who were rescued, the police official said, adding it is suspected that more women associated with the TV industry are involved in the racket. The accused were booked under sections 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC and various provisions of Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA).Their custody has been handed over to Dindoshi police, the official said.

Peaceful and secure neighbourhood will yield rich dividends for Saarc: India

Pokhara: India on Wednesday said it firmly believes that a peaceful and secure neighbourhood will yield “rich dividends” for Saarc countries even as it asserted that time has come to take stock of past decisions of the grouping on which there has been no movement.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In his statement during the 42nd Saarc Standing Committee Meeting in Pokhara, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said India is pursuing with renewed vigour its “neighbourhood first” policy which also translates into priority for Saarc initiatives.

“We believe that there is scope for further rationalisation of Saarc processes. Perhaps the time has come for us to also take stock of past decisions and initiatives, given that there are so many instances of such decisions not seeing any movement for many years,” Jaishankar, who arrived here on Monday, said.

“We are firmly of the belief that a peaceful, secure and prosperous neighbourhood will yield rich dividends for all of us,” he said.

Noting that the grouping has some useful agreements in the area of security, including the Convention on Terrorism, Narcotic Drugs and on Human Trafficking, Jaishankar said a major challenge that the region faces is that of circulation of fake currency notes.

“This is closely interlinked with the problems of money-laundering, drug trafficking and human trafficking as well as financing of terrorism. It would, therefore, be in the interest of the people of our region for us to collaborate at the Saarc level to tackle this matter,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary asserted that connectivity holds the key for prosperity and development and will shape the destinies of all countries of South Asia.

“With this understanding, we have embarked on significant projects in the region in areas such as rail and road building, power generation and transmission, waterway usage and shipping through regional, sub-regional, trilateral and bilateral arrangements. This represents a change of mindset and makes us believe that the logic of regional cooperation has finally arrived in the region,” Jaishankar asserted.

“Yet, the pace of regional cooperation as a collective endeavour needs to be hastened, especially in areas that are central to the development agenda of Saarc. In this context, I urge that we sign, at an early date, the Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement and Saarc Railways Agreement,” he said.

Finalisation and implementation of these agreements will realise a long standing dream of seamless movement of passengers and cargo through the entire region, he added.

Jaishankar’s statement came a day before the Saarc ministerial meeting.

During his Nepal visit, the Foreign Secretary yesterday also called on Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli and met Madhesi leaders.

PTI

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