Spotlight

Ujjawala Scheme

The trafficking of people, mostly of women and children is a burgeoning criminal activity that generates unbelievably large profits every year, third only to illegal drugs and weapons trade. Every year, thousands of women and children are reported missing from their homes in different parts of the globe. Such victims of trafficking are usually lifted from deprived regions and villages and exported to mainly urban areas within or across borders.

The 'Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children', defines trafficking in persons to mean the use of threats, force, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or other forms of coercion for the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes prostitution, other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Trafficking of women and children is a major issue in India, with people being illegally transported across States as well as being brought in over borders from neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. The main reason for trafficking people is commercial sexual exploitation, though people may also be trafficked for forced labour, marriage, begging, adoption and organ trade.

The Constitution of India - External website that opens in a new window, the fundamental law of the land, specifically forbids "traffic in human beings and other similar forms of forced labour" in Article 23. The welfare of women and children is of vital importance to the Indian Government, with the administration regularly formulating provisions and schemes for their benefit. One of the most promising schemes brought about is the 'Ujjawala Scheme - External website that opens in a new window' designed to liberate victims of commercial sexual exploitation.



Combating Trafficking

'Ujjawala - External website that opens in a new window' is a comprehensive scheme for the prevention of trafficking, rescue and rehabilitation of women and child victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation in India. It was launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development - External website that opens in a new window. It consists of certain mechanisms for the reintegration and repatriation of victims including cross border victims.

The Target Group or main beneficiaries of this scheme are women and child victims who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation as well as those women and children who are vulnerable to becoming victims of this crime. These vulnerable sections include slum dwellers, children of sex workers, refugees, homeless victims of natural disasters and so on.

This scheme is being implemented by various Non Governmental Organizations to provide direct aid and benefit to victims of trafficking. Immediate relief to victims includes the provision of food, shelter, trauma care and counselling to the rescued victims. Later on, victims are provided skill training, capacity building, job placement and guidance in income generating activities to empower them and help them live independently.

The Ujjawala Scheme has five components -

  • Prevention - This part consists of the formation of community vigilance groups and adolescent groups called Balika and Balala Sanghs. It also includes the carrying out of sensitization workshops, seminars and awareness generation campaigns through street plays, puppetry, posters and leaflets. The main aim is to make functionaries such as the police and community sensitive towards the needs of victims of trafficking.
  • Rescue - This component includes creation of a network of contacts that include police, NGO's, women's groups, youth groups, panchayats, hotels, tour operators and so on. These contacts will be used to collect information on traffickers, suspicious people and vulnerable families. It also includes the cost of transportation, food, shelter, toiletries, clothing, trauma care/counselling and medical aid given to a rescued victim and the payment of incentives to decoy customers and informants.
  • Rehabilitation - This step offers refuge to victims in safe shelter homes with the provision of basic necessities such as food, clothing and medical care. It also includes specialized counselling, legal aid, formal or open school education for children and vocational training for an alternative livelihood.
  • Reintegration - This component involves restoring the victim to their family and community, if they desire. It includes the setting up of Half Way Homes, where gainfully employed groups of victims who wish to be reintegrated with the community, work and live semi independently. It also includes the cost of travel for the victim and an escort to her hometown.
  • Repatriation - This is applicable to cross border victims of commercial sexual exploitation. It includes the setting up of transit points at border checkpoints to provide food and other incidentals to the victim. It also includes documentation and cost of travel of the victim and an escort to her country of origin or border.

This scheme can be availed by contacting -

  • Social Welfare/Women and Child Welfare Departments of State Governments
  • Women's Development Corporations
  • Women's Development Centres
  • Urban Local Bodies
  • Reputed Public/Private Trusts
  • Voluntary Organizations.

The government has also recently launched a Web Based Counselling and Information Portal for Women and Children - External website that opens in a new window. This website provides guidance from a noted panel of experts on issues such as missing children, child trafficking, sexual abuse, beggar children and a lot more.

The Ujjawala Scheme is a valuable step in the direction of protecting two vulnerable sections of society - women and children, from exploitation. The scheme aims to empower such victims of trafficking and help them become financially independent, thus improving their standard of living, health and social status. As a holistic, multi dimensional approach is needed to address the complex nature of this issue, it is imperative that civil society, non government organizations and pressure groups also play a proactive role.




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