Phub Dem

Standard Operating Procedure for a multi-sectoral response to address Trafficking in Persons (TIP) was launched in Haa yesterday coinciding with the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Programme Coordinator of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Bhutan, Tandin Wangmo, said that violence against women was among the world’s most horrific, persistent and widespread human rights violation, affecting one in every three women in the world.

Seventy-nine percent of human trafficking victims are women.

The SOP is derived from the existing national laws—section 154 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2011, section 62 (b) of the Immigration Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2007, section 224 of the Child Care and Protection Act 2011, preamble and section 4 of the Child Adoption Act of Bhutan 2012, section 5 and 41 of the Royal Bhutan Police Act 2009, and section 161 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan 2001.

SOP was adopted as a guide to strengthen coordination mechanism among the relevant agencies in preventing and dealing with TIP in Bhutan. The document is expected to provide clarity on the roles and responsibilities of all relevant agencies in line with rights-based and victim-centric approach.

The key stakeholders are Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Department of Immigration, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Health Services providers, Office of Attorney General, National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The lead agency is Department of Law and Order (DLO) of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

According to senior programme officer with DLO, Dago Tshering, the SOP was one of the many commitments and initiatives of the government in the fight against TIP. “It is a multi-lateral response to prevent TIP and to ensure necessary support mechanism.”

Tandin Wangmo said that TIP was recognised as a complex and organised crime requiring multi-sectoral approach, which is why the need for a special task force was felt imperative. “Therefore, a special task force was formed with focal persons from the key stakeholders to enhance coordination towards efficient and timely delivery of their role and responsibilities.”

As a part of the SOP, a special task force (STF) comprising of officials nominated by the respective key stakeholders was formed; the members should ensure the agencies carried out all their functions.

Dago Tshering briefed the participants on the key stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities. For instance, RBP’s role will identify victim and suspects, investigation of TIP cases, lead rescue operations. NCWC’s role is to facilitate the prosecution of offenders and protect the rights of women and children victims or survivors of TIP. DoI will ensure strict vigilance at all checkpoints among many others.

Intervention stages

All stakeholders will be involved in the identification and reporting of suspected TIP cases, followed by a preliminary investigation by RBP and then rescue of the victim will be followed next by RBP if the case is in-country and Ministry of Foreign Affairs if the case is in ex-countries.

Post rescue interventions (medical examination and referral services) will be carried out by DLO, RBP, and CSOs. The investigation of cases, prosecution, reintegration, and repatriation would be taken up by RBP, OAG, DLO, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs with support from relevant stakeholders.

Regional Representative, UNODC ROSA, Sergey Kapinos, in his messages mentioned that with the practical document in place, the coordination would help build a more complete picture of TIP in Bhutan. “The launch of SOP signifies a vital milestone in the country’s effort and commitment to address human trafficking.”

The Cabinet endorsed the SOP on October 2 this year.