A General Overview of the Human Trafficking Act

Human trafficking is a pandemic issue, every year heaps of people are being victimized of human trafficking and among them, women and children are the cardinal. Bangladesh is one of the leading countries for the offence of human trafficking and here rural women and children are in the central point among the victimized people. There are several factors behind the extremity of human trafficking in Bangladesh, for instance; poverty, unemployment, economic and social discrepancy, overpopulation, slow-moving and corrupted security system, social obligations of women and children (especially female children) etc. Due to human trafficking and other subsidiary offences the victims are forced into sexual exploitation, prostitution, hazardous industrial works, domestic servitude, begging and organ harvesting and so on. To remove the harshness of the offence of human trafficking the Government and many other NGOs actively working on this and the enactment of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking (PSHT) Act, 2012 is one of the crucial outcomes of the conduct of the Government of Bangladesh.

Human Trafficking Law in Bangladesh

Image: Can the present law of Bangladesh prevent Human Trafficking?

What is human trafficking?

According to section 3 of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, human trafficking primarily represents any sort of trade of humans either inside or outside of the territory of Bangladesh in consequence of threat or force, or deception or abuse of his socio-economic or environmental or others vulnerability or transacting money obtain the consent of the person who has control over him (victim) for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation or any other exploitation or oppression. Moreover, if any person fraudulently induces others to move or migrate or emigrate inside or outside of the country for work or servitude where he knows that he (victim) would be put into forced labor or any other exploitative condition then this will be considered as human trafficking.

Enforcement of the Human Trafficking Act

Trafficking in human is indeed a vicious offence against humanity. Considering the fact of the increased number of human trafficking the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 has come into effect to restrain and suppress human trafficking, to ensure the protection of victims of the offence of human trafficking and their rights, and to ensure safe migration. So under this act, if any offence has been committed regarding human trafficking, anyone can file a complaint (following the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898), to the police or Tribunal and his identity may be concealed for the security purpose. The provisions of this Act can be applicable even outside of Bangladesh (if any offence under the Act is committed by someone outside Bangladesh), or on board in an aircraft or a ship.

Who are the legal personalities and their duties?

To conduct the cases before the Tribunal, under section 17 of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 the Government may appoint one or more special prosecutors (public prosecutor) and also may remove or replace if there is negligence in the prosecutor’s duty.

Now in case of an investigation, a police officer, not below the rank of Sub-Inspector, of the concerned police station shall execute the investigation which is stated under section 19 of the PSHT Act, 2012. It has been also ensured under the section that he can conduct a proactive inquiry before the filing of the FIR (First Information Report) if there is any possibility of commission of any offence under the Act. Besides to complete the investigation within time [90 days], if there is any urgency to travel a foreign country for observation of any foreign evidence because of the investigation of any interstate offence under the Act than with the approval of the Tribunal, the police authority shall organize a special investigation committee and provide with administrative and financial aid. However, there shall be a central monitoring cell at the police headquarters for coordinating and monitoring the investigation, safety provisions and preventive functions and duties of the police.

A police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector shall be authorized and have the power under section 20 of the PSHT Act, 2012, and also in compliance with the provisions provided in section 103 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, to conduct preventive search, to enter into any premises, to seize any equipment, document or any proof for the purpose of preventing the offence of human trafficking. This search may be initiated without a warrant though in this case two or more respectable witnesses of the locality shall be presented. Moreover, this search shall be concluded within 72 hours and the police officer shall send a copy to the concerned Magistrate and the Tribunal having jurisdiction.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Offence Tribunal

Image: Alone and Afraid

Basically the Anti-Human Trafficking Offence Tribunal is established with a view to an expeditious trial (which shall be concluded within 180 working days from the date on which a charge of the offence has been framed according to section 24 of the PSHT Act, 2012) consisting of a judge of the rank of a Session Judge or Additional Session Judge in any district.

So what are the powers that the Tribunal shall be holding? The Tribunal shall have the powers of the Court of Sessions and may also issue any protective order and direct any person or institution to submit any document or report or register to the Tribunal and all these powers has been assured under section 22 of the PSHT Act, 2012. However, for a swift trial or for the security of the victims or witnesses the Tribunal may by itself or any Commission can take any statement or evidence directly or through any electronic means. Besides, the Tribunal may grant bail of the accused person of human trafficking when exercising its discretion upon hearing the prosecution.

One of the eminent power of the Tribunal which is particularized in section 22(3) of the Act is that throughout the period of trial or before the prosecution, the Tribunal may direct any victim under the custody of any public or private protective home or any competent person or organization including the Social Welfare Department. Moreover, trial in camera can be arranged considering the safety and security of the woman and children victim as mentioned under section 25 of the Act.

As stated in section 27 of the PSHT Act, 2012 Another significant power about the Tribunal is that, at any stage of the trial, may pass an order to seize or confiscate any movable or immovable property that has been acquired due to the commission of the offence or used to commit the offence by the accused. In addition, if the property is acquired from a foreign country then the Tribunal may direct to freeze and attach the property.

In general, these are some notable powers that the Tribunal holds along with ordering reasonable amount of compensation to the victim.

Offences & Penalties

There are several penalties under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 for committing such acts which amount to human trafficking or other ancillary offences. These are:

If someone commits human trafficking, then he shall be punished with

  • Imprisonment not exceeding the imprisonment for life but not less than 5 years of rigorous imprisonment
  • Fine; not less than 50 thousand.2.If human trafficking is committed by several members of any organized group for acquiring financial or other benefits then each member, responsible for the offence, shall be punished with
  • Death or imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years
  • Fine not less than taka 5 lac

If a person is guilty of instigating, conspiring or attempting to commit the offence of human trafficking or knowingly allowing his property in use for such an offence or taking possession of any document involves himself in the offence then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years but not less than 3 years
  • Fine not less than taka 20 thousand

If someone, by using unlawful forces, threats or by any other means of pressure, compels any other person to do any work, to provide labor or services or holds in debt-bondage then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 years but not less than 5 years
  • Fine not less than taka 50 thousand

If any person kidnaps, conceals or confines someone for human trafficking or puts into a state of sexual exploitation or oppression then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years but not less than 5 years
  • Fine not less than taka 5 thousand

However, if any person steals or kidnaps a newborn baby to commit human trafficking then he shall be punished with

  • Imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 5 years
  • Fine not less than taka 5 thousand

If any person, by means of force or fraud or inducement, imports any other person in Bangladesh or transfers inside Bangladesh for prostitution or other sexual exploitation or oppression then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years but not less than 5 years
  • Fine not less than taka 50 thousand

If someone places or manages or assists in placing or managing a brothel, then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or but not less than 3 years
  • Fine not less than taka 20 thousand

Moreover, if any person being tenant, lessee, in charge of any place or being owner of any land or house knowingly allows someone to use that place as brothel then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years but not less than 3 years
  • Fine not less than taka 20 thousand

If any person, in any public place or from within the house, provokes others for the purpose of prostitution by words or indecent gesture, he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years
  • Or with fine not less than taka 20 thousand
  • Or with both

If any person creates any major obstacles in an investigation or in any judicial proceeding initiated under the Act by threatening or using force against the victim of human trafficking or witness or his family, then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years but not less than 3 years
  • Fine not less than taka 20 thousand

If any person files a false case or complaint or abuses the legal process or compels any other person to do so under this Act in order to harm someone then he shall be punished with

  • Rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years but not less than 2 years
  • Fine not less than taka 20 thousand

Where a person who abets in the commission of such an offence under the Act shall be punished with the equal punishment provided for the concerned offence.

Special aids by the Government to the victims

The Government has implemented some other provisions for aiding the victim of human trafficking from several aspects. For instance, regarding the identification and rescue of the victims of human trafficking, there are provisions under the Act. If a Bangladeshi is found in a foreign country as a victim of human trafficking, the Government, in collaboration with the concerned Bangladesh Embassy, should commence the process to return the person in Bangladesh. Besides in the hope of promoting physical and psychological treatment, rehabilitation, reconciliation of the victims the Government shall set up protective home and rehabilitation centre and if any victim, rescued, not returned to his family, shall be sent to government or non-government protective home or rehabilitation centre. There are also provisions for the protection of the victims and witnesses in criminal trial like their name, photo or any identification shall not be publicized without the permission of the Tribunal and if they are threatened then they are entitled to receive police protection or the protections provided by the Government in this regard. Moreover, in case of child victim, the child gets priority and the Tribunal shall apply the principle of welfare and best interest for the child and all the dealings with the child shall be done by any child-friendly officer and processes. Furthermore, the Government may provide financial facilitation to the victim.

Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and its magnitude is spreading out all over the world rapidly. In Bangladesh, being a poor and overpopulated country, the intensity of the offence of human trafficking is most. To combat with this hypersensitive complication, the Government and other respective NGOs has already taken into account several procedures and carried out certain laws. However, all their endeavours could not demonstrate to be productive operation focusing on the matter. To highlight this grievous issue and to fight against this challenge the Government, NGOs and other international communities along with the Media (for coverage, assistance or campaign) should perform simultaneously and must concern on the execution of the existing laws.

jobaira.khan@yahoo.com'

Jobaira Khan

JOBAIRA NASRIN KHAN Student, School of Law, BRAC University

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