"Those who have the privilege to know to have the duty to act."- Albert Einstein
Human trafficking is one of the most talked about issues in Indian society. The
practice is nothing but slavery in disguise. Every household somehow or the
other witness the practice of subjugation in form of bonded labour or
exploitation of human beings. India's rank in the Trafficking in Person
Report:2021 among "Tier:2" nations is a reflection of the lack of measures taken
to fully meet the minimum standards for the eradication of trafficking in India.
The Government of India Act, 1935 gave the definition of trafficking as:
"Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, recruits, transports, harbors,
transfers, or receives, a person or persons, by using threats, or using force,
or any other form of coercion, or by abduction, or by practicing fraud, or
deception, or by abuse of power, or by inducement, including the giving or
receiving of payments or benefits, in order to achieve the consent of any person
having control over the person recruited, transported, harbored, transferred or
received, commits the offense of trafficking.
The expression "exploitation"
shall include any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual
exploitation, slavery, or practices similar to slavery, or servitude. The
consent of the victim is immaterial in the determination of the offence of
trafficking" which is a reflection of the deep-rooted and ancient nature of the
In India, the definition of human trafficking in pragmatism was also given as
early as 1953, in the case of Raj Bahadur v. State of W. B. as "traffic in human
beings mean to deal in men and women like goods, such as to sell or let or
otherwise dispose of. It would include traffic in women and children for immoral
or other purposes."
It is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade across
the globe. whereby leading to heinous violation of human rights that occurs all
over the world. It's basically, a form of modern-day slavery, a violation of
human rights that is both a crime against the individual and a crime against the
As per article 3, paragraph (a) of the United Nations Protocol to
Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol, 2000),
trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring
or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of
coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a
position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits
to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the
purpose of exploitation.
Exploitation may include the prostitution of others
or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or
practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the subtraction of organs. It can
happen in any community and victims can be of any age, race, gender, or
Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of
well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.In accordance with the Crime in India Report, 2020 released by
National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), A total of 1,714 cases of Human Trafficking
were registered in 2020 as compared to 2,208 cases in the year 2019, showing a
decrease of 22.4%. A total of 4,709 victims have been reported to be trafficked
of which 2,222 children and 2,487 adults were trafficked. Apart from this, 4,680
victims have been rescued from the clutches of traffickers. A total of 4,966
persons were arrested in 1,714 cases of trafficking.
The Hon'ble Apex court in Vishal Jeet v. Union of India very rightly observed
"It is highly deplorable and heartrending to note that many poverty-stricken
children and girls in the prime of youth are taken to 'flesh market' and
forcibly pushed into the 'flesh trade' which is being carried on in utter
violation of all cannons of morality, decency, and dignity of humankind. There
cannot be two opinions-indeed there is none-that this obnoxious and abominable
crime committed with all kinds of unthinkable vulgarity should be eradicated at
all levels by drastic steps"
Causes and Modes
Poverty, societal or cultural practices, and migration are the primary causes of
human trafficking. Other factors include the permeable nature of borders,
corrupt government officials, involvement of transnational organized crime
groups or networks, and immigration and law enforcement agents' weak capacity or
willingness to police borders. It can be said that Poverty, globalization,
social structures, natural calamities, and government are all highly influential
on the supply side of bondage.
Trafficking, particularly of women and children,
is influenced by a number of circumstances. There are two types of causes that
contribute to the trafficking of women and children: push and pull forces. The
push factors include poor socio-economic conditions of a huge number of
families, poverty, and frequent, practically yearly natural calamities such as
floods, leading to the virtual destitution of some people.
Lack of education,
skill, and income opportunities for women (and their family members) in rural
areas, lack of awareness about human traffickers' activities, pressure to
collect money for dowries, which leads to sending daughters to distant places
for work, dysfunctional family life, domestic violence against women, low status
of girl children, etc.
According to the case studies, extreme poverty and other
forms of hardship not only encourage people to fall into the hands of
traffickers, but they also provide a motivation for some to do so. Prostitutes
who have no other choice but to stay in the exploitative atmosphere often form
close bonds with the traffickers and follow in their ways.
The pull factor includes the lucrative job offers in big cities, easy money, the
promise of better pay and a luxurious lifestyle by trafficking vendors and
agents, demand for teenage women for marriage in other regions, demand for
low-paid and underage sweatshop labour, growing demand for young children for
adoption, rise in demand for women in the rapidly expanding sex industry.
Legal Framework Against Human Trafficking In India
Indian laws have criminalized sex trafficking and some forms of labour
trafficking. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalized trafficking
offenses that tangled exploitation that involved any act of physical
exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery, or practices parallel
to slavery, and servitude.
The law did not clearly mention labor trafficking.
The said Section prescribes penalties extending from seven to 10 years
imprisonment and a fine for offenses concerning an adult victim, and 10 years to
life imprisonment and a fine for those concerning a child victim; these
penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking,
corresponding with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as
kidnapping. However sec.372 and 373 of IPC criminalize the exploitation of
children through prostitution without requiring a demonstration of such means,
thus addressing this gap.
These sections prescribe penalties of up to 10 years
imprisonment and a fine, which is also sufficiently stringent and proportionate
with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Section 374
punishes individuals who compel other individuals to labor against their will
with imprisonment up to one year or fine or both. In addition to the
above-mentioned sections, there are some other provisions in the Indian Penal
Code, 1860 which deal with the menace of human trafficking like Section 366(B),
which deals with the importation of girls under the age of 21 from foreign
countries with an intention to force or seduce her to have illicit intercourse,
Section 366(A), which prohibits the inducement of any minor girl under the age
of 18 to go from any place or to do any act that such girl may be forced or
seduced to have illicit intercourse with any other person. Furthermore, the
supreme law of the land, the Indian constitution in some of its articles deals
with a heinous crimes and its preventive measures.
These articles are: Article
23, which specifically prohibits human trafficking, beggar, and any other
similar practice, Article 39 which states that females and children should not
be forced by monetary necessity to enter unsuitable occupations; and that
children and youth should be protected against exploitation, Article 39 -A,
which emphasizes on maintenance of a legal system where people are not denied
justice because of their financial conditions or other disabilities. It is
noteworthy, that Articles 14, 15, 21, 22, and 24 of the Constitution also
comprehend certain provisions relating to human trafficking.
Besides the Constitution of India, the Government prosecutes sex trafficking
crimes under other legislations like the Protection of Children from Sexual
Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO), which deals specifically with the rights of children
and trafficking offenses against them as The Indian Penal Code, 1860 does not
cover all kinds of sensual crimes against children. Its main agenda is to
strengthen provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and
The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 (ITPA), criminalizes various offenses
relating to commercial sexual exploitation. Section 5 of the Act prescribes
punishment for any person who is involved in any kind of inducement or
procurement of another person for the sake of prostitution.
Section 4 provides
for punishing any person above the age of 18 who is earning of prostitution of
some other person. Section 6 of the Act provides punishment for a person who,
with or without consent, detains another person in a brothel or other
prostitution establishment with the goal that such detained person has sexual
relations with anyone who is not his or her spouse.
Moreover, Section 3 of the
Act mentions about the penalties of a person who operates a brothel or allows a
brothel to operate on his property, or who is in control of a brothel, either
directly or through a renter, occupier, or other person. Apart from the
aforementioned sections, Sections 7, 8, 18, 20, 21, 22 A and 22 B deals
explicitly with the crimes related to prostitution, that paves way for the
Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994, which states in Section
11 about the prohibition of elimination or transplantation of human organs for
any purpose other than therapeutic purposes. Section 19 of the Act mentions
about commercial trading in human organs.
It also illuminates that it penalizes
those who search for eager people or offer to supply organs and such traffickers
and identical practitioners shall be punished with imprisonment for a tenure
which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to ten years and
shall be liable to fine which shall not be less than twenty lakh rupees but may
range to one crore rupees. Under the ambit of this Act the offenders may include
traffickers, procurers, agents, intermediaries, hospital or nursing staff and
medical labs and their technicians tangled in the unlawful transplant
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 states, that the responsibility for compensating
victims of human trafficking is split between the Central government and
individual states. Section 357 and Section 357-A CrPC are substantial to be held
responsible for this. When it comes to the penalty itself, a fine or a sentence
the fine can be passed on to the victim under Section 357 CrPC.
Even if that is
not the case, Section 357-A CrPC provides for a fund - a State fund - that can
be used to compensate victims of any crime (not just human trafficking) who have
suffered loss or injury. It does not, however, specify the type or extent of
The menace of human trafficking has contaminated Indian society. It jeopardizes
the dignity and well-being of trafficking victims while also violating their
human rights grossly. There are a number of laws prevalent in India but we have
to give a second thought when it comes to their practical implementation. In
many parts of rural as well as urban India where people are not educated, they
don't even know about the laws made for their safety and protection.
There is a
huge gap between the people for whom the laws are made and the legislations made
for them. In order to combat trafficking and thus shield the human rights of the
vulnerable section of society, the strong political will of the government along
with the impactful acts of privileged and educated people is vital in
implementing the anti-trafficking laws.
Technical assistance and cooperation
need to be strengthened to help all countries protect victims and bring
criminals to justice. The Government should take more steps to encourage gender
sensitization and education on the equal and respectful relationship between
both genders, hence preventing violence against women also.
There should be
clarity on the central and state government directives for the operation of
protection plans and compensation schemes for all the trafficking victims and to
ensure that states provide release certificates, compensations, and no-cash
benefits to all the victims as soon as possible.
- Raj Bahadur v. State of W.B., 1953 Cal 129
- Trafficking in Person Report: 2021
- Arunima Bose, "Human Trafficking" (2020 SCC OnLine Blog LME 3 Human
accessed 25 June, 2021
- United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons (Palermo Protocol, 2000), article 3, paragraph (a)
- Crime in India Report, 2020 [released by National Crime Record Bureau]
- State of India's Environment in Figures 2020 [published by the Centre
for Science and Environment]
- Vimal Vidushy, Human trafficking In India: An analysis[http://www.shram.org/uploadFiles/20180319102934.pdf]
- Indian Penal Code, 1860 [s 370,372,373,374, 366(A), 366(B), 354,
354(A)(B) (C) (D)]
- PSA Pillai, Criminal Law 13th Edition
- The Constitution of India (Bare Act, 2018)
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO)
- Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 (ITPA) [ s 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 18,
20, 21, 22 (A)(B)]
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
- Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
- Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)
- Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994 [s 11, 19]
- Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 [ s 357, 357(A)]
- Vishal Jeet v. Union of India, AIR (1990) 3 SCC 318
- Swarnim Burman, Law Student Of Ajeenkya Dy Patil University, Pune
- Syed Zainul Hasan Rizvi, Law student of Unity PG & Law College Lucknow.