What does human trafficking mean, why is it done, what punishment can it attract and how do we rehabilitate victims? A manual on human trafficking brought out by an NGO is proving a boon for police in the northeast where trafficking is a major issue.
Impulse, the NGO, has simplified the law and put it together in a handbook which has been adopted in police training schools across the northeast and it is bringing in winds of change in the region.
Hasina Kharbhih of Impulse has her focus clear – to combat trafficking and rehabilitate victims ‘because without rehabilitation there is always the risk of the victims being pushed back into the vicious cycle’.
‘If awareness level is low, then prosecution of the culprit becomes difficult. You can sensitise officers at the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) and IPS (Indian Police Service) level, but at the police station level that becomes a challenge,’ Kharbhih told.
‘No one has the time to read legal books, and from our ground-level experience we know that a lot of cops are not aware of the anti-trafficking laws,’ said Kharbhih.
Therefore three years ago, the NGO decided to put together a comprehensive handbook which starts from scratch and explains what trafficking means and the reasons why it is done – commercial sexual exploitation, paedophilia, forced marriage, camel jockeying, child or bonded labour, domestic servitude and organ transplantation.
The handbook simplifies laws like the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the Juvenile Justice Act and also gives a
summary of various offences under different sections of penal provisions and the punishment or fine for them.
It also talks about how to prevent trafficking, the investigation process and alternative strategies to combat the menace. The manual also gives guidelines on victims’ protection and rehabilitation.
The handbook has been approved by the ministry of home affairs and is backed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Kharbhih said the NGO hopes that the handbook would be adopted at the national level.
‘The reality is that NGOs can’t work alone. It has to be a collaborative effort in which all stakeholders, like law enforcement agencies and society as a whole, are involved,’ said Kharbhih.
According to Kharbhih, trafficking in the northeast is linked to underdevelopment, political strife, porous borders, poor health services and lack of awareness.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 22,939 women and girls were kidnapped and abducted in the country in 2008. In 2009 the number rose to 25,741. Latest UNODC data on southeast Asia says that 150,000 people fall prey to trafficking every year.
‘While trafficking across the border is rampant, it’s also happening within the country. Advertisements luring young girls with jobs in airlines or in the beauty industry are becoming a trap. Victims (women) are sold to middlemen for Rs.15,000-30,000, while children are sold for Rs.5,000-7,000,’ she said.
The 15-year-old NGO has also developed a model, the Meghalaya model, which has been verified for replication in South Asia by the USAID, the UNDP and the Indian government.
‘Combating trafficking involves five Ps – prevention, protection, press, policing and prosecution and four Rs – reporting, rescuing, restoration and rehabilitation. Based on this we developed the Meghalaya model,’ Kharbhih said.
After a child or woman is reported missing, the information is fed into the NGO’s database, publicised in media and passed on to its partners in other states and a First Information Report (FIR) is registered.
Once a victim is rescued after raids, he or she is sent to a shelter while the NGO or its partners start tracing the victim’s family.
‘We follow up the progress of the rescued victim for two years. The final step is hopefully the prosecution when we follow up with police on the progress,’ she added.