Trafficking calls for urgent State action - Hindustan Times
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Trafficking calls for urgent State action

Nov 04, 2023 10:37 PM IST

Child trafficking networks uncovered in MP and Rajasthan, highlight gaps in the justice system

A recent shocking expose by a news channel about a child trafficking network in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan revealed how girls were sold for as little as a few lakhs, often by family members. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, there has been a surge in the number of persons trafficked in 2019 as compared to the previous two years, as well as an increase in the number of victims rescued. Yet the conviction rate is low, pointing towards a gap in the criminal justice system.

Human trafficking is a manifestation of the larger issues of gender inequity and economic and social marginalisation, which gets further aggravated with weak law enforcement responses. (Representative image- HT Archives) PREMIUM
Human trafficking is a manifestation of the larger issues of gender inequity and economic and social marginalisation, which gets further aggravated with weak law enforcement responses. (Representative image- HT Archives)

Maharashtra has the highest number of persons trafficked, followed by Delhi, Kerala, MP, Manipur and Goa. The major forms of trafficking in women are commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriage, drug peddling, organ removal, child pornography and forced adoption. In fact, Maharashtra and Goa are major global sex trafficking destinations. Kerala, Manipur and Maharashtra are important destinations for transnational trafficking to the Gulf and West Asia. It is also imperative to recognise that other genders may also be victims of trafficking.

Lalitha SA Nayak, vice president of the Society for Participatory Integrated Development, says poverty is not the only reason for trafficking. “In today’s consumerist culture, it is not too difficult to persuade women from rural and semi-urban areas that they could improve their lives and that of their families if they migrate to a bigger town. Women and girls are viewed just as commodities by touts who find it quite easy to lure girls with the promise of employment. Once the victim is in the hands of touts, she is taken to an unfamiliar place for commercial or sexual exploitation, organ trade, domestic work or begging,” she said.

From her work with sex workers in GB Road, Delhi, Lalitha feels the problem begins with a lack of awareness. But on a positive note, she says the women who are trapped in this vicious cycle of exploitation want a different life for their children. Many of their children have today finished professional courses and got jobs. The main problem for women in commercial sex work after being trafficked is that they cannot go back to their homes as they are not accepted into their families, communities or villages. But today, Lalitha says, they are willing to be part of awareness campaigns to ensure that others do not go down their path.

The inadequate responses by and the lack of trust in the police act as a deterrent to reporting cases. The existing inadequacies of official statistics have been highlighted by various national and international organisations. The latter report cases of trafficking in India in the millions, whereas official data reports a few thousand each year.

“Human trafficking is a manifestation of the larger issues of gender inequity and economic and social marginalisation, which gets further aggravated with weak law enforcement responses. A holistic response requires that all programmes and government schemes meant to address social and gender iniquities need to have defined markers to prevent trafficking and associated gender-based violence,” says Nandita Baruah, country representative, The Asia Foundation.

Some of the recommendations made in a report by The Asia Foundation are worth scaling up. One is to institute a legal and policy framework by adopting comprehensive laws on trafficking. There is a need for fast-track courts to try offenders and strictly implement these laws. There has to be greater coordination among different government departments and agencies. The government must also formulate standardised guidelines on the identification of victims and upgrade existing protocols for the investigation of human trafficking cases.

Working with NGOs, the government must develop individual care and exit plans to enable victims in shelter homes to rehabilitate and reintegrate themselves within the community, either with or without their families’ support. The increase in trafficking cases makes it imperative to tackle this insidious problem in a country where official data shows that 1.3 million women have gone missing in the past three years.

The views expressed are personal

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