The parliament, on Tuesday, initiated debates over the amendments that were proposed to the Maldives Anti-Human Trafficking Act.
The most notable amendment in the bill, submitted on behalf of the state by Jeehan Mohamed, the Parliamentary representative of Lhaviyani Atoll’s Hinnavaru constituency, seeks to broaden the legal definition of human trafficking to distinctly include exploitation of expatriate workers for undue advantages.
The current definition of human trafficking has posed challenges when attempting to press charges against companies that have hired expatriate workers through deceit and force them to provide labour without pay.
The new bill proposes to individually criminalise various actions that may take place within the illegal process of human trafficking as well.
According to the bill, the following instances may count as human trafficking if it is carried out by exerting influence, threats, deception, misusing a senior position, or paying off someone who can exert influence:
- Bringing in people from a foreign country or sending people abroad from their present base in Maldives
- Transporting persons from one location to another within Maldives
- Assuming responsibility for, or housing a person imported into Maldives under the aforementioned circumstances
- Recruiting person(s) for a job or manual labour
If the person is treated as such, even if one has obtained a decree of consent, the bill proposes that such actions are classified as human trafficking, if there is evidence that said consent was given under duress, or by plainly exerting influence and/or manipulation.
The bill also proposes to include an article under Section 59 of the Act, stipulating that the state can collect funds generated by human trafficking, as well as funds and assets used to carry out human trafficking.
Per the amendment, funds and assets will be collected under the policies Criminal Procedure Code.
The amendment adds that funds collected in this manner will be then spent to provide assistance for victims of human trafficking.
Exploitation is also prohibited under the bill, which lists acts such as withholding an individual’s passport, rumoured to be a common practice in Maldives, as exploitation.
Upon submission of the bill, MP Jeehan stressed that the existing laws do not criminalise various methods used in human trafficking, which results in a continued failure to hold human traffickers accountable.
She added that amending the Anti-Human Trafficking Act aimed to work towards achieving the standard highlighted in the the United Nation (UN)’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
The year 2020 saw various protests led by expatriate workers in Maldives, amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives.
Violations reported include that of including human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.