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Mixed reviews for south Asian nations in trafficking report

HONG KONG (UCAN): While China fell in ranking in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 (see page 3) issued by the State Department of the United States of America (US) on June 27, south Asian nations continue to fall short in their attempts to combat human trafficking and protect victims, but are making significant efforts.
The report ranked Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India among 44 countries on the list of Tier 2 nations.
The Union of Myanmar improved slightly from Tier 3 in 2016 to the Tier 2 Watch List of Nations that require special scrutiny.
Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, said the global figure of some 20 million victims of human trafficking illustrates there is still much work to be done.
“Regrettably, our challenge is enormous. Human trafficking is becoming more nuanced and more difficult to identify. Much of these activities are going underground, and they’re going online,” Tillerson said.
The report defines Tier 2 countries as not fully meeting the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, at the same time are seen as making significant efforts to ensure their activities against human trafficking meet the standards.
During the reporting period, Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan increased the number of investigations and prosecutions of traffickers, while Sri Lanka made a significant increase in its prosecutions. The respective numbers for Bangladesh, however, decreased.
The report recognised both India and Bhutan for their improved performance on the identification of victims, but says they did not necessarily provide adequate protection services during the reporting period.
The report says that the government of war-torn Afghanistan has “demonstrated increasing efforts by enacting a new law on human trafficking in January 2017 that attempts to reduce conflation of smuggling and trafficking, and criminalises bacha baazi, a practice in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment.”
The government also opened 15 child protection units that prevented the recruitment of more than 300 children into the security forces in 2016.
However, the report says official complicity remains a serious problem.
In addition, efforts to tackle human trafficking in Bangladesh have worsened.
While the country has finalised and adopted the implementing rules for the 2012 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act and drafted an implementation road map for the 2015 to 2017 national action plan, government investigation, prosecution and convictions of trafficking crimes decreased from the previous period during the most recent reporting time frame.
The report adds that the Bhutanese government demonstrated increasing efforts to identify its first potential trafficking victims, and to investigate and prosecute under its trafficking law. 
However, the country’s laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking and government understanding of trafficking crimes remained poor and it was unclear whether identified victims received protection services or not.
The Indian government demonstrated improved efforts by increasing the number of victims identified, investigations completed and human traffickers convicted.
A much larger budget has been allocated for shelter programmes for female and child trafficking victims and a plan of action has been adopted for children, which includes plans to prevent child trafficking and protect child victims.
However, the report says the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas, including overall victim identification and the protection of victims, remains inadequate and inconsistent.
It also noted that the conviction rate and the number of investigations, prosecution and convictions were disproportionately low relative to the scale of trafficking in India, particularly with respect to bonded and forced labour.
A report on modern-day slavery released by the United Kingdom-based Walk Free Foundation says two-thirds of an estimated 45.8 million people enslaved worldwide were living in Asia as of May 31 last year.

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