Saturday, September 22, 2007

US warns India of sanctions

The Tribune

Chandigarh, September 19

The US has warned India of sanctions in case it failed to take effective steps to tackle human trafficking.
It continues to be a serious problem in India, says the latest US State Department Trafficking in Persons report in which India has been placed on the Tier II watch list for the fourth consecutive year because of its failure to tackle this multidimensional problem.
The report, released recently, states that though the Government of India is making significant efforts, it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
Taking the report seriously, Ambassador-at-large and director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and senior adviser to the secretary of state Mark P. Lagon was on a two-day visit here to gather first-hand information of the situation on ground. He held closed-door meetings with government officials and with the ministry of women and child development.
Tight-lipped about the report, he stated that the US had put India on the Tier II list following strict parameters.
Lack of any significant federal government action to address bonded labour, the reported complicity of law enforcement officials in trafficking and related criminal activity, and the critical need for an effective national-level law enforcement authority impede India’s ability to effectively combat its problem of trafficking in persons.
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) estimates that 90 per cent of sex trafficking is internal with women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh being the main victims.
In September, 2006, the central government had established a two-person nodal cell, which, however, did not have any authority to investigate and initiate prosecutions of trafficking crimes across the country.
Some initiative has, however, been taken this year. Three state governments established anti-trafficking police units with substantial US and UNODC assistance. The central government passed a law in October, 2006, banning the employment of children as domestic help and in the hospitality industry. In a July, 2006, decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Maharashtra could seal brothels under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).
The report observes that the government did not take any substantial measures to prosecute its officials involved in trafficking-related corruption, though it arrested three of them for their involvement in such cases.
It also states that efforts to investigate and punish trafficking crimes during the past year were uneven and largely inadequate. Only 27 convictions for trafficking took place in 2006. At least 43 rescue operations led to release of 275 victims of commercial sex trafficking from their exploiters. However, vigorous prosecution of traffickers was not done.
India arrested 685 suspected sex traffickers, but there were no reported prosecutions or convictions this year so far.
The report quotes a study by the National Human Rights Commission that a majority of traffickers claimed to rely on corrupt police officers for protection.
The central government reported no protection services offered to Indian victims trafficked abroad for involuntary servitude or commercial sexual exploitation, and it does not provide funding to repatriate these victims. The government of Kerala, however, appointed nodal officers to coordinate with Indian embassies in destination countries to assist victims from the state.
The government of India relied heavily on NGOs to assist sex-trafficking victims. Though a few states operate such homes for victims, they do not receive any protection services, such as psychological assistance from trained counsellors. Many victims do not get long-term alternatives to remain in the shelter.
Andhra Pradesh, the state with the largest number of trafficking victims, now provides Rs 10,000 to sex-trafficking victims.
While the ministry of overseas Indian affairs instituted a system requiring women below 35 to obtain authorisation to go to the Gulf as domestic helps, it failed to educate those travelling overseas on common trafficking perils or resources for assistance in destination countries.



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