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Why the Trafficking Bill is an important step towards securing child rights

In a first, the Bill has introduced rehabilitation as a statutory right for victims of trafficking.

 |  3-minute read |   27-07-2018
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The only way to restore the childhood of millions of innocent children, forced into forced labour and slavery after falling victim to trafficking, is to construct a world where every child can be free, safe, healthy and educated. 

Children who are rescued from slavery are often grappling with many problems simultaneously, such as poor health, poverty, no education and an absolute lack of awareness about their rights and about state-sponsored welfare policies. It is therefore important that the rehabilitation of the survivor is multipronged — social, psychological and economic.

A robust rehabilitation mechanism is the only the way to ensure that children don’t drift back to the dark dungeons of exploitation. (Photo: Reuters/File)A robust rehabilitation mechanism is the only the way to ensure that rescued children don’t drift back to the dark dungeons of exploitation. (Photo: Reuters/File)

In this regard, The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, passed by the Parliament recently, is comprehensive, as it has taken into account the necessity of putting in one frame institutional mechanisms such as law enforcement, social welfare, and government agencies (external affairs department, labour, women and child, health, legal services authority etc.).

The mechanism at the district, state and national level has been well knitted in a convergence model to address the various linked issues of prevention of trafficking, investigation of cases, protection of victims, rehabilitation and repatriation in a robust manner, and to bring accountability and transparency among these institutions.

A holistic, convergent and effective rehabilitation mechanism is the only the way to ensure that children do not drift back to the dark dungeons of exploitation.

For the first time in the history of laws in our country, the Bill has introduced rehabilitation as a statutory right for the victims. The rehabilitation of the victim has not been made contingent upon criminal proceedings being initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.

The Bill not only addresses the grave issue of trafficking as an organised crime, but also from the viewpoint of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation. A rehabilitation fund, being set up for the first time, shall be used for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim, paying attention to areas such as education, skill development, health care/psychological support, legal aid and safe accommodation.

After seven decades of Independence, we must question our conscience whether our children are free to be children. The country cannot progress unless the future of the most vulnerable children and their communities is secured. The Bill is an important step in this direction.

For the immediate protection of victims just after the rescue, it introduces ‘protection homes’. For long-term rehabilitation, ‘rehabilitation homes’ have been proposed. Registration of such homes will be mandatory and contraventions in this regard will be penalised.

The trafficking Bill has adopted a very liberal approach in defining “rehabilitation”. It says that “rehabilitation” includes all measures and processes of physical, psychological and social well-being of a person who is trafficked, and includes access to education, skill development, health care — including psychological and physiological support and medical services — economic empowerment, legal aid and assistance, and safe and secure accommodation.

We need to ensure that all children on this planet are safe from trafficking gangs and sexual predators, and have access to state-sponsored holistic welfare mechanisms, so that they acquire good health, social security, education and skills, and grow up as productive and responsible citizens.

There is a dire need to reform our governance structures and mechanisms to make children a permanent feature of the development discourse. We need to radically alter social mindsets that victimise and endanger children. We need to foster a child-friendly environment in every villages, towns, and city in the country, where children can be free, safe and educated.

Also read: Three girls dying of hunger in Delhi shows rats in India have a better life

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