MUMBAI: The Regional Consultation for Western India organized by the U.S. Consulates General in Mumbai and Kolkata, in association with non-profits Shakti Vahini and Vipla Foundation, on “Strengthening Institutional Responses & Interstate Collaboration to Combat Human Trafficking” held on September 16-17 at the Sun-n-Sand Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai, is a part of the U.S. Mission’s 10th Anti Trafficking in Persons Conclave Series. As part of the ongoing efforts to discuss emerging challenges and strengthen response mechanisms, national NGO Shakti Vahini in partnership and support from the U.S. Consulate Kolkata is organizing a series of state and regional level consultations across the country to highlight the challenges on the ground and to help build effective responses to combat this organized crime.
Brenda Soya, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai, while recognizing the Herculean efforts of all stakeholders said, “Despite our increased knowledge, the complexity of trafficking continually poses new challenges to us, and we can address them only through a collaborative model. Let us continue to join forces and work together to come up with systems and protocols that can address trafficking across digital and geographic boundaries.”
Nishi Kant, Executive Director of Shakti Vahini said, “We are already witnessing an increase in cases since COVID-19 restrictions were eased. The fears expressed by international agencies and the United Nations are proving to be true. The need of the time is that civil society organizations should strengthen vigilance mechanisms in source and destination areas. We should step up prevention initiatives and ensure interstate cooperation between agencies so that rescued victims are provided all support with respect to their repatriation and rehabilitation.”
This consultation is the fifth in a series of six. The first four consultations were held in Guwahati, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and Chennai, and will conclude in Delhi in early 2023, creating a forum for policymakers, civil society, and lawmakers to understand various issues connected with combating human trafficking and strengthen state-level convergence and inter-ministerial collaboration for monitoring implementation of legislations and ensuring proactive responses. Regional round-table consultations have also been conducted at Chennai and a two-day South Asia Conclave on “Working Together to Combat Cyber-enabled Human Trafficking: Emerging Challenges” was held in Kolkata, bringing together representatives from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to discuss the emerging issues and work on developing solutions to fight the crime.
The Western Regional Consultation to Combat Human Trafficking took place on September 16-17 and brought together high-level functionaries from Maharashtra’s Department of Women & Child Development; Home Department; State Children’s Commission; State Legal Services Authority and civil society organizations. The consultation included panel discussions and presentations by senior police officers, legal services authorities, child protection agencies, prosecutors, members of the judiciary, cyber-crime professionals & civil society organizations, to ensure convergence in response mechanisms and to strengthen interstate collaboration between source and destination agencies.
Nandini Thakkar, Head Legal, Anti Trafficking Initiatives from Vipla Foundation, Mumbai, stated that “Efforts to address trafficking cannot be isolationist in nature. What is required is strategic, long-term, multi-stakeholder, and concurrent interventions that also include cyber vigilance. The response must also include educating children on digital discipline and engaging with schools and parents for creating enabling spaces for children to approach and seek help.”
Image by Sammis Reachers from Pixabay