The 21st century slavery - human trafficking!

Combat modern slavery by being aware of trafficking as well as your surroundings.

As much as the world has tried to do away with bondage and slavery, it is as much present in the current scenario as ever before... in a more subtle yet sure way. More than 21 million people in the world are victims of trafficking. They are de facto 21st century slaves. The increasing scale of both natural and man-made disasters is creating a whole new generation of refugees who are becoming victims of trafficking gangs. Small children have fallen prey to this heinous crime as well.

So what exactly is human trafficking?

The United Nations says that human trafficking consists of 3 elements. This can happen with anyone irrespective of gender, age, colour etc:

The Act – recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons.

The Means – threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.

The Purpose – a reason for exploitation which includes sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or other similar practises and the removal of organs.

The definition of human trafficking provided by the United Nations.

Trafficking in India

India is a country both of transit and destination. There is a considerable degree of internal trafficking as well as some trafficking from India to the Gulf States and South East Asia. No accurate figures can be given because a large number of such transactions go unreported.

India recorded more than 1100 cases of child trafficking in 2019, according to government data. In 2019, Rajasthan saw the highest number of cases where minors were trafficked. Out of the total 653 cases, 636 pertained to boys and the remaining 17 to girls.

Child trafficking is a serious problem prevalent in India. Almost one child disappears every 8 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

The "how" & "why" of child trafficking

Trafficking is a planned conspiracy, and more often than never has many people in one gang. Each has their delegated roles, and as they pass on the child to the next perpetrator, forms an illegal connect. In India, children are trafficked for many reasons such as money, labour, begging and even sexual exploitation.

Girls are mainly trafficked for forced marriages and prostitution.

In some cases, the family routine is carefully scrutinized. They then shrewdly take the babies away from their homes to be bought and sold in the human market.

In other cases, children are tricked into the hands of traffickers by being presented with job opportunities. They show them false success making them dreaming of more. While in reality, the children are getting enslaved. This happens usually without the parents knowing.

But often time, it is the parents themselves who hand their children over to strangers, to work to be able to have some living.

Poverty and desperation lead people to unsafe migration. This also makes them susceptible to trafficking.

Another factor which enables trafficking is the culture of impunity. The same recruiter may traffic many vulnerable children from a village. What makes this easier is that arrests are generally focused on the place of exploitation and not on the perpetrators complicit in other stages of trafficking.

It's not only children who are victims of human trafficking among the minor age category, the traffickers also target infants and newborns.

On one side, the parents of the babies are usually poor, surviving itself is such a big concern. They require money to get through daily life. While on the other, childless couples wait to have a blessing dropped into their home. This creates an ideal situation for the perpetrators. The baby traffickers target poor pregnant women in a slum area.

They approximately charge up to 100,000 rupees ($1365) for a single transaction. Baby girls are sold for 70,000 rupees. The baby boys are given for 150,000 on top of the connection fee.

With the onset of the pandemic, crimes like these are on the rise. Not all were sitting back home, enjoying the company of family members over a game of carrom. Many had to deal with the harsh reality that they were suddenly exposed to, from day 1. The traffickers finding just the perfect excuse delved hard into the business.

Between April to September 1127 children suspected of being trafficked were rescued across India and 86 alleged traffickers were arrested.

Though 90% is done internally, cross border trafficking is also common. It has been estimated that around 200,000 girls have been trafficked into India in the last 7 years. The bribing system at the borders is also structured, involving authorities. Further, multiple passport system makes it easier for the traffickers to push Bangladeshi into limits of Kolkata. They are then sorted and branded to be sent to Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and other hubs.

The government has said that an increase in baby trafficking is reducing the number of children available for legal adoption.

Anti-trafficking cells in India

India signed the Anti-Trafficking Protocol on December 12, 2012.

The main legal instrument in India to prevent human trafficking is the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956. This is supplemented by various other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development started the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women in 1998. The Indian government also enacted a central nodal cell to combat the issue. Even with the presence of all these laws and more, a feeble effort is taken towards the removal of trafficking.

About 59% of adolescents did not know of any way to protect themselves from trafficking. 72% did not know about services that could help them, the World Vision India study found.

Many concerned organisations, human rights activists and NGOs strive to fight against this evil. However, they do not receive strong support from the government. Anti-human trafficking units are currently under-resourced and require more funding. The police lack resources to conduct an in-depth investigation if the child is trafficked from a different state. Governmental cooperation along with the unified procedure is needed. Public help can go a long way in improving the trafficking scene.

Rehabilitation often involves returning the child to the same parents who had initially trafficked them. We have to refrain from thinking that the natal family is always a haven for young children. Innovative strategies of rehabilitation have to be brought to the front.

Advocacy groups such as Bachpan Bachao Andolan estimate that child trafficking in India annually generates more than 17 billion euros in illicit profits. Human trafficking is not simply any economic or health crises, it is much more. It is the crisis of justice, humanity, childhood and the future of an entire generation.

To report: call Shakti Vahini on +91-11-42244224, +91-9582909025 or the national helpline Childline on 1098.

So the next time you're out in public, just be on the lookout...

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