By: JONATHAN ROBERTS
This week, human rights lawyer Tanima Kishore began her year-long position with the Institute as Special Counsel to Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). This marks the Institute’s first embedded expert to work in Uganda. In this role, Kishore will be based in Kampala, assist the ODPP on all trafficking cases in Uganda, and support the development of a specialized anti-trafficking unit.
Kishore is an internationally-trained lawyer from New Delhi, India. She recently completed a degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where she was a Commonwealth Scholarship recipient.
Since graduating from Symbiosis Law School in Pune, India, in 2012, Kishore has dedicated her career to anti-trafficking cases. She previously worked with the Bangladesh National Women’s Lawyers Association’s human trafficking team in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her work focused on providing legal representation for organizations working with victims of sex trafficking.
Tanima Kishore recently spoke with Jonathan Roberts to share about her experience in anti-trafficking work.
Q. What led you to anti-trafficking work?
A. It was during my work in India. Early on in my practice, I became associated with a Supreme Court lawyer. My work with her introduced me to organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking and providing effective and meaningful rehabilitation to the rescued victims. Representing these organizations in court provided me with an opportunity to understand the seriousness and gravity of the issue of human trafficking. My work quickly developed into a passion and commitment.
Q. What surprised you most about human trafficking?
A. Initially, the most surprising—or rather, shocking—part of human trafficking was how rampant it is and how it is easily ignored by our society. A complete disregard by our criminal procedure systems, government, and people in general was something that I found appalling. It shocked me that it was so easy for traffickers to get away with such a heinous crime and so difficult for the victims to obtain any kind of assistance.
My cases in India taught me that the traffickers tend to be one step ahead of the criminal justice system. They know how to manipulate the system to achieve their objectives. In such circumstances, it is the victims who lose out when the systems fail by treating their cases in a routine manner, rather than giving them the special attention necessary.
Q. What do you wish people knew about the reality of human trafficking?
A. Honestly, I want people to learn something about trafficking that would inspire them to care about the issue. For some, that could be the high number of trafficking cases and the low conviction rate of traffickers; for others, it could be the extent that victims are subjected to violence. Every aspect of human trafficking is appalling. It is also necessary that people learn about successful rehabilitation stories. That way, they can be optimistic that, with effort, trafficking is preventable.
Q. What gives you hope to continue working in this field?
A. I draw hope and optimism from the several stories of survivors that I have read and heard. I also draw inspiration from people who work tirelessly for this cause, dedicating their lives to combating slavery.
Q. What will you be doing in Uganda?
A. I will be working with the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, assisting with the country’s human trafficking cases. The objective of my work is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the ODPP’s prosecution of human trafficking cases. I will propose solutions, provide research, and assist in draft wiring for the officers. I will create a centralized database of all human trafficking cases in Uganda. This will pave the way for identifying solutions to strengthen prosecutions. With guidance from the experts at the Institute, as well as the experience of prosecutors in Uganda, I hope to get the system advancing in the direction of justice in trafficking cases.
Q. What excites you most about working in Uganda?
A. It is extremely exciting for me to get an opportunity to work with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in Uganda. It is encouraging to know that the office of prosecutors here is willing and determined to address the issue of human trafficking. It is an absolute honor to be a part of that process.
Q. Why is it important for you to work within the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions rather than from another country?
A. I believe that I will be the most effective and productive by being physically present where the work is happening. In my opinion, it is impossible to completely understand a system without personally experiencing its day-to-day aspects and challenges. To achieve our goals, it is essential that the system is thoroughly understood and analyzed.
Q. What are your reflections on the recent specialized training?
A. The training in Kampala was extremely helpful not just for all the participants but also for me. It gave me an opportunity to understand the Ugandan law on human trafficking and to hear the perspectives of various experts on it. It also served as an excellent platform to be introduced to some of the prosecutors that I will work with over the next year. It was a great, interactive session where many ideas were exchanged, and it instilled an optimism and enthusiasm toward justice for human trafficking cases.