Questions and Answers related to human trafficking

What is human trafficking?
Currently, India does not have a complete definition of what human trafficking is. Although there is The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act of 1956, it only refers to trafficking for prostitution and does not cover or provide protection for any other forms of trafficking. However, The United Nations has a very comprehensive definition of what trafficking constitutes and India ratified this in 2011.
“Trafficking in persons” shall mean 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 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.” ~ (Article 3, The United Nations protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons).

What are the forms of trafficking?
Forced labour or services, slavery tafficking for child marriage (girls from Haryana), sexual exploitation (sex tourism, illicit international adoption, recruitment of child for soldiers and
beggars, servitude or removal of organs, these cases are also being reported).

Are children in India trafficked?
India is home to the largest child abour force of 13 million (Indian statistics) and 35 million (according to UNICEF statistics). Among these children, 20% are trafficked for commercial sex or prostitution 80% are trafficked into force labour (child domestic workers, working in brick kilns, stone quarries, embroidery factories, carpet looms etc) NGO (unofficial figures) state that 60 million children in India are in servitude 30, 000 tribal girls from West Orissa have been trafficked to Delhi 40, 000 tribal girls from all districts in Jharkand are trafficked to Delhi (approx 20,000) and remaining trafficked to Surat, Ahmedabad, Bombay and recently there has been a demand in Bangalore.
Non-Tribal girls from Jharkand from Giridih, Devghar, Bokoro, Dhanbad are trafficked (mainly Muslim girls) to the Gulf countries through false marriages 80% are trafficked into force labour.

What are their working conditions? 
These children work in terrible conditions and no law has rescued them from this form of exploitation. The children endure difficult circumstances where: They have long inhumane working hours, do not get paid wages or get a partial payment at the end of their contract, not allowed to contact family members, no rights or rules for employers to follow therefore children are vulnerable to abusive situations. Sexual abuse is a common phenomenon experienced by these girls. Children also suffer from emotional displacement.

What legal provisions in India address trafficking? 
India does not have one concrete legal document that deals with the trafficking issue; rather there are different legal provisions in various acts, legislation and documents that outline that trafficking is a human rights violation.
The Constitution of India Articles 23, 24 and 42 address this.
The Indian Penal Code section 342,365,367 and 370 all address trafficking in person.
The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act of 1956 tackles trafficking for commercial sexual
exploitation (forced prostitution).
The Child Labour Act 1986 address issues of forced child labour.
The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1976 deals with trafficking for bonded labour.

Are there any international provisions that deal with the trafficking issue? 
Under international commitments India is obligated to deal with trafficking under the ILO Conventions (138 and 182) as well as the Convention of the Rights of the Child (Article 32) and the United Nations protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. However, the current scenario that is in place demonstrates that India is not fulfilling its international commitments.

What are some challenges NGOs and activists face in anti-trafficking work?
NGOs face a lot of reluctant attitude from the law enforcement agencies such as police officers, higher level officials such as the SDM. The perception and attitudes towards trafficking is bias in that many law enforcement officials believe that due to poverty, hunger and other socio-economic issues, trafficking is inevitable and is just a reality that needs to be expected. The system needs to overcome this issue of attitudes and subjectivity and shift towards a human rights angle where the law and courts make judgments on justice. Often times the police hesitate to register cases due to a lack of trafficking of all forms, upon severe pressure they will accept a complaint but will not file a case. What is not understood is that this is a violation of fundamental human rights and a threat to the integrity of the entire system of law and governance in the country. Also, trafficking cases are not a priority issue as the police are busy with other work. NGOs critically need police support and cooperation, for investigation purposes and rescue operation. NGOs have many limitations and these are the areas that the police can be extremely useful.

What is the parliamentarian’s role in all this and how can they help?
Initiating a Parliamentary debate on trafficking laws in India in order to broaden and enact an inclusive law vis-à-vis the existing anti-trafficking laws as it mainly deals with one form of trafficking i.e. for commercial sex/ prostitution. Identify the most affected states in India in order to formulate policies that can counter trafficking. Like the case of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam, which are most vulnerable states can be mentioned. Constitute independent anti-trafficking cells in each district police headquarters and ensure that cases are filed. Ensure release, reunion and repatriation of the victims with their families and
rehabilitation. Separate budget allocation for trafficked victims and their rehabilitation (transitory homes for counseling, vocational training, food, shelter and education). Separate budget for law enforcement officials (including police) for their training, re-orientation and recruitment. Ensure the fulfilment of the right to education.

Should we not deal with certain trafficking cases (such as the child marriage case) through a social framework rather than looking at it through a legal viewpoint?
NO. We should not be dealing with trafficking from a socio-economic perspective when it has happened. We need to think about it from a human rights perspective where this grave crime commits numerous violations of fundamental human rights which is contradictory to our national laws as well as our commitment under the child rights convention which has been ratified by our government. Instead, we must look at it from a health perspective as people suffer tremendously physically, emotionally and psychologically. Most importantly we must address it from a legal perspective by which laws that have been enacted need to be followed and those that have committed a crime need to be punished to prevent this illegal criminal industry from flourishing. Once we start dealing with this issue from a social perspective, biases begin, discrimination occurs and attitudes are formed and these cases will be dealt with subjectively rather than looking at the larger human rights violations.

With the case you have shared with us, did you tell the trafficked girl she would be provided with security if she were to leave? 
Yes, she was told that security would be provided to her, however she was brain-washed and threatened prior to our discussion. As such she was very scared and was not willing to risk her life or family’s life. Traffickers often use scare tactics that terrify the victim as such we know she refused not by choice but out of force and fear.

When India is plagued with poverty should children not be provided with work to assist their parents financially? What can our forum do about this as it links with trafficking?
India has a Child Labour Act of 1986 which clearly states that a child under 14 should not be employed at all, therefore this should be followed and enforced. Unemployment or lack of minimum wage is the reason that many families are living under the poverty line. However, employing child labour will not help the family rise out of poverty, instead it will further perpetuate the cycle of poverty as the child will remain illiterate, uneducated and more vulnerable for exploitation. More importantly cheap child labour replaces adult labour as such the rate of unemployment increases. If child labour was not available, companies and vendors would not resort to cheap labour rather they would employ adults and ensure the minimum wage as a surplus of labour would not be available if children were not sent to work. Therefore, from an economics, development and rights perspective it would be best to not provide work to a at least child under 14 as per our constitution. We need to ensure that police officials register the cases from where the child has gone missing and more importantly make certain that the laws that are in existence are enforced and breachs are addressed by demanding for accountability of law enforcement agencies.

The law is ineffective at the moment, so what can we do to strengthen the law? Should we amend laws on trafficking, so they are more comprehensive in dealing with this issue?
In order to strengthen the law we need to improve and pressure our law enforcement agencies to act on such cases and to take them seriously. In addition to this amendments should be made to various legislations to include trafficking in those acts, currently there is The Immoral Traffic Prevention Amendment Bill, 2006 which is being discussed in parliament, such amendments must be made in order to ensure that trafficking is clearly outlined and stipulated in our domestic laws. However, this is not enough as we should design legislation that is more comprehensive and is inclusive of all forms of trafficking in doing so we do not need to refer to all the different acts and provisions on trafficking which is making implementation intricate. Rather one piece of legislation that encompass the entire matter of trafficking is urgently needed as this will enable law enforcement to be straightforward. Also by ratifying the UN trafficking protocol we are obligated to introduce some sort of national trafficking legislation.

How are we going to ensure implementation of these laws?
Firstly, we need to ensure that there is a trafficking legal cell in each police department in every district that will take complaints, file the cases and conduct an investigation. Police officials need to take these cases seriously and accountability needs to be ensured. NGOs can work in collaboration with police departments to ensure implementation of the law, awareness and accountability. Secondly, we need to ensure that all people are educated on these laws from the rural villages, panchayat leaders, government officials, corporations, NGOs and health officials – EVERYBODY needs to become aware.

In cases of trafficking, should minor children be asked where they would like to stay, with the trafficker or their parents?
Minors should not be able to decide whether they want to go or stay because they do not have the capacity to decide on their own what is best for them and their future. Also, they maybe living under fear and may not be able to truly voice what they want to do.

What else can the government do?
The government needs to make certain that trafficking is prevented by ensuring that social infrastructure is in place and functioning correctly. Firstly, free and compulsory education needs to be provided to all children as per the 93rd amendment of the constitution act, this is not happening due to various reasons and is one of the main causes children seek employment opportunities and are lured away into trafficking. Secondly, we need to ensure that the child labor act of 1986 is amended by banning all forms of child labour under the age of at least 14. If these steps are taken the government will be contributing to preventing human trafficking however action needs to take place. Moreover, due to unemployment many poor families cannot provide food for their as a result they go hungry and starve as such the right to food for these children must be ensured by providing them with three meals a day through government schemes with
assistance of panchayat. Lastly, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) provisions providing 100 days of work per household, this employment needs to be secured and guaranteed as it is the lack sufficient employment in the rural areas that drive families to send their children to cities for employment. Some measures are required at the village/grassroots level, to protect the children from abuse, trafficking and other infringements of children’s rights.

Do we have any other suggestions on what can be done further?
We need to hold a larger scale meeting/symposium/conference regarding this issue of trafficking on a more formal and on a higher level. Henceforth, the law enforcement officials, our prime minister, supreme courts, commissioners and health officials will all be present and become aware and understand one of India’s modern day challenges. Through discourse together we can establish the necessary steps of intervention. In addition, we need to propose a resolution that can be moved in parliament to amend the law and to deal with this issue further.