Rethinking the 2018 Trafficking Bill

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 is proposed to be tabled in the Lok Sabha in this monsoon session of the Parliament. In March 2018, the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi had proposed to introduce the bill, claiming that it will lead South Asia in the fight against trafficking.

Contributors to this special issue of EPW Engage disagree.

The bill renders India a timid follower of a failed carceral approach to trafficking, based on a prosecution-driven raid–rescue–rehabilitation model. Ignoring the fast-changing international policy scene and India’s own rich indigenous approach to fighting labour trafficking, the bill is a draconian criminal law that potentially violates the Indian constitution and international law, that pays lip-service to survivors of trafficking and fails to accord with the realities of the precarious working conditions of millions of Indian men and women. The Government of India should reconsider introducing this bill in Parliament and if introduced, to refer it to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.


EPW would like to thank Prabha Kotiswaran for putting together the following set of articles. This page will be updated to include new submissions. We look forward to your contributions.  


Illustration Credits: Chaitanya Mandugula

​The anti-trafficking discourse has seen a shift internationally in the last few decades. Is India still in the past?
The recently passed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 is woefully unaware of the present context of globalisation and the changing forms of labour dispossession and exploitation. 
Framing trafficking as an issue of morality wrongly assumes no woman would enter sex work of her own volition.
Implementing a rights-based approach that facilitates, and does not criminalise, migration and one that promotes decent work is the most constructive approach to preventing human trafficking.
It does nothing except add yet another legislation to the already fragmented landscape of laws against human trafficking. 
The bill pays scant, almost tokenist attention to the issue of bonded labour. 
This essay tracks the development of the Indian anti-trafficking law over the past two decades culminating in the present bill. 
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