Although human trafficking is rampant the world over, however, most people are not aware of it. And despite a lot of sensitization on Trafficking in Person (TIP), there are cases where many young and innocent people are being trafficked without their knowledge within the same locality and around the globe.
Human trafficking is also a gender issue. It is an act of tricking, luring, or forcing a person into leaving their home to work for little or no payment. The modern term for human trafficking is the day slavery which is defined by force, fraud or coercion, and it occurs across the globe, where people are bought, sold, and traded.
Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry and the third most profitable business for organized crime after drugs and arms trade around the globe.
The main causes of TIP are vulnerability, illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, natural disaster, human conflicts, gender discrimination, poor implementation of laws and unsafe migration.
Programme Coordinator of United Nations Office of Drug and Crimes (UNODC), Tandin Wangmo, said that people have less idea about TIP and they do not know the elements of trafficking in person. There is generally a misconception that trafficking in person mean happening across the border or from one country to another country.
She said the general public thinks that it does not happen in Bhutan. And when there is certain case about trafficking then people get shocked. In Bhutan, we have seen more of forced labor, she said.
Also sexual exploitation but some authorities have not taken up as trafficking in person so far, but there are potential cases of both sexual exploitations and forced labor, she added.
She said Bhutan has not signed the Palermo Protocol, therefore, the country does not have accessibility particularly because TIP is a transnational organized crime. She said if a Bhutanese person is trafficked into another country, even if the other country has acceded to the Palermo Protocal, and Bhutan has not, then we cannot ask for evidence or look for evidence or ask for the support unless the two countries have bilateral co-operation. And even if Bhutan signed, there could be challenges and the government really need to take an informed decision on this.
“We are still doing a lot of awareness program on TIP targeted to vulnerable groups, particularly children who are in middle schools, high schools and in colleges, and also the graduates who are looking after employment. And we are also focusing in specific training for the law enforcement agencies,” said Tandin Wangmo.
There are two factors that lead to human trafficking. The push factors include lack of employment, urgent need of money, ignorance of how human trafficking operates, gender discrimination, dysfunctional families or discord, home abuse, drugs, children in substitute care. The pull factors happen when the victims are assured of more and better paid jobs elsewhere, or when there is a demand for cheap labour, organs, sexual services and greed.
People involved in human trafficking affect the lives of millions of women, men and children globally. But beyond traffickers, victims, and intermediate players, the global dialogue on human trafficking has to involve government bodies.
Non-governmental organizations must provide support to the victims, advocate for their rights and contribute to the existing knowledge base. International organizations, such as UNODC do research, build capacity of governments to address human trafficking and provide a platform for global dialogues. The private sector can create job opportunities for survivors of trafficking and also promote and enforce ethical labour practices.
Human rights advocates can take the onus to help prevent violations and stand up for victims’ rights. Academic and research institutions can search for analysis of trends and provide recommendations to policymakers.
The Global TIP report categorizes countries into four tiers based upon their efforts to combat human trafficking. Bhutan falls under Tier 3 which means Bhutan does not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. There s a significant penalty is the restriction of U.S. foreign aid funds for those countries which fall within Tier 3.
Bhutan ranks in Tier 3 because the government did not report the conviction of any traffickers or, for the third consecutive year, identifying any victims, although it reported limited efforts to protect previously identified trafficking victims.
Bhutan did not complete the SOP during the reporting period for the fourth consecutive year (since 2015) and the government’s laws did not criminalize all forms of trafficking, which led to the dismissal of at least one suspected trafficking case.
However, UNODC prioritized recommendations to amend Penal Code sections 154 and 227 and section 224 of the Child Care and Protection Act, to bring the definition of human trafficking in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
UNODC will finalize and disseminate SOPs for proactive victim identification and referral to services, and train officials on their use. Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Take steps to eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers by recruitment agents, and investigate claims of nonpayment of wages, contract switching, and illegal fees charged by agents.
It will also undertake and publish a comprehensive assessment of all forms of human trafficking in Bhutan, including labor trafficking of men. Continue to fund NGOs that provide shelter and services to trafficking victims. Increase awareness of human trafficking through public events, media, and written materials for vulnerable populations and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol
Meanwhile, UNODC will launch the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in Haa on 25 November for a multi-sectorial response to address trafficking in person. This will strengthen coordination mechanism amongst relevant agencies in preventing and dealing with TIP in Bhutan.
Each agency will have a special task force to take cases and get the victims rescued immediately. The objective of SOP is to provide the clarity on roles and responsibilities of all relevant agencies.