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IJM Staff Teach Innovative Human Trafficking Course for Law Students

In May 2021, IJM Mumbai completed its first full run of an innovative, five-month elective program for students at a prestigious local law school. The team’s goal was to build a sustained interest and ability within these law students to address human trafficking—helping to embed key knowledge and IJM’s theory of change in the next generation of the legal system.

This summary article provides background on the course and what students learned in 2021.

Focusing on the Future

Since 2000, IJM Mumbai has partnered with the justice system to bring sustainable change in its response to the crime of human trafficking. While working with state prosecutors, IJM’s contracted legal consultants have faced innumerable challenges—from insensitivity toward victims to defense lawyers’ delay tactics—and have had to find sustainable solutions to ensure sex trafficking trials were handled in an efficient way.

This experience led the team at IJM Mumbai to propose the idea of a university-level course on human trafficking, to be introduced in law colleges in the state of Maharashtra. Most law students today will be a part of the justice system tomorrow—whether they join the government, join NGOs, work with other lawyers, or start their own practice. As officers of the court, it is crucial to IJM’s theory of change that all of these lawyers are trained and sensitized to handle cases of human trafficking well.

Therefore, as part of our vision of partnering with agents of change to influence governments and garner political will, IJM approached the esteemed Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU) and proposed the “Elective Course on Human Trafficking: Constitutional Safeguards Legal Framework & Litigation.” MNLU was excited by this project and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January 2020, and from there IJM staff leveraged their experience and expertise to create the content and design the curriculum.

Elements of the Course

To ensure the success of this project, the IJM team prepared a detailed strategy and implemented it in distinct phases:

  1. Promoting the elective course through a series of high-profile guest lectures: As a rule of the university, for any course to be run, it would need a minimum of 20 students signed up. To generate interest and sign-ups, IJM promoted the course to students through a series of guest lectures by high-profile stakeholders in the justice system and IJM global experts. The first guest lecture took place in November 2020 with the Hon’ble Rtd. Justice Roshan Dalvi, who narrated her experience presiding over cases of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation as a judge in the Bombay High Court. In January 2021, Atty. Lucille Dejito—a seasoned lawyer with the IJM Cebu office—was invited to conduct an online guest lecture on anti-trafficking and cybercrime. By the end of these two guest lectures, 26 students had signed up for the elective course
  2. Course design and execution: After the success of the guest lectures, IJM and MNLU staff designed the structure and delivery of the curriculum, divided into six lecture units: Introduction to Human Trafficking; International Law and Human Trafficking; Constitutional Law and Human Trafficking; Indian Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking; Practice and Procedure to Combat Human Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children; and Rehabilitation and Restoration. The Course began in February 2021 and—despite the COVID crisis and the lockdown—moved ahead with 60 lectures between February and May 2021. We employed diverse teaching methods throughout the course—sometimes featuring guest speakers from IJM or other agencies, or sometimes breaking the class into teams for mock case exercises.
  3. Research papers and presentation: To monitor the impact of the course, the students were further required to write research papers on certain topics and prepare presentations for the class. The students chose a varied range of topics like human trafficking as an organized crime, economic theory and human trafficking, rescue and rehabilitation laws, constitutional safeguards for protection of victims, and others. The team teaching them conducted the presentations, reviewed their papers, and shared constructive feedback. Students appreciated these projects, as they got the opportunity to research topics like sex tourism, child soldiers, international trafficking law, or caste discrimination. They also demonstrated a thorough understanding of human trafficking as a crime, which was evident through their in-depth research and confident presentations. The IJM team made sure students were kept engaged during class by raising topics of debate and showing informative videos on the crime of human trafficking.
  4. Setting up and conducting examinations: IJM evaluated the course and the student’s progress with creative mid-semester and end-semester examinations. We presented hypothetical situations and application-based questions which would allow students to apply the laws taught to them in various scenarios. The team framed this exercise based on their real court experiences while handling sex trafficking cases. The MNLU faculty was impressed with the three-question papers created and submitted by the team. IJM was in charge of reviewing these papers and grading them accordingly.

Impact for Law Students

The successful implementation of this project had the desired effect of engaging with target entities to bring about a change in the way the crime of human trafficking is addressed. IJM Mumbai’s association with one of the best law universities in Maharashtra is a step towards engaging with partners who can influence and mobilize communities to protect the poor from violence.

“Students are the agents of tomorrow, who will drive change and bring reformation to the justice system,” one IJM staff member reflected. “Many students who signed up for this course expressed a change in their perspective of anti-human trafficking work as a career choice. Many who initially thought that legal career choices were limited to corporate law or general litigation expressed an interest to volunteer at organizations such as IJM and take up anti-human trafficking work as a full-time career.”

Staff at MNLU were also greatly encouraged by the engagement and impact of this first-of-its-kind course and are already strategizing on how to offer it again and sustain it over time.

The positive impact of this project in bringing together so many young minds to want to work in the anti-human trafficking sector has encouraged IJM Mumbai to extend this elective course to other law universities in Maharashtra, and India, to bring about sustained reformation to justice systems around the country.

Image: In January 2020, IJM Director of Operations Melissa Walavalkar signed a MOU with Maharashtra National Law University to collaborate on future endeavors, including an innovative elective course on human trafficking for law students.

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