A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY FOR COMBATTING TRAFFICKING

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Considering the intricacies of cross border trafficking and its multi-faceted dimensions it seems a daunting task to prevent it. There is no foolproof mechanism in place to deal with the challenge but Government agencies and NGOs, together with the international community, have adopted a variety of strategies to combat trafficking in women and children. These include:

Prevention of trafficking through the legal and criminal system, including capacity building of law enforcement officers.

Control and suppression of prostitution through the legal system.

Rescue and rehabilitation of women and girl victims of trafficking.

Protection for women and girls to reduce risk of being trafficked.

Concentrating on education of girls and building capacities.

The provision of alternative employment and income-earning opportunities for women and girls.

Raise public awareness through intensive advocacy campaigns to reduce supply and demand particularly by raising among parents and guardians.

Strengthening border and immigration control

Among the non-traditional security threats the issue of trafficking of women and children across borders is of deep concern. Issues relating to border and immigration control challenges have to be addressed. It is not a problem that can be resolved unilaterally.

Police collaboration among police chiefs of all bordering countries should be established under a possible SAARCPOL as under ASEANPOL. This will enhance the sharing of information on the identities, movements and activities of transnational criminal organisations involved in human trafficking. Contact points in each country should be identified for the purpose of liaison and exchange of information to promote cooperation on border control and against human trafficking by information exchanges, joint research and practical initiatives. Also common policing and immigration models should be developed to prevent expensive overlap and even joint capacity building programme can be undertaken for better cooperation and understanding.

Alleviating socioeconomic disparity

The greater the disparity between source and destination locales the greater the potential for trafficking therefore greater has to be the commitment to support development projects that aim at reducing poverty and injustices among the underprivileged. Therefore at a regional level the issue of disparity has to be addressed particularly by regional funding and support of gender-sensitive economic development and education programmes across the region.

Listening to the voice of the victims

The voices of the victims of trafficking are often ignored. Often in addressing issues of protection and rehabilitation the agencies concerned in forget that the victim is the biggest stakeholder and that their experiences can be empowering. Their stories can be transformed into statements of positive value that benefits the community and the policy makers and allows them to feel more worthwhile than mere recipients of sympathy.

Applying the model of security and development governance

The anti-trafficking security governance system consists of five approaches: legal measures, prevention in countries of origin, prevention in countries of destination, legal measures, prosecution and protection. These in turn are dependant on three criteria :- First, for crimes transgressing national borders transnational cooperation is imperative with states intensively cooperating with one another. Second, the governance arrangements have to be well balanced reflecting the nature of the problem to be addressed. If a problem is caused not only by greed of the trafficker but also by poverty, the success of governance depends on poverty reduction. Third, pertains to networks among various actors involved sharing an interest in anti trafficking.

Hence successful governance against cross border trafficking depends on intense transnational cooperation amongst states, participation of international organistions, NGOs and others in policy making and implementation. It has to be multifaceted, balancing different policy approaches in order to address the various causes and consequences of trafficking. Above all networks are needed among them all to facilitate cooperation and converegence for effective outcomes.

The five approaches above imply anti-trafficking efforts in transit countries and there is significant overlap. For instance in the case of protection and prevention the reintegration of trafficked persons into their home communities reduces the likelihood of re-trafficking and thus has a preventive effect.

However as has emerged in the previous chapters the anti trafficking measures have not measured upto the mark all over the world as also in South Asia and India. The shortcomings is described in the table 2 below.

Table2: Pathologies of Governance Against Cross Border Trafficking

Governance Approach

Pathologies

Legal Measures

Lack of specific and adequate legislation in some countries

Guidelines non-binding

Prosecution

Arrest and deportation of trafficked persons

Lenient sentence for traffickers

Trafficking driven underground

Red tape and corruption

Protection

Short term funding priorities

Deficient witness protection programmes

Deficient reintegration programmes

Lack of networked cooperation

Prevention in Countries of Origin

Development decoupled from anti-trafficking

Deficient awareness raising campaigns

Lessons learnt not documented or shared

Prevention in Countries of Destination

Few job oppurtunities

Reinforced borders benefit traffickers

Insufficient demand -reduction measures

No perfect prostitution policy.

Legal responses are by far at an advanced stage but loopholes remain. Some regulatory efforts suffer due to non-binding nature of certain international conventions or delay in ratification by countries. This needs to be addressed immediately.

Prosecution is a relatively weak area. Often the trafficked women are m fearful of testifying for fear of being deported without any support system and the trafficker goes scot free. The enforcement system needs to be reoriented in a discriminatory fashion to be of greater pressure on the traffickers and not the trafficked. When police do act they push the industry underground. They quickly adapt to different modus operandi like from brothels to apartments, from landlines to cell phones, from transborder to internal trafficking etc reflecting a fall in reported cases. Such drop more than a success of policy is result of transformation in nature of operations. Therefore capacity building of all players involved in the business of ensuring prosecution from civil society, to police to government machinery is essential for proper orientation and approach.

The protection of victims is relatively advanced all over there are certain deficiencies too. Though several steps like shelter homes, schemes for empowerment etc have been put in place the measures are of short duration, poorly funded often at the cost of other components of fighting trafficking, implemented by not so capable NGOs. The witness protection is inadequate making women fearful to testify. Added to all this is lack of sustainable reintegration programme. Often there is lack of medico-legal assistance, counselling and sustainable development of livelihood opportunities to prevent retrafficking. This is to a great extent impaired by lack of funds and more so by the lack of convergence and coordination amongst the governments and other players.

Prevention in countries of origin is the moot question and biggest challenge to address. This in turn is linked to development oriented anti trafficking programmes. As elucidated several times in this paper the economic and social root causes of cross border trafficking involve gender discriminatory practices, domestic violence, poverty, unemployment, lack of access to education, medical facilities and other basic necessities of life all in turn reinforcing 'feminisation of poverty' in an era of globalisation and population movements.

While South Asia and in particular India has seen a spate of development, the development spurt generally lacks the anti- trafficking components and benefits the potential victim only coincidentally. Therefore all livelihood development options need to be based on sound research identifying labour market needs with all kinds of backward and forward linkages. The efforts at promoting gender equality, child rights, social support and combating HIV/AIDs also need to be mainstream anti trafficking components.

Prevention in countries of destination also needs to be addressed as traffickers have been benefitting from lack of legal migration and employment opportunities. Anti-trafficking policies that grant visas, residency and work permits to women from Nepal, Bangladesh and India in each of these countries to potential or actual victims can be helpful as a deterrent to trafficking. Though tightening border controls may only encourage smugglers in the garb of traffickers if the economic pull factors remain. The implementation of a prohibition regime is very difficult if the demand factor remains as is in the case of the sex industry.

An often debated issue in this context is legalisation of prostitution in the belief that it will atleast improve the exploitaive conditions of the women who have been forced into the sex industry. This does not appear to be a viable solution to combat trafficking as foreign prostitutes would have related issues of work and residency permits. Also all sexual exploitation does not take place from organised places like brothels etc. Traffickers will continue to make money as demand for foreign and younger girls is ever growing.

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Table: Recommended Strategic Intervention for India

Issue

Recommended Strategies Areas for Intervention

General

Review and ratify remaining international and regional conventions

National Definitions and Criminalization/ Prosecution

Enact the amended ITPA and ensure definitional and criminalization provisions fully align with the particularly regional Trafficking Conventions to facilitate prosecution in cases of cross border trafficking.

Pursue the national and regional harmonization of trafficking definition, offences, and penalties.

Identify and address the reasons for limited arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers, including by developing women and child friendly law enforcement procedures.

Continue to develop the capacity of law enforcement authorities to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences.

Set up special courts duly sensitised for speedy disposal

Victim Assistance and Protection

Draw up a holistic national anti-trafficking policy.

Review and amend the ITPA victim assistance provisions to ensure they are more fully consistent with Convention requirements.

Expand and/or develop bilateral repatriation agreements with all source, transit, and destination countries for in-state care pending repatriation and repatriation of cross-border trafficking victims.

Consider developing legal alternatives to repatriation.

Improve shelter capacity and rehabilitation support services for all forms of trafficking exploitation and all victims.

Support the SAARC establishment of a regional voluntary fund.

Prevention

Continue to develop and implement focused development-preventive efforts in trafficking prone areas.

Continue to address the supply and especially the demand factors that contribute to trafficking.

Continue to formulate national standards and bilateral arrangements that promote safe/ labour migration and Indian workers' rights

Regional Cooperation

Develop/implement/monitor bilateral law enforcement agreements with Bangladesh and Nepal and expand such agreements to encompass other SAARC states.

Review and ratify the SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance

Implementation Arrangements

Address known knowledge gaps by supporting research in those areas. Continue to strengthen national uniform crime, reporting in relation to the comprehensive collection, disaggregation, and analysis of official criminal justice trafficking data.

Operationalise the proposed inter-ministerial task force to oversee implementation of all anti-trafficking measures.

There is need to have a strong political will for combating the problem. The sensitisation of policy makers and people's representatives is called for. The involvement of PRIs can make a huge difference not only in the developmental agenda but also from the legal angle.

The vulnerability factor will definitely be reduced once right to development is comprehended by the people at large. Larger issues like gender discrimination, lack of livelihood options, poverty lead to trafficking , thus any preventive strategy should focus on eradication of poverty, illetracy, ignorance, social and economic empowerment particularly of women.

The community needs to change its culture from that of silence to intervention and policing. Schools, panchayats, media , celebrities, religious gurus, NGOs, CBOs all play an important role in facilitating an environment where trafficking is not tolerated.

A Joint task force can be set up with counterparts across the border and to develope institutional mechanism for the purpose. They can share data, information on traffickers, routes, modus operandi. They can hold joint workshops for training, knowledge sharing etc.

As constraint of funds is a major problem at a macro level to address the problem at a transnational level provision can be made for a joint funds such as the SAARC fund to combat trafficking at the regional level to which each of the participating country can contribute according to its capacity.

Conclusion

Coercive strategies are always inadequate or futile to handle complex socio economic problems. Although sex trafficking can never be eliminated a balance in prosecution, protection and prevention efforts with focus of governance on prevention is beyond doubt to combat the menace of cross border trafficking. In countries of origin efforts need to be focused on reducing poverty and all forms of discrimination. In countries of destination the migration policies require a rethink along with providing protection and rehabilitation to the victims by protecting their rights and prosecuting the traffickers. Above all there is need for better networked governance within and across borders in the face of fast and flexible trafficking networks across borders

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