CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India will offer vocational training to almost half a million survivors of human trafficking under a program launched this week by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The three-month course will evaluate the educational levels of those rescued from slavery, and build their confidence, according to Justice and Care, the Indian anti-trafficking charity that will run the program.
Participants will be linked up with the ambitious Skill India program, which was launched in 2015 to train over 400 million people by 2022, Justice and Care said in a statement.
“Human trafficking is not only a social evil, it is a crime against humanity,” Kovind said in a speech on Thursday to launch the new course.
The announcement came on the heels of an anti-trafficking bill that was approved by cabinet on Feb. 28 and is expected to be voted into law by parliament.
Under the new law, traffickers could be jailed for 10 years or, in some cases, for life. If convicted, they could be fined at least 100,000 Indian rupees ($1,534).
The legislation also mandates the establishment of special courts to expedite trafficking cases, setting a deadline of one year for trial and repatriation.
Government data shows that reports of human trafficking rose by almost 20 percent in 2016 against the previous year, to 8,132 cases.
In some cases, victims who were sexually exploited, trapped in bonded labor, or forced into marriage have struggled to survive and feed their families since escaping. They said they feared being trapped back into slave labor.
Many victims are from poor backgrounds and have little or no literacy, according to Justice and Care, which created the curriculum for the new course.
“They are most vulnerable to go back to the same vicious circle of sex trade or child labor if they are not given proper means of livelihood,” said the charity’s Joyita Ambett.
Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Jared FerriePlease credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org