Vijayawada: Anti-trafficking activists, survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation have demanded that the State government set up and activate Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in all districts as per the advisory by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Addressing the media here on Saturday, Meharuneesa, State convener of Vimukthi, recalled that the Women Safety Division of MHA issued an advisory on July 7, 2020 asking all the States and the Union Territories to immediately set up new Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in all districts to prevent trafficking during the pandemic.
“Many sex workers have been forced to take loans under exorbitant rates of interest during the lockdown because they have not had access to free ration or Jan Dhan funds from government,” she said. “The unregistered local loan sharks, especially operating in red light areas, are encouraging women with adolescent girls to take loans. When they are unable to repay their loans, the sex workers would be compelled to force their daughters into prostitution. The local police stations don’t have time to take anti-trafficking measures, which is why the AHTUs need to be active in taking measures to prevent debt bondage and trafficking,” she said.
Nimmaraju Rammohan, secretary of anti-trafficking organisation HELP, emphasised the pandemic has increased the levels of trafficking, especially that of children. One study conducted by Sanjog – India, found that only 27 per cent of the units were operational and that 225 AHTUs existed only on paper in the country. In AP out of 13 districts only three AHTUs were established.
The HELP and VIMUKTHI highlighting the reasons for the failure to implement the MHA guidelines recommended the setting up of a strict timeline to ensure appointment of AHTUs in all districts. They stressed the need for regular checks by nodal agencies like MHA and State Home Department to assess the operations of the existing AHTUs and setting up monitoring units in the CMO or the office of Home Minister to ensure the functionality of the AHTUs. They also called for developing an SoP to enable efficient inter-departmental and inter-State coordination keeping in mind the varying natures of trafficking prevalent in the country.