Child Trafficking: India’s silent shame
On June 20 2014, John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, made his inaugural speech on releasing the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). In his speech, he has re-iterated the seriousness and resolve of the US government to address and fight this human tragedy that is happening around the world. He has stated categorically that the US Government will raise this issue with all countries as and when they engage with them for other issues.
According to the report, there are over 20 million persons trafficked for various forms of exploitation worldwide. It is estimated that the global business generated through direct and indirect human trafficking, is in the region of $15.5 billion.
TIP has classified each country narrative based on Prosecution, Protection and Preventive measures by each country and has classified them into Tier-1, Tier-2, Tier-2 Watch List and Tier-3 categories, with Tier-3 being the lowest classifications, thereby inviting punitive action. The report severely indicts Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Gambia and has reduced them to the lowest ‘Tier-3’ status, which places them amongst the failed states that are more or less dysfunctional, poorly administered and with little regard to international law.
Countries already on the list include countries that are currently in conflict such as Syria and Central African Republic and also include North Korea, Yemen, Mauritania, and Zimbabwe amongst others. The downgrade in status is surely going to attract sanctions from the US and other developed nations and it remains to be seen how these countries respond and take measures that should have been taken by now.
Four countries that came close to being downgraded to Tier-3 status but just got away are Afghanistan, Maldives, Barbados and Chad.
Countries that have not signed up with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime include: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka besides developed countries like, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Child Trafficking Facts
Human Trafficking defined in the 2014 TIP:
- “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
(Reference: TIP Report)
A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.
According to a 2002 WHO Report, 150 million girls and 73 million boys were subjected to various forms of sexual assault. The numbers could be much higher, as many children and their families do not report such incidents due to social stigma and fear of being socially ostracized.
According to Childinfo.org, the UNICEF June 2011 Study based on surveys carried out from 2000-2009 reported that 12% of children in South Asia, between 5-14 years, were engaged in child labour. In India, 5% of girls aged between 15-19 years were victims of sexual violence.
Poor record in South & Central Asia
The 2014 TIP Report states the poor record of prosecutions in the region by all countries. In 2013 only 7,124 victims were identified. 1,904 were prosecuted and 974 were actually convicted. This is in the backdrop of the fact that there are over 12,000-50,000 women and children who are trafficked into India every year, according to estimates by several NGOs. Over 300,000 children are involved in begging. A very large number of children are involved in forced labour in various industries. The poor rate of prosecutions show that the governments in the region need to do much more and India must take a leading role by involving all stakeholders to fight this massive social problem.
Statistics on Human Trafficking in India
India should consider itself lucky not find mention in the list of Tier-3 countries given the fact that India is a major point for sourcing, destination and trafficking of women and children. However, India is included amongst the Tier-2 countries, as per the US Government’s 2014 TIP Report. The problem is real and widespread.
The report clearly refers to the existing situation of human exploitation and trafficking that involves men, women and children in India. Over 90% of the trafficking is done within the borders and 10% is from overseas. The problem is spread over various forms of exploitation. Trafficking of women and young girls from Nepal and Bangladesh into India for sexual exploitation is the most common. These girls from poor families and often in the age group of 9-14 years are brought into India and sold to brothel owners in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, amongst several other cities. Not all are kidnapped or forced out of their homes in their native lands. Many are sold by their parents or close relatives to get away from abject poverty.
A lot of young boys are trafficked into India for work as bonded labour in industries like coal, brick kilns, handloom and embroidery, rice mills and agriculture. They are made to work up to 16 hours a day in return for subsistence food and very little or no money. These children are often sexually exploited by their owners and beaten or tortured in cases of non-compliance.
Several young boys from Bihar find their way to factories in Nepal, while young girls from Nepal are brought through transit points of Raxaul and Gorakhpur to be sold to traffickers in India. Kolkata is a major transit point and destination for girls and women coming from Nepal and Bangladesh. The trafficking network is well established with deep involvement of government officials, police at the borders and within the states and in some cases politicians, all of whom profit from this activity that has now taken the shape of an industry.
India is also a transit point for young boys who are sent to Dubai and other Middle-East countries for camel racing. Very often these young boys are sexually exploited and kept as bonded labourers. Another area where children are frequently sent to is Saudi Arabia, where begging is an organized billion dollar industry, especially during Haj. In India, begging syndicates often maim children and put them on to streets to get maximum collection from them.
According to the National Human Rights Commission of India, over 40,000 children are reported missing every year of which over 11,000 remain untraced. It is in this backdrop, that the recent discovery of child trafficking into Kerala has got the government’s attention. Children from various states were being brought into Kerala by train. At the station, they were stopped and the persons who were escorting them couldn’t come up with an acceptable reason as to why they were being brought in to Kerala. All escorting adults were arrested and now the Kerala High Court has ordered a CBI investigation into the matter.
Recommended actions to be taken by Government and Society
The TIP Report clearly mandates that all governments have to focus on:
The governments need to redefine laws to make them more stringent and ensure severe punishment delivered quickly. The Government must ensure that the necessary and effective infrastructure is in place to identify, arrest, prosecute all involved in the trafficking chain. Unless the entire chain feels the heat of the prosecuting agencies with active support from NGOs and Civil Society, our children will continue to be threatened by this social evil.
The time to act is now. Remember it could be your child next.
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