Listening to survivors of human trafficking

In West Bengal, hundreds of them have come together and formed survivors’ collectives

In the middle of 2018, Rokeya (name changed) had visited Delhi to spread awareness about human trafficking and emphasise the need for a legislation to combat the menace. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, was passed in the Lok Sabha, but could not get past the Upper House.

Now, when hopes are high again about The Trafficking In Persons (Prevention, Care And Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 being taken up in Parliament, Rokeya has once again started participating in events and seminars and advocating the necessity of having Anti-Human Trafficking Units ( AHTUs), inter-State investigations and rehabilitation plan.

In West Bengal, hundreds of survivors have come together through survivors’ collectives. Three collectives — Utthan, Bandhan Mukti and Bijoyini Survivors Collective — have been working in the State for the past several years.

“We are happy that the theme of World Day Against Trafficking in Person is ‘Listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking’. This is something we have been doing for the past several years. Not only have these collectives have made survivors community leaders, they have actively provided inputs for the new legislation,” said Saroj Pattnaik, who is associated with the collectives and is also a member of Tafteesh, a collective of anti-trafficking organisations.

Subhashree Raptan, one of the mentors of Bandhan Mukti, said that the collective had given the survivors, who have become an important voice in the entire “ anti-trafficking ecosystem”, a lot of confidence.

“Of late, it is heartening to see the way the survivors are rebuilding their lives. This year, about nine survivors qualified for the State Board Examination and a few have also enrolled in co-curricular activities like National Cadet Corps ( NCC),” Ms. Raptan said.

She also pointed out that these collectives had helped in the economic empowerment of survivors through self-help groups ( SHGs).

Pompi Banerjee, a psychologist and anti- trafficking activist associated with Sanjog, said that survivors through these collectives had been giving valuable inputs on different draft legislation against trafficking that had been put up in the public domain by the government.

“Survivor collectives gave valuable inputs on the 2016 draft, on the 2018 draft and also on the 2021 Bill. Survivors are experts through experience, and only they can tell us what policy interventions can make a change in their lives,” Ms Banerjee added.

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