As per the women and child development estimates, 3 million women in India fall prey to traficking annually in the country and 40% of these are minors. The country needs to face its moment of truth. India has been placed on the US human trafficking tier 2 watchlist for not doing enough to curb human smuggling.
"Whatever makes a man a slave takes half his worth away", Pope said. Indeed, human trafficking is a modern day slavery where human beings are exploited by treating them like commodities for profit. It is contrary to the fundamental belief of all societies that people everywhere deserve to live in safely and dignity. Victims of human trafficking who comprise of young children, teenagers, men and women are subjected to involuntary servitude and sexual slavery by force, fraud or coercion. Human smuggling, especially of women and children has become a matter of serious national and international concern. Sources confirm that nearly 800,000 victims are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide and around 150,000 of them within and around the borders of South Asia alone. The fact is that after drug dealing and illicit arms smuggling,human trafficking is the world's third largest organised crime, and growing by leaps and bounds. Commercial exploitation of the vulnerable sections of the society has led to massive growth of slave trade into a multimillion dollar business. According to the FBI, this organised crime generates $9.5 billion in revenue each year.
Unfortunately, India's record of prevention of trafficking in persons remains abysmally poor. There can be no two opinions about the fact that the problem has been under-estimated and ignored in our country. As per the women and child development estimates, 3 million women in India fall prey to traficking annually in the country and 40% of these are minors. It is shameful that even as our leaders continue to bask in their election victories, the US has placed India on the second worst category of human trafficking watchlist. "India is a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation", says the trafficking in in persons report recently released by US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Despite continuing to be the most favoured destination for human smuggling, India has failed to improve its ranking again this year and has been placed on tier II watchlist. The ranking implies that though the country is making some efforts, it has failed to meet the minimum anti trafficking standards and is therefore listed with 52 other countries that are under watch for failing to tackle the problem.
The report further says that India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Every year 5000-7000 Nepales girls are trafficked into India with the result that there are more than 250,000 Napalese girls and women in Indian brothels. They become easy prey to people involved in human trafficking as they are either sold by their parents or tricked into fradulent marriages or worse still, promised employment in cities only to find themselves in entertainment houses. Children from Nepal are also trafficked into India for forced labour in circus shows. Men and women from Bangladesh and Nepal are tracfficked through India for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation to Middle East. There are also victims of labour trafficking among the thousands of Indians who migrate willingly every year to the Middle East, Europe and the US to work as domestic servants and low skilled labourers, the report says. Many a times these workers become victims of exploitation as well as physical and sexual abuse by their ruthless employers in the destination countries. Even in India itself, women and girls are trafficked within the country for commercial exloitation and forced marriage. Other purposes for human smuggling in India include forced prostitution, marriage, domestic labour and bonded labour. In India there are millions of children from poor families who are subjected to forced labour by working in factories, as domestic servants, as beggars and agricultural workers. They have even been used as trained combatants and human bombs by some insurgent groups. Rich people in gulf countries also use them in camel races. It must not be lost sight of that human trafficking is not limited to sex trade alone but also for purposes like forced labour, commercial gay and lesbian relationships, to hire wombs, domestic slavery, organ transplantation and begging as well.
Inarguably, poverty is a crucial contributing factor for the rise in human trafficking in India. At the heart of the problem also lies underdevelopment and unemployment. It needs no reiteration that a vast majority of trafficked women are from poor, landless families or belong to dalit, adivasi and low caste communities. Girs from tribal areas and poor villages are most vulnerable to trafficking in sex trade as the need for money is high for their parents. This motivates them to sell their children for paltry sums without even caring for their security. There is also a strong connection between the problem of trafficking and the girl child who faces the higher risk of being sold at birth, living as we are in a gender biased society. For example, 40% of the children trafficked in India are from within the country while 60% are from other countries. This is precisely the case with Mandala, Sidhi, Reva, Katni and other tribal majority areas of Madhya Pradesh where the number of cases pertaining to missing girls is on a high. Though they are lured by lucrative job offers and promises of a better life, the unfortunate reality is that they land in metros like Mumbai and Delhi for being pushed into the sex trade. In some places, socio-cultural practices also motivate women, girls and minors into such shameful acts. For instance, the Northern districts of Karnataka such as Bijapur and Shimoga encourage prostitution in the garb of religion by offering minor girls to gods and godesses. Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP are the high supply zones for women in prostitution. Bangalore is one of the five major cities in India which together account for 80% of child prostitution in the country.
Despite the magnitude of the problem of human trafficking, India has failed to show evidence of increasing efforts to tackle the menace. Though the government boasts of working for the uplift of these tribes and underpreviledged people, it has not strucked at the root cause of trafficking as the much touted development schemes are not reaching the poor and backward classes. Even as India faces the prospect of being moved to tier III blacklist next year, most states in the country are still not combating the crime as a priority.
Though the government feels that efforts are being made to check human trafficking, many problems like lack of punishment of traffickers and low conviction rates seriously impede India's ability to effectively combat this problem. Also, some of these criminals have political connections. The complicity of some law enforcement agents with the Mafia who control the sex industry makes it difficult to apprehend such criminals.
Notwithstanding the fact that Indian constitution prohibits human trafficking and successive governments have formulated enough laws to check the problem, we lack the will to enforce them. Consequently, these laws have failed to act as a deterrent for those involved in trafficking. They know that even if they are caught in the dragnet, they can escape easily as prosecution will take years. Besides, efforts to protect the victims of trafficking are inadequate and there is no agenda for their rehabilitation. The law cannot address all of these. The society also cannot remain callously indifferent to a problem that should worry us all. It also needs to contribute its mite to ensure that such activities do not blossom and the trafficking crisis is averted.