Human Trafficking: An Analysis

By Monika Dilip Banode, Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.

The major focus of the article is the status and conditions of the victims of human trafficking and Legal framework for combating and preventing human trafficking. Human trafficking, as we all know, is one of the most serious crimes in the world. Despite increasing global attention and significant responses human trafficking is today a very tragic reality. It is hard to imagine that world which talks about love, peace, and brotherhood among fellow human being, indulged in atrocious activities against the same.

Moreover the crime of human trafficking has received immense international attention as a social problem and area which need to study over the past decade. Since law enforcement has a critical role to play in combating trafficking and it is unfortunate that in India the enforcement part of various laws provided for combating human trafficking is not that effective. The newspaper reports in contemporary arena as well as reports of voluntary agencies suggest that apart from Bangladesh and Nepal, India is the country where human trafficking is outsized. The national laws of the South Asian countries have been inspired by developments at the international level. International instruments have remarkable bearing on the States Parties and their national laws. Upon ratification of a convention, a State Party must suitably amend or frame laws so as to implement the treaty. In the event of a void in the domestic law, the courts can look into the provisions of international law as long as they are consistent with the Constitution or the laws of the land. Article 51 of the Indian Constitution requires the state to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations.

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Human trafficking has a history with ancient time and has existed in various forms in almost all civilizations and cultures. It is a trade that exploits the vulnerability of human beings, especially women and children and leads to complete violation of their human rights. It makes human beings objects of financial transactions through the use of force, duress or deception, for various purposes, chief among them for commercial sexual exploitation and for exploitative labour. India, one of the largest democracies in the world, has constitutionally prohibited traffic in human beings and has enshrined the right to be free from exploitation as a fundamental right of every person and contravention of same is also made punishable.[1]

Most of these victims, some as young as 10 to 14 years old,6 are from segments of society that are highly marginalized by caste and tribal discrimination, as well as socio-economic deprivation[2].Other victims are trafficked from neighboring countries, including Nepal and Bangladesh. Approximately 80 per cent of human trafficking is women and girls and up to 50% are minors. In 1904, Millions of men, women and children are victims of human trafficking for sexual abuse, forced labour, and exploitation globally.

India also was one of the earliest parties to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others of 1949,[3]and it claims to have implemented this treaty within its domestic legal system through the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act (SITA) of 1956, subsequently amended and renamed the Immoral Trafficking is nothing but the violation against humanity 200 years ago and it still is today.

It is not only national issue but also an international issue. Reliable global data are limited, but the number of victims is believed to be reaching endemic proportions. Data taken from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report on trafficking in persons document the trafficking of human beings from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries.[4] By conservative estimates, the cost of trafficking in terms of underpayment of wages and recruiting fees is over $20 billion.[5] Human trafficking is the largest crime after drugs and arm trade across the world. What was even more worrisome was that India was the starting point or transit point as well as destination area for the traffickers.

There was a strong indication from the available information that women and children were becoming exposed to trafficking as they were unable to survive with dignity because of lack of source of revenue options. Equally it is still acknowledging that the trade in trafficked human beings is a global phenomenon, in particular the “trafficking into Europe”[6].

Moreover the crucial problem is that human trafficking, being a highly private and concealed trade, remains mostly under-reported and unguided in spite of the fact that numerous international initiatives have been taken to drive governments into action. On the other hand the problem of human trafficking mainly in India is not only due to lack of political will on the part of states to provide sufficient means for fight against the same but also due to low priority for the law enforcement and justice delivery agencies, there is lack of synergy among various departments of government like police, women, health ND children.

The term Human Trafficking means “the process whereby people are being recruited in their community and country of origin and transported to the destination where they are being exploited for purposes of forced labor, prostitution, domestic servitude, and other forms of exploitation”[7]. For the purpose of study, the working definition of trafficking which was adopted has been stated in the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational.

Organized Crime, 2000, to which India is a signatory The recognized definition is given by World Bank that “shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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 shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs[8].

When we look into question that why human trafficking is increasing in India we find that fundamental theory of demand and supply is applicable to this situation. As men for work purposes generally migrate from one country to another country for commercial activities and from here the demand for commercial sex is created. To fulfill this all sorts of efforts are made by the suppliers like abduction of young girls and women hails from poor family. Not only the supplier but parents in tribal areas also think that sending their kids for such means a better life in terms of education and safety. Girls and women are not only trafficked for prostitution but also bought and sold like commodity in many areas of the world just for sexual exploitation. On the other hand child labour is also prevalent in our society though it is illegal.

Moreover, for the girl victims of trafficking the end point is a brothel, for boys it is hard labour in poor working conditions at abysmally low wages. On being procured the children is subject to a chain of traffickers who exploit them a lot, instilling fear through threats and punishments so that the victim eventually becomes submissive and obeys all orders. Eventually it is reported that Overall that almost 50 per cent of the persons in the networks of the traffickers are women, although, as expected, the “master” traffickers are men. The most surprising thing is that the victims of trafficking are treated as criminals and moreover 14,000 persons arrested every year under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956.

The 3 most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage and these are the biggest sector of trafficking in the world.  Debt bondage is another form of human trafficking in which an individual is forced to work in order to pay a debt. On the other hand sex trafficking affects children as well as women and also involve the forced participation in commercial sex acts.

[1]  Indian Constitution 1949, Article 23

[2]See Jubilee Action, Child Prostitution in India, May 31, 2002, available at http://www.jubileeaction.co.uk/reports/CHILD 0/ 20PROSTITUTION% 20IN / 201NDIA.pdf [hereinafter Child Prostitution]; see also Preda Foundation, Children as Sex Workers in India, Nov. 10, 1998, http://www.preda.org/research/ecpat9905 1.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2006) [hereinafter Child Sex Workers]. [accessed on 07/10/2014]

[3] Suppression of human Trafficking – available at  http://www.helplinelaw.com/bareact/index.php?dsp-immoral-traffic  [accessed on 07/12/14]

[4]Human Trafficking: http://www.ungift.org/doc/knowledgehub/resource-centre/GIFT_Human_Trafficking_An_Overview_2008.pdf  [accessed on 06/12/2014]

[5] See International Labour Organization (2009), The Cost of Coercion

[6] Wylie G. and Mc Redmond P.; Introduction: Human Trafficking in Europe, chapter 1, pages 1 – 16, in Wylie G. and Mc Redmond P.: Human Trafficking in Europe, Character, Causes and Consequences, Palgrave MacMillan, 2010, p.7.

[7]Trafficking in person- available at worldbank.org/EXTSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/Resources/244362-1239390842422/6012763-1239905793229/Human_Trafficking.pdf [accessed on 06/12/2014]

[8]  The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, General Assembly resolution 55/25. Available at http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/a_res_55/res5525e.pdf [accessed on 07/10/2014]

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