India: UNODC's Multi-Stakeholder Platform to Synergise Anti-Trafficking Efforts and Strengthen Coordination

30-31 July 2019/New Delhi: On the occasion of World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime convened the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Platform in partnership with UN Women and in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Governments, law enforcement agencies, judiciary, civil society organizations and experts from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in the platform.

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Platform is envisaged as a common policy forum for dialogue, discussions, and advocacy to devise and strengthen effective measures to combat and eliminate all forms of trafficking in persons and to protect victims. The Platform seeks to create synergies between partner entities, facilitate exchange of information and good practices, encourage joint responses and identify the immediate priority actions to address the issue.

"Millions of victims, including children and women, fall into the hands of traffickers every year, and are forced into a life of inhuman exploitation, fear and slavery. The need for a platform where stakeholders can freely exchange information and receive support is more important than ever-after all, effectively countering organised crime networks requires equally coordinated and cohesive responses. Let us take this opportunity today to further strengthen partnerships and co-create solutions to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice," said Mr. Sergey Kapinos, Representative, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia.

Over the years, South Asian nations have emerged as source, transit and destination countries for trafficking in persons. Several "push" and "pull" factors make people move across borders and even beyond. Those desperate to seek better lives are often "tricked" and "forced" into vulnerable situations leading to trafficking. A bulk of those trafficked between South Asian countries are women and children belonging to the most disadvantaged groups.

Extending support to the platform, Ms. Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Representative, UN Women India asserted, "Indicator 5.2 of SDG 5, focuses on the elimination of 'all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.' The Anti-Trafficking in Persons platform provides a great opportunity for multiple partners to come together to deliberate and draft a comprehensive approach that includes primary prevention, laws and their effective implementation and the provision of services accessible to all victims and survivors."

In the discussions, participants exchanged insights on the latest trends and patterns of trafficking observed in India and the region, good practices, responses and mechanisms to support victims, and the emerging opportunities for collaboration. Enhanced data collection efforts, introduction of stronger laws to counter online-enabled exploitation, spearheading awareness campaigns to build resilient communities, and creation of livelihood opportunities were also suggested as vital and priority interventions.

"We are faced with inadequate services for victims, as well as unprofessionally managed victim protection services, which creates chances for re-trafficking to occur," said Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, Founder of Prajwala. Mr. Arunendra Kumar Pandey, Director of ARZ, asserted, "Rescue is the most important thing because that is the first time when victims interact with the state and the service providers. Most of the victims are brain washed--they think it is they who are committing an offence."

Participants concurred that human traffickers are misusing the internet and new technologies to broaden their reach, using apps and chat rooms to exploit and abuse women and young people. It is hence an imperative to develop inter-state and transnational cooperation mechanisms, which enable law enforcement, civil society, governments and other stakeholders to develop joint responses to address this crime.

"There is a paradigm shift in the crime in the online space. Cyber-enabled child sex trafficking is very rampant in the region. One in every four girls and one in every six boys are being abused online at any given point of time," said Mr. S. Sreejith, Inspector General, Kerala Police. "Technology assisted trafficking is on rise around the globe. Everyone is using social media sites and since many are still unaware about terms of privacy, it becomes easy for traffickers to find their weaknesses and use it against them," underscored Mr. Saurabh Tripathi Inspector General, Sashastra Seema Bal (Lucknow Frontier).

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons platform has set a stepping stone for strengthening national strategies, action plans and policies to counter trafficking in persons. Supported by the United Kingdom, this programme provided the opportunity to bring to the fore good practices being implemented in different locations, and identification of avenues for synergies for a coordinated, more effective, and comprehensive response to trafficking in persons. It is expected that, considering the suggestions and recommendations emerged during the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Platform, government will come up with new policies and plans in preventing and addressing trafficking in persons.

This activity was held in the framework of the UNODC project on "Strengthening the implementation of a comprehensive response to trafficking in persons."

The project is implemented by UNODC Regional Office for South Asia as part of the Global Programme against Trafficking in Persons, with the financial support of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund of the Government of United Kingdom.