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India

Rescued From Brothel At 13, Sex Trafficking Survivor Compensated 7 Years Later

The long, perilous journey for justice began in 2016, when the child was rescued by officers of the Anti-Human Trafficking unit of Kolkata Police.

sex trafficking
The compensation comes at a time that the Lok Sabha Monsoon Session will see the tabling of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill for the second time.(Image used for representational purpose only)

New Delhi: Seven years after being rescued as a 13-year-old, from a brothel in the red-light area of Sonagachi in West Bengal, a survivor of sex trafficking has received a compensation amount of Rs 9,00,000 by the District Legal Services Authority, Kolkata.

The long, perilous journey for justice began in 2016, when the child was rescued by officers of the Anti-Human Trafficking unit of Kolkata Police.

In 2019, the investigation of the case had been completed, but the trial was yet to commence in the POCSO court having jurisdiction. Based on her medical examination proving she was subjected to rape and sexual assault, her advocate Joanna Shireen Sarkar filed an application directly before the District Legal Services Authority seeking compensation for the offence of trafficking and rape.

Along with these grounds was another added circumstance which led to the order for compensation – in November of 2020, a ‘child in conflict with law’, one of the main perpetrators involved in trafficking the survivor from Odisha, was convicted by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in Kolkata.

There was a total of three perpetrators arrested in this case, including the minor perpetrator who was given a two-year sentence by the JJB. The husband-and-wife duo, who ran the brothel, are yet to be convicted, with the trial yet to even begin, despite the rescue pertaining from 2016. “It is unfortunate that even till 2022 the trial has not yet begun,” Sarkar, an advocate at Calcutta High Court, points out.

“The fight to ensure that the survivor’s right to be fairly and adequately compensated for the atrocities committed upon her has finally come full circle-albeit the two year long wait. The public justice system must adopt a survivor-centric approach in all cases involving sex trafficking and sexual violence cases as expeditiously as possible,” says Sarkar.

The survivor told her lawyer and social workers that she would use the money to start her own business and build a house.

The compensation comes at a time that the Lok Sabha Monsoon Session will see the tabling of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill for the second time.

The Trafficking of Persons Bill is aimed at countering and preventing human trafficking, and ensuring prosecution of offenders. The new Bill widens the scope of protection by including offences taking place outside India, with it applying to all citizens of India within and outside the country.

The punishment for an offence under this Bill would be rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than Rs 1 lakh.

Also, those who have committed the offence of aggravated form of trafficking of a person shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term for ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh.

Also, when there’s an offence involving the trafficking of a child of more than twelve years of age, the punishment would be rigorous imprisonment for not be less than ten years but which may extend to life imprisonment and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than ten lakh rupees and which may extend up to fifteen lakh rupees. An offence involving trafficking of more than one child, it shall be punishable on conviction with rigorous imprisonment for fourteen years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine up to thirty lakh rupees.

Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section against a child of less than twelve years of age, or against a woman for the purpose of repeated rape, the person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for twenty years, but which may extend to life, or in case of second or subsequent conviction with death, and with fine which may extend up to thirty lakh rupees.