The issue of child trafficking is complex and not limited to just the legal aspect but also relates to social and economic issues, was the verdict of a three member jury on child trafficking. The verdict came out following a public hearing on child trafficking organized by child rights group HAQ in collaboration with several other civil society groups working on the issue.
After hearing the depositions and reading the stories of those who were unable to depose due to emotionalreasons, the jury observed that the issue of child trafficking has to be tackled at its root and there has to be an environment created to prevent trafficking by empowering urban/rural communities, creating awareness and providing education to families and children. Moreover, providing opportunities of employment and security within the community in collaboration with local government, NGOs and police is the need of the hour.
The jury comprising Lushin Dubey, Siddharth Luthra and Om Thanvi said the next stage is of community response which must be calibrated with necessary and relevant education and training to act both as a preventive measure, and to enable adequate rehabilitation measures and acceptance of children as victims of crime needing special care within the community. This requires proactive change at both the government and social level.
Importantly, the jury felt that the all the concerned stakeholders, including NGOs and particularly survivors, should be properly consulted before the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2016, which has been put out by the Ministry of Women and Child Development for inviting suggestions, is given a final shape.
There are different categories of trafficking — whether through coercion, kidnapping or with the consent of parents– all of which need to be dealt with in their distinct forms. The legal framework also needs to be reviewed to ensure complete coverage. This review must happen on a 5/10 yearly basis by viewing the impact on the menace, it said.
Reporting of crime is an issue which has to be dealt with by the law enforcement agencies and perhaps units akin to economic crime/ crime against women (CAW) and children cell which carry out pre-investigative enquiries. This would ensure that from the time of reporting, even if an FIR is to be deferred, the police machinery begins their work immediately.
Lack of coordination between state police agencies, anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) and other agencies tasked with child care has to be legislatively and administratively streamlined, and the investigation has to be specialized, made efficacious and standardized procedures need to be adopted put throughout the country to avoid state-wise variations in procedure which despite the presence of central substantive and procedural laws, the jury said.
Recommending special prosecution efforts to be taken keeping in view the nature of crime, the jury said the process needs to be expedited and there should be timely review by the High Court.Investigation must be comprehensive as it often has inter-state ramifications and cannot be limited to one or the other aspect alone merely because of the convenience of the police. Integrity of police investigation and efforts need to be provided for and improved. A review mechanism should be created within each state since police is a state subject, the jury members said.
On post investigation and prosecution, the jury said there have to adequate standardized measures for rehabilitation and compensation, including medical treatment, to ensure that all victims are provided proper relief and assistance at state cost for their rehabilitation first within the community and then in the society at large. The victims should also be able to access their right to education, including vocational training, as part of the rehabilitation programme.”