New Delhi, July 27: The Lok Sabha has passed a bill to prevent human trafficking, especially of women and children. The bill also provides for rehabilitation of the victims and prosecution of offenders. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi proposed the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. Replying to members, she said the bill took a compassionate view of the victims. “We are after traffickers and not the victims,” she assured.

She said begging had been included as an aggravated crime as it involved violence. On the alleged rape of minor girls at a government-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur, she said that the bill provided for punishment to the in-charge of such homes. Agreeing with the demand that sex workers should not be harassed if they were in the profession voluntarily, she said that there was no question of harassing them. She said that the government had taken steps to prevent trafficking; one of them being advertisements in trains carrying a helpline number. (Also read: Monsoon Session: Congress Targets Govt)

Moving the bill, she had called it a “path-breaking step”. “Human trafficking is a borderless crime. Special crimes need special attention. How can we stay silent when women and children are sold like goods? Let us make this bill a reality today to protect and provide for the millions of victims who have suffered silently for years,” she said.

Gandhi said that the existing laws defined trafficking as an offence but there were many loopholes. Meanwhile, the Bill provides for the establishment of a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau to investigate cases. Every state government would have to appoint a State Nodal Officer who will be responsible for follow-up action. Anti-Trafficking Units would be set up at the district level and Anti-Trafficking Relief and Rehabilitation Committees at the national, state and district levels. (With Agency Inputs)