Human trafficking is the world’s most lucrative businesses, after smuggling of arms and drugs. A study by Shakti Vahini, an NGO working on anti-trafficking issues, found that 378 of India’s 600 districts are affected by human trafficking. India is a major source and destination for trafficked children and by conservative estimates there are about three to five lakh girl children in commercial sex and organised prostitution.
The National Human Rights Commission estimates that around 45,000 children in India go missing every year. Most of them are driven into prostitution, forced to work at homes and factories, pushed into begging, drug peddling and even in illegal organ trade. For those children who have been trafficked and rescued, rehabilitation remains scarce and reintegration arduous.
Children are not even safe in their homes. A study conducted this year by the Ministry of Women and Child Development says two out of every three children in India are physically abused and in most cases parents and members of the family were the main perpetrators. Also around 54 per cent children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse and states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Delhi are the front runners in child abuse cases.
The study found that children in the age group 5 to 12 reported higher levels of abuse and boys were as much at risk as girls. The high abuse has been attributed to our patriarchal society where parents consider their children as their property and assume the freedom to treat them as they like. Severe physical abuse also takes place outside homes. The most common forms are corporal punishment in schools and physical abuse at work places. The study says 62 per cent of corporal punishment was in government and municipal schools.
The study found that very often crimes against children are not reported, as some crimes are not covered under the existing laws. The National Crime Records Bureau reported 14,975 cases of various crimes against children in 2005 as against 5,972 cases in 2002. But this is only indicative in nature as it is based on reported cases.
There is no comprehensive law on human trafficking, covering all its forms and purposes and the existing criminal laws fail to address the situation of child trafficking. In fact, the Goa Children’s Act 2003 is the only law that defines child trafficking, but this is just a state law and cannot be enforced countrywide.