Clear-cut laws are needed to fight human traffickingWhile the individuals concerned are doing their best to stop it, the laws defining what constitutes human trafficking remain narrow.
Human trafficking, already a major issue for decades, shows no signs of decreasing in intensity. If anything, the situation seems to have gotten worse. Earlier, most cases of human trafficking were related to women and children being smuggled into India and forced into bonded labour or sexual activity. Both of these heinous instances of trafficking continue today. But now, people are being forced or lured into being trafficked for various other exploitative reasons. Also, India is not the sole destination for trafficking victims. With traffickers sending Nepalis to countries the world over, the problem has exploded, making prevention, exposure and repatriation all the more difficult.
While various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and even state agencies are doing their best to stop trafficking, or repatriate victims, the laws defining what constitutes human trafficking remain narrow. Human trafficking is a complex issue requiring a multi-sectoral approach. However, the government can facilitate its prevention, by redefining the parameters to reflect modern trends and by creating an integrated database of trafficking cases.
The number of cases of Nepalis being trafficked is certainly on the rise. According to a report published by the National Human Rights Commission, an estimated 35,000 Nepali citizens were trafficked in 2018, with 5,000 among them being children. In fact, according to the same report, nearly 1.5 million Nepalis are at risk of being trafficked. One of the reasons for this is that the victims are being trafficked across the world. In recent years, Nepali women have been rescued from countries such as India, Myanmar, Kenya and China.
Investigations have revealed that India and Myanmar are not only the final destinations but also transit hubs for the transfer of Nepalis to other countries, such as those in the Middle East. Also, given the loopholes in the law defining what constitutes human trafficking, many traffickers can go around it. One such ambiguity is a lack of clarity between out-migration for labour and trafficking for exploitative labour. Due to the absence of opportunities to earn a livelihood near home, it becomes easier for agents to exploit Nepalis and take them abroad. For example, when the government forbade women from going to the Middle East for employment, exploitative agents could still easily find women who were willing to be trafficked to go to work there. Since such workers are taken out of the country through illegal channels, it becomes easier for agents and employers to take advantage of them.
The problem has become so bad that the Nepal Police has set up a separate bureau to handle trafficking cases. However, due to the narrow definition of human trafficking—which does not specifically cover cases such as labour exploitation—many cases are not filed with the police. The need of the hour is a revision of the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007, to cover the changing aspects of trafficking more thoroughly. Moreover, discrepancies in information exist due to the lack of an integrated database of trafficking cases. Were such a record to be formed, various stakeholders—such as law enforcement and NGOs in Nepal as well as in destination countries—would have access to accurate information.
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