human trafficking

Six counts on which the draft anti-trafficking bill falls short

Every day, 15 Indians are traded against their will to be, among other things, sexual slaves or forced labour.

Every day, 15 Indians are traded against their will to be, among other things, sexual slaves or forced labour, but a draft law to prevent India’s growing tide of human trafficking – cases rose 60% over four years to 2014, the last year for which data is available – is being criticised for several reasons.

It is clear that existing laws under four acts are failing. From a decadal perspective, the trafficking of minor girls surged 14 times over the decade ending 2014: Girls and women comprised 76% of human-trafficking cases that year. Human trafficking in India for sexual slavery has grown in concert with economic growth, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016.

To address these failures and create a one-stop law to address diverse facets of human trafficking – sexual slavery, begging, forced labour and organ trafficking – a draft bill called Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, will be introduced in the next session of the Parliament by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and it comes up short on these counts:

  1. The draft bill has not clearly defined trafficking, whether it would include those taken for organ harvesting or forced labour.
  2. The draft bill does not talk about modes of rehabilitation and who will be responsible.
  3. The draft bill does not refer to the cross-border repatriation of victims from Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries.
  4. It is not clear how the government intends to set up the Organised Crimes Investigation Agency, as ordered by the Supreme Court, to investigate trafficking.
  5. The draft bill talks about a special investigative agency, but its structure, composition, powers and function are unclear.
  6. The draft bill talks of an Anti-Trafficking Fund, but it is not clear what the money will be used for. There is no mention of compensation to victims.

The bill is being introduced “to prevent trafficking of persons and to provide protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking and to create a legal, economic, and social environment against trafficking of persons and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.

As many as 5,486 cases – or 15 cases a day – of human trafficking were reported in 2014, according to this National Crime Records Bureau report.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014
Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014

Human trafficking cases rose from 3,422 to 5,486 between 2010 and 2014, according to NCRB data, a 60% increase.

Only 23% of human-trafficking cases led to convictions over the past five years. As many as 45,375 people were arrested and 10,134 persons were convicted, with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment, IndiaSpend reported in August 2015.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014
Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014

Most of the victims (3,351) were registered under “immoral trafficking”, a reference to sexual slavery, followed by “human trafficking” (2,605), including men and boys, forced to work at brick kilns and construction sites.

Criticism grows

Advocacies, such as Mumbai’s Rescue Foundation and Kolkata’s Sanjog, have formed a collective to express concerns about the bill, the main criticism against it centred on rehabilitation and prosecution.

Up to 80% children rescued remain at risk of being trafficked again, according to this 2015 Harvard University study. Most victims suffer from prolonged psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and dysthymia (prolonged post-traumatic stress disorder and depression).

More than 87% of victims tested positive for dysthymia after they were released from rehabilitation centres, said this 2010 study, Bring It All Back Home, by Sanjog.

“Most centres today have almost more than 100 girls and they provide for counsellors and not clinical psychologists who can help them deal with the trauma,”Roop Sen, co-founder of Sanjog India, told IndiaSpend.

The current system uses a “custodial approach”, where the victim’s opinion is not taken into consideration, said Sen. This needs to change to a “restorative approach” involving victims, particularly because 57% of girls rescued are adults, said the Sanjog study.

The primary reason for the low levels of conviction is the lack of funds and coordination between 232 anti-human-trafficking units in different states, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016.

For instance, when investigation officers track traffickers across state boundaries, investigation and travel costs are reimbursed over a period of up to four years, a deterrent to many officers, said Sen.

The bill envisages a new agency to handle trafficking cases, but its jurisdiction and funding is unclear.

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.