POLICY ADVOCACY

In the initial years of operation, Prajwala’s interventions with rescue and rehabilitation brought to light the need for increased government support in all anti-trafficking sectors, given that the assistance provided through the state mechanism was meager and inadequate in terms of quality and budgetary allocations. The government‘s general attitude of indifference towards the issue of human trafficking was a serious point of concern for Prajwala. This insensitivity gave a boost to the organized crime of commercial sexual exploitation in society at large. The absence of adequate policies to counter human trafficking was a major setback for all of Prajwala‘s interventions. Although in Maharastra state due to active NGO intervention the government set in motion some reformative measures, none of the other Indian constituencies or their representatives had initiated a clear-cut policy to combat trafficking.

Over the years, Prajwala worked relentlessly to bring about a change in the attitude of state government for victim-friendly policies as well as awareness regarding the severe nature and extent of the problem. The team conducted an action research and publication of a document titled “The Shattered Innocence” on inter-state trafficking from Andhra Pradesh to other states, revealing the reality and magnitude of the crime along with a demographic profile of vulnerable communities. Upon submitting this report to the government, a state-level consultation on the need for a multi-sectoral approach to address the issue emerged.

In collaboration with Prajwala, the Department of Women and Child Welfare started taking a proactive role in all post-rescue work. Doors were opened for girls from other states and in the process an understanding that the state should commit its financial and other resources for anti-trafficking work became apparent.  As a result of Prajwala‘s lobbying efforts, a high-level state coordination committee was formed with secretaries of all relevant government departments. Draft guidelines of the state policy to combat trafficking was prepared by Prajwala, and after state-level cabinet member approval, the policy was brought forth as G.O 1/3 on Jan 1, 2003. The order specified state intervention on following anti-trafficking aspects:

  1. Provision for allocation of house sites to rescued persons on priority
  2. Provision of white ration cards as a separate eligible category as a special case adopting existing income criteria.
  3. Provision to victims of trafficking with electoral photo identity cards, if they are registered electors of the relevant constituency
  4. Provision of Health Cards to women and child victims ensuring free medical treatment, adequate drugs and medications in all Government Hospitals.

The order focused on state-sponsored civic identity, which was a crucial element for rehabilitation as it symbolized a survivor‘s publically-endorsed acceptance into civil society. Also developed during this period were victim protection protocols including aspects of pre-rescue, post-rescue and rehabilitation/reintegration. Such groundbreaking achievements propelled Prajwala into full-fledged advocacy for sensitization of police personnel on issues related to human trafficking as well as public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India.

In the past year, Prajwala lobbied extensively for an anti-trafficking policy in Kerala called the Nirbhaya Scheme for Women and Children, and Prajwala’s Chief Functionary has become the state advisor for this groundbreaking policy. The organization leadership also contributed significantly to India’s new Bill on Rape which was passed in Parliament in 2013 to increase punitive measures for sexual violence and assault. Also, through social media, conferences, awareness programs and sensitization events, Prajwala has reached close to 7 million people in India and throughout the world.