The Roots of Human Trafficking

Whenever people assume positions of political power in any country, they are endowed with the responsibility to tend to all matters affecting that country. These issues, whether internal or external, have a significant impact on the growth of that country. While growing tensions on the external front, such as India’s deteriorating relations with China & Pakistan, are openly discussed and debated, the evils arising from within the contours of a nation are often ignored. In India, for instance, one of the serious internal complications to deal with is that of human trafficking.

As per the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Person under UNODC, ?trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability.? Trafficking is considered as one of the most serious violations of human rights. Women and children have long been stereotyped as the most gullible and sensitive sections of the society.

Their perceived vulnerability is evident from the fact that it is they who often become victims of human trafficking. One of the many trafficking scandals that occurred in 2015 alone saw around 8000 women transported to Dubai against their will and subsequently forced into sex-slavery. The statistics for child human trafficking are even more horrifying- the National Crime Records Bureau has estimated that every eight minutes, a child goes missing. In the year 2012, it was found that around 60,000 children had gone missing from across India, out of which 20,000 children remained missing. According to Childline India, the problem of child trafficking takes place across borders, with children being trafficked to neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.

Human trafficking is a horror that inevitably leads to sexual exploitation of its victims. Women are forced either into prostitution, slavery, or both. Many a times, women are duped into traveling to other nations on the pretext of being paid large sums of money in return for work. Traffickers present themselves as well-meaning agents who promise a better future to vulnerable women by assuring them of legitimate work aboard. The victim’s families are often lured into such transactions with false promises of welfare, leading a better life and education for their children in return. Children are traded in the business of sexual exploitation as well. They become victims of bonded or forced labor. They are coerced to work in factories before they even reach the legal minimum age for a person to work lawfully.  They are forced into working as workers in various mechanical fields- embroidery, handlooms, rice mills, coal and brick kilns or at various restaurants. Additionally, these children are also pushed into begging on the streets; Their body parts, such as their eyes and hands, are amputated in order for them to earn sympathy induced brownie points.

Trafficking, as stated in the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, is illegal in India.  Convicts can be sentenced to a term for a minimum of seven years and extending to life imprisonment. At the same time, forcefully recruiting children for labour in factories is prohibited under the Bonded Labor Act. Protection has been extended to children through juvenile Justice Act and Child Labor Act as well.  Despite such stringent laws, the cases against trafficking have only seen a rise in the past few years.

In a report published by The Indian Express, it was found that there had been a massive increase in the number of cases registered under section 366- A of our Indian Constitution in 2013. With a jump from just 237 cases in 2009 to 1224 cases registered in 2013, the increase amounted to a souring 416 percent.

Poverty has been cited as one of the reasons behind this increase. Apart from this, certain social factors have also encouraged trafficking. Orthodox people still perceive girls as a ?burden?. Thus, in cases where a family is both poor and have a girl child, the family resorts to trading their girl child for money. Due to widespread poverty and orthodox mentality plaguing our society, the problem has become an epidemic for India.

As per the 2014 Trafficking In Persons Report, around 20 million people have been affected by this issue across the globe. According to the same report, 90% instances of human trafficking in India take place within its borders. The maximum number of cases of human trafficking in India occur in Delhi. More often than not, minor girls and women are the chief targets. These statistics only provide us with a brief peak at the seriousness of the situation; they leave to our imagination the actual scale of the epidemic. The citizen’s safety will remain a mere fable lest the authorities wake up from their lethargic slumber and ensure implementation of appropriate measures to eradicate modern slavery.

– Contributed by Shivanshi and Pragya, Students of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Journalism

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