lawyers in India

Trafficking in Women in India

Written by: Suyasha Jawa - Second Year Law Student, University School of Law and Legal Studies, GGSIP University
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  • Trafficking of human beings is the recruitment, transportation, transfer and receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation (labour/sexual) by coercion, fraud, deceit, threat, abuse of power or position of vulnerability. It is an internationally organized criminal phenomenon clearly indicating human rights abuse. Due to persistent inequalities worldwide, women are more vulnerable to this slavery like practice which is a consequence of structured gender inequality in the form of violence.

    Countries world over are affected in three ways:
    # Home country – where women are lured to leave and join sex industry abroad
    # Transit country – through which women are transported
    # Destination country – where women become victims of exploitation

    The victims are characterized to be:
    # Women and children-key target group due to marginalization & limited resources
    # Impoverished and low income households
    # Ethnic minorities, indigenous people, hill tribes, refugees, and illegal migrants
    # People with low level of education or illiterate

    Trafficking can happen in two ways:

    1. by coercing/trapping/deceiving/influencing the victim – for lack of job opportunities or abroad studies
    2. by victim's consent – in search of better financial opportunities

    Trafficking has now been recognized as a sophisticated and well organized “industry” with political support and economic resources in countries of origin, transit and destination. It is becoming a major source of income and high profits are gained out of it are laundered and fed into other illicit activities (narcotics/arms trafficking). Let us look into what perpetuates and creates this menace.

    Causes: According to the UN, a major factor that has allowed the growth of trafficking is "Governments and human rights organizations alike have simply judged the woman guilty of prostitution and minimized the trafficker's role."

    Following reasons justify the persistence and development of trafficking:

    Feminization of poverty - Corruption in government
    Gender discrimination - Political instability
    Lack of education - Deprivation and marginalization of poor
    Lack of employment opportunities - Insufficient penalties against traffickers
    Regional imbalances - Forced/false marriage (for migration)
    Economic disparity - Porous borders
    Social discrimination - Advanced communication technologies

    Methodology And Techniques Used:

    Now the question arises, how does all this process work and operate within the system and breeds under concealment? Traffickers operate through reputable employment agencies, travel agencies, entertainment companies, advertising in newspapers or marriage agencies. Children are also notably trafficked through use of adoption procedures. Victims are obliged to pay heavy debts, their passports and money is taken away, they are threatened with violence, are beaten up or physically restrained and raped and they feel trapped in their situation as illegal immigrants. Given the procedure of its operation, let us now look into what impact trafficking has on the societal level.

    Trafficking is both a human rights and developmental issue with following implications:
    # the human, social and economic costs of the sex industry
    # the spread of venereal diseases and HIV/AIDS
    # child prostitution deprives children of the opportunity to pursue education
    # deprives the nation of vital human resources for development

    Statistical Data : Trends And Intensity:
    What do the surveys tell? Its shocking to know what researchers claim to have collected in terms of just the numeric data At world level, estimates reach as high as 7,00,000 women and children being moved across international borders by trafficking rings each year. United States State Department data estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. If this was not shocking enough, look ahead:
    # Over 1,20,000 women and children are trafficked into western Europe.
    # An estimated 14,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year.
    # Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally.
    # In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand.
    # The phenomenon of re-trafficking has also been noted as one new and developing factor.
    # More specifically, trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation has increased in recent years in parallel to the development of the sex industry.

    Organisational Initiatives: Collaboration of Ngos And Government:

     What has the government done in response to this social evil? The protection and support of victims of trafficking and most importantly the prevention of trafficking is a special responsibility for governments. For this purpose, the engagement and involvement of the NGOs (which derive their actions from conventions like the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the additional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons) becomes important. But the question remains:
    How can government co-operate with the NGOs to develop measures for better protection and support of women and children and prevent their re-victimization?

    The strategy of operation urges an increase in the information exchange between states in order to determine:
    # whether individuals crossing an international border are perpetrators or victims
    # the type of travel document that individuals have used to cross the border
    # means and methods used by organized criminal groups for trafficking in persons
    Related Laws: International Legal Instruments: What legal actions and legislations have come to overcome this troublemaker? Have the governments world over made an effort to mitigate it? Trafficking has been abhorred worldwide and intense international cooperation and support has been received to curb this menace.

    Following legislations are currently in operation:

    # Thailand: Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC)
    # Thai Authorities : The Trafficking in Women and Girls Act (Anti-Trafficking Act) of 1928 – growth of Thai brothels
    # The Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1960 : control prostitution
    # United States :The Entertainment Places Act of 1966 : control on recreational activities flourishing
    # The Thai Penal Code of 1956
    # Thailand: The Thai Immigration Act of 1979
    # Thai Legal Instruments : Prevention & Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996
    # Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000

    International Support:
    Co-operation with third countries: Combating and preventing trafficking is a shared responsibility between the countries of origin, transit and destination. The real, long-term impact of the various initiatives will be greatly reduced if they are not matched by actions in the countries of origin and of transit. Furthermore, it is essential to ensure that countries of origin are prepared to re-integrate the victims who return because often victims fall in the hands of traffickers a second time or face difficulties re-establishing themselves.

    Women victims of trafficking are in general being recruited in social circles in which they are in a position of vulnerability both from material and psychological viewpoints. Efficient support for, assistance to, and protection of victims requires a multidisciplinary approach characterized by:
    # providing safe reception and rehabilitation
    # confidential medical, social and psychological care and legal assistance
    # education, social support, job training and repatriation to the home countries
    # stricter administrative controls of working conditions
    # co-ordination in social & health inspectorates & law enforcement services
    # any victim of cross border trafficking will not have valid immigration papers leading to some states treating them as a criminal
    # states must end up the practice of ranking and privileging some victims over others, eg. "innocent" victims v. 'irresponsible" or "guilty" victim

    Challenges Faced In Rehabilitation Process:

    Despite the rehabilitation process so undertaken , it has been realized that several drawbacks and backlogs hinder the proper outcome from coming out. These are:
    # Any program must first and foremost return control to the victims since only when enough space is created for victim to see herself again as a person, not an object of sale does she become a survivor
    # Sometimes in interrogation processes states focus on victims for the information they can provide or their usefulness to the criminal justice system. The danger is that states treat the victims as merely a pawn in a struggle between the state and the trafficker
    # States need to see and respect the humanity of all victims and work with victims/survivor in a way that demonstrates their commitment to protect their equality and dignity
    # Government must reject the practice of criminalizing victims of trafficking and placing their lives at risk through summary deportations or their psychological well being at risk though detention or imprisonment

    Based on my analysis of the whole issue and what has been done, I propose that the following suggestions can help take us a long away in curbing this hazard and erasing this bacteria of trafficking at global level:
    # Raising awareness amongst potential victims, police and clients of prostitution
    # Unconditional protection to victims ( no agreement to give evidence,etc)
    # No penalties for victims in countries of origin, transit or destination
    # Protection and support must be provided to victims
    # Destination countries must establish mechanisms for legal migration
    # National legislation should ensure the right to compensation to victims
    # Prevention strategies in countries of origin must be reflected in poverty reduction and social development strategies
    # Governments must develop a comprehensive witness protection mechanism
    # Governments must strengthen legislation against all perpetrators of trafficking including transnational criminals
    # Comprehensive and grounded sociological research must be conducted

    It is only through the sensitization of the issue that trafficking can be shattered into pieces. The world must wake up to this menace in time and criminalize it by raising ethical considerations on the issue in the civil society. By addressing to the problems of poverty, unemployment and gender inequality this illegally established and settled industry can be thrown away from this world's sphere.

    Trafficking in Women and Children - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:
    Trafficking in Women and Children is the gravest form of abuse and exploitation of human beings. Thousands of Indians are trafficked everyday to some destination or the other and are forced to lead lives of slavery.

    Victims of Trafficking:
    The illicit and clandestine movement of persons across national borders, largely from developing countries and some countries with economies in transition, with the end goal of forcing women and girl children into sexually or economically oppressive and exploitative situations for profit of recruiters, traffickers and crime syndicates, as well as other illegal activities related to trafficking.

    Extent to Which Immoral Trafficking is Addressed:
    The most comprehensive definition of trafficking is the one adopted by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime in 2000, known as the “UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,” 2000 under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). This Convention has been signed by the government of India.

    Child Trafficking: Role for Judicial Activism:
    The 1949 Convention against trafficking gave rise to the first Indian law against trafficking- The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Women & Girls Act 1956.

    Commercial Sex Workers:
    The commercial sex worker has been a universal being throughout civilization as prostitution is the so-called "oldest profession". The earliest known record of prostitution appears in ancient Mesopotamia.

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