IDLO, working together with the non-governmental organization SANLAAP in West Bengal, is seeking to help prevent and combat human trafficking through a legal empowerment project in four trafficking prone districts of West Bengal. The project is focused both on victim support and the prevention of trafficking, including re-trafficking. It aims to create a zone of protection for girls in what is currently a key source, transit and destination area for trafficking victims in the country.
Addressing the problem of child trafficking in India requires a multi-faceted approach, including improvement of law enforcement capacity and infrastructure, public sensitization, efforts to reduce the financial insecurity that often pushes girls into trafficking and the strengthening of community vigilance structures. Many anti-trafficking initiatives have been developed in recent years, but the scope of such initiatives is often limited, with much of the formal administrative machinery for addressing trafficking not put into practice.
One of the most formidable trafficking-related challenges in India relates to rights awareness and legal assistance. The Indian Constitution explicitly prohibits trafficking of human beings, and domestic legislation (notably the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (1956) and the Indian Penal Code (1860)) addresses many trafficking and related offences. Such legislation is not comprehensive, and would benefit from revision to ensure its compliance with international standards, but the more immediate problem is the widespread lack of awareness regarding the existing legal protections for trafficking victims. This has serious implications for justice delivery.
Worryingly, in a recent study on trafficking in India, it was found that that 88 percent of individuals rescued from trafficking were not aware of any law against trafficking. Another 80 percent said that they were not aware of any law prohibiting child sexual abuse or commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Girls who have been trafficked are themselves frequently targeted by the police for solicitation and illegal immigration. More generally, trafficking victims are often re-victimized following rescue, including through the failure to notify them of charges made against them; failure to inform them of the status of cases that concern them; prolonged stays in custody; and insensitive, traumatic cross-examination in court. Girls who have been trafficked often do not receive legal assistance.
Improving justice delivery to girls who have been trafficked requires making girls, their families and communities aware of their rights, as well as ensuring that trafficking victims receive effective legal support.
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO), working together with non-governmental organization SANLAAP in West Bengal, is seeking to help prevent and combat human trafficking through a legal empowerment project in four trafficking prone districts of West Bengal: Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.
The project is focused both on victim support and the prevention of trafficking, including re-trafficking. It aims to create a zone of protection for girls in what is currently a key source, transit and destination area for trafficking victims in the country. The core objectives of the IDLO-SANLAAP legal empowerment project are:
1) to ensure that rescued girls in the four districts are provided with prompt and effective legal assistance. This includes making girls aware of their rights and privileges under existing law and legal mechanisms available for immediate assistance, as well as ensuring that girls’ procedural rights are guaranteed before, during and after legal proceedings in which they are involved.
2) to help guard against the trafficking of girls at risk in the four districts by educating girls, families, communities and other stakeholders on trafficking and girls’ rights.
Ensuring that trafficking victims in the four districts are provided with effective legal assistance and improving rights awareness among girls, families, communities and other stakeholders requires both intensive capacity building and the establishment of strong anti-trafficking alliances in the project districts. With this in mind, the IDLO-SANLAAP legal empowerment project has three main components:
- Training of ‘barefoot legal counselors’. The staff of community based organizations (CBOs) is trained on trafficking laws and on how to best approach the legal problems faced by girls who have been trafficked. Public prosecutors and police officers are present at the training, in order to help creating an anti-trafficking network.
- Training of selected lawyers. Selected lawyers in the four districts are trained to provide assistance to victims of trafficking in connection with legal proceedings. SANLAAP will call upon these lawyers as the need arises.
- Legal awareness raising. SANLAAP engages in district and state-level advocacy intended to improve rights awareness in the trafficking context. Advocacy programs will take place in December 2010/January 2011 and will consist of: a) rallies at the community level; and b) meetings with governmental officials, prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officials. Such meetings are also intended to help ensure that trafficking victims receive benefits to which they are entitled under existing statutory programs.