There is a need for a standard law in tackling human trafficking.
This was the highlight of a workshop on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) held in Paro this week.
Victims of human trafficking are defined differently in different laws. The classification of TIP victim in the Penal Code of Bhutan is different from TIP victim in the Child Care and Protection Act and Labour and Employment act of Bhutan.
A participant at the workshop said that a holistic Act or a standard definition for human trafficking should be in place to solve the rising cases of trafficking in persons in Bhutan.
For instance, the recent case of a fake modeling agency, fake overseas employment promises, according to some participants could be categorised under TIP after understanding the component of TIP.
The component of TIP as per the international trafficking protocol- Pelrmo, is classified under Act (recruit, harbor, transport, obtain), Means (threat, use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, giving payment or benefits) and Purpose (exploitation-prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, removal of organs).
Programme Coordinator of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC, Bhutan), Tandin Wangmo said that if the act and means of an alleged trafficker was found to be a part of TIP, the person should be charged for TIP.
She said, although media has reported cases on TIP, due to lack of awareness on the issue, the stories mostly went unreported and in some cases, it was either dropped due to lack of evidence or handed back to police for further investigation.
The lack of standard operating procedures on TIP and authorities concerned unaware of the specific role were highlighted as a critical challenge when reporting on TIP related stories.
However, with the launch of SOP for multi-sectoral response to address TIP, 2019 next week, the roles and responsibility of all relevant agencies are expected to be clarified.
The SOP is expected to define the role of the lead agency and key stakeholders such as Royal Bhutan Police, Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, health and the education ministry, health care service providers, Office of Attorney General, National Commission for Women and Children and Civil Society Organisations.
Besides, procedures for dealing with TIP case and stages of intervention by relevant stakeholders will also be highlighted in the document.
The lead agency for TIP is the Department of Law and Order (DoL).
As per the UNODC global report on trafficking in persons 2016, 71 percent of the victims are women and 29 percent are men.
The latest TIP report focuses on trafficking that remains within the border of a single country. It was found out that the majority of traffickers among 187 countries were citizens of the countries where they were convicted. “Traffickers exploited 77 percent of all victims in the victims’ countries of residence.”
However, Bhutan has recorded a single case of internal human trafficking.
According to UNODC, trafficking in persons is the third most profitable business for organised crime after drugs and arms trade in the world.
Human trafficking, as per experts from UNODC, has a push and pull factor. The push factor includes lack of employment, urgent need for money, and ignorance of how trafficking operates, gender discrimination and dysfunctional families.
The pull factors include more and better-paid jobs elsewhere, demand for cheap labour, organs, and sexual services among others.
An official from DLO said that the priority should be on creating awareness on TIP and gradually amending laws. “If laws are amended before people understand the concept of TIP, it will likely cause confusion.”