By Tanya Shrivastava, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.

The past generation of India, our parents, to be more specific, have seen development like none has ever. During the short span of their childhood to becoming parents, a lot changed. The world suddenly had computers, mobile phones, television, which literally left no distance between the nations. Suddenly people changed and started to opt for a more western lifestyle. Suddenly no one around was reliable, but our parents who had been taught since the very beginning that, “the world survives with trust” had a hard time coping with this fact. Consequently, they continued to believe, to trust, to rely, the result of which is that the closest person of the family turns out to be the rapist, the molester, the kidnapper, the seller and thus, the abductor.

Millions of girls and boys will accept that they had been the victim of molestation at some or the other point of their childhood and the molester had been a relative, a family friend or someone who the family trusts. This is relevant here because this is the version of those who, at the end of the day, returned back to their parents, but who knows what those thousands go through who haven’t had a glimpse of their parents since decades, who had been abducted, may be by a similar person, and had been forced to beg, to marry, to be bought or to be transported to some far off country.

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When the vehicle stops at the red light, hundreds of children can be seen begging. Some would have a smaller child in their hands, who is never moving and is mostly on drugs or is dead, and the rest would be missing their legs or eyes or hands or any other major portion of their body. This beggar racket is one of the end results of abduction.

India is a hub of prostitution and has one of the highest numbers of brothels in the world. Most of the sex workers here were sold off by someone and many of those had belonged to good families. Thousands of girls are forced to prostitution every day. This is one of the results of abduction. Innocent children become hardcore criminals or laborers, is this not enough reason to bring about a change?

But the basic question that arises is who is it that has to be blamed? The parents? The Police? The Government? Or the change itself?

Child Abduction is the unauthorized removal of a person from one place to another by force or some deceitful means. Section 362 of Indian Penal Code defines Abduction as:

Whoever by force compels, or by any deceitful means induces, any person to go from any place, is said to abduct that person.

Child abduction is a serious issue not only in India but in major economies like USA too. According to National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 800000 children are reported missing in USA every year.

Abduction can be categorized into two parts:

  • Parental child abduction: it is when a parent removes the child from the custody of the authorized parent in fear of losing the child during or after divorce proceeding. It is sometimes considered as a Criminal offence e.g., in the case of United States v. Fazal-Ur-Raheman-Fazal, Dr. Raheman, father of the child, was charged with the crime of international parental kidnapping who abducted his children from the lawful custody of their mother and took them to India.

  • Abduction by Stranger: a stranger removes the child from under the authority of their guardian. This Abduction mainly leads to kidnapping for ransom, rape and other criminal activities. It is a Criminal offence and is a serious issue in most of the countries. Biggest concern of the countries, i.e., human trafficking, is the most common outcome of child Abduction.

Many steps have been taken to avoid and bring back the already abducted children. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty signed between many countries to facilitate the prompt return of children from one member country to another. Other treaties signed and Acts of USA relating to abduction are—

  • The Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998, 18 U.S.C. 3181, which authorizes the United States to interpret extradition treaties that list “kidnapping” as including the offense of parental kidnapping;

  • The Fugitive Felon Act, 18 U.S.C. 1073, which enhances the ability of states to pursue abductors beyond state and national borders; permits the FBI to investigate cases that would otherwise be under state jurisdiction; and authorizes the use of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrants in family abduction cases; and

  • The Alien Exclusion Act, 8 U.S.C. (A)(9)(C)(I), which provides that any alien who, in violation of a custody order issued by a court in the United States, takes or retains a child out of the United States, may be excluded from the United States.

  • International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, which makes it a federal crime to remove a child from the United States or retain a child outside the United States with the intent to obstruct a parent’s custodial rights, or to attempt to do so.

Further Global Missing Children’s Network has been established which is a joint venture of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) and NCMEC. It is a network of countries to improve the effectiveness of missing children investigations. This network has 22 countries as its member.

India is considered to be a secured place for abductors to reside as it is not a member of The Hague Convention as well as the Global Missing Children’s Network. In the year 2011-14, 3.25 lakh children went missing in India, with an average of 1 lakh per year. Official figures in Pakistan show that 20,000 children go missing every year. One can conveniently point out the population difference between both the countries. But after analyzing the data of the most populous country of the world, the problem will be more apparent. The official figures in China put the number of missing children at around 10,000 every year.

So what can be the reason that even after having such a high figure of missing children each year, there is no special provision or Rule to control the ever increasing human trafficking and other criminal Acts involving children? What led the Supreme Court bench to remark “Nobody seems to care about missing children. This is the irony.”?

Many people claim that westernization in India is the sole cause of the ever increasing criminal activities. But can we blame the sole reason of development to be the reason of crime? Will it be fair to put up an innocent face and blame the rest of the world for everything wrong? No one has the exact answer, we have the laws, and we have the authorities to secure the implementation of these laws. But where do we lack? To avoid crime, people would need to be a little less naive and to avoid criminals; the law would need to be a little less naïve. We have had our share of troubles, now, for a better future, India needs to develop its next generation to be an aware, adaptive and developed generation.

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