Trading children

Trading children

The proposed Offences Against Children Bill, 2005, attempts to address
the legal loopholes through which child traffickers slip.


CHILD RIGHTS ACTIVISTS demand that the draft under consideration be
into law.
MALA is barely 11. Clad in tattered clothes, hands and feet grimy with
continuous rummaging through garbage in and around New Delhi railway
station, she is often subjected to beating by her `uncle’ for not
picking up enough after a day’s work. She is often forced to go begging
to compensate for the deficit. Mala and her nine-year-old brother Sonu
go through life in the same mechanical way day in and day out. Nobody
knows where the children came from, or who their parents are. The
children themselves say nothing except that they are “looked after” by
their chacha (uncle), who brought them to the city from the village
after a big flood.
Try probing them more about the uncle and they scamper away.

Mala and Sonu are among thousands of such children who can be seen
roaming the streets begging, asking for alms in the name of shani
rummaging at garbage dumps, or selling cheap books and other things at
traffic signals. One also comes across small children doing
back-breaking chores at dhabas, restaurants and hotels as domestic
servants. Has anyone ever stopped to wonder who these children are,
where they come from, or why they are here? They rarely beg or sell
wares for themselves. The awful truth is that children are bought and
sold like commodities and used for commercial purposes, making cheap
profits and facilitating illegal acts.

Child-trafficking, traditionally associated with only trafficking for
commercial sex, is growing fast in India. The authorities, apparently
unaware of the magnitude of the problem, have made no attempt to
mitigate it. No wonder then that there is no reliable data available on
the issue in India.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), every year an
average of 44, 476 children go missing. Of these 11,008 are never
traced. The NHRC, in its report “Action Research on Trafficking in
and Children in India” (2002-03), suggests that many of the missing
children are not really missing but are instead trafficked. Most end up
in adoption, marriage, labour markets or working in the entertainment
industry, of which sex tourism is the most recent aspect.
if activists are to be believed, many victims are pushed into this
world by their own parents or guardians.

According to figures provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, in
2004, as many as 2,265 cases of kidnapping and abduction of children
qualified as forms of trafficking and were reported to the police.
Of these, 1,593 cases were of kidnapping for marriage,
414 were for illicit sex, 92 for unlawful activity,
101 for prostitution and the rest for various other things like
begging and even selling body parts. Most of these children (72 per
cent) were between 16 and18 years of age. Twenty-five per cent were
children aged 11-15 years. This is the tip of the iceberg; the malaise
runs much deeper and many cases go unreported.

India’s poor track record in this regard has drawn flack from the
States government. Its Trafficking in Persons Report (June 2005)
described India as a “source, transit, and destination country for
women, men, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual and
labour exploitation”. It also criticised India for its lackadaisical
attitude to implementing laws.

The report said, “The Government of India does not fully comply with
minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking… the quality and
magnitude of the government’s anti-trafficking response, particularly
the law enforcement area, are seriously insufficient relative to
huge trafficking in persons problem.” The U.S. report placed India on
its Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year “for its inability
to show evidence of increased efforts to address trafficking in
particularly its lack of progress in forming a national law enforcement
response to inter-State and transnational trafficking crimes.”

While one may or may not agree with the premises on which the U.S.
department made these observations, one cannot argue with the lack of
comprehensive law on human trafficking in India. According to a report
prepared by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, a non-governmental
organisation (NGO) spearheading the national Campaign Against Child
Trafficking, the “absence of law and inability to register a case as an
offence of trafficking make it difficult to assess the magnitude of the
problem as well as maintain statistics for investigation, arrest,
prosecutions and convictions in the context of human trafficking”.

There are no laws that specifically target child-trafficking. Child
abuse cases are handled under various sections of the Indian Penal Code
, which are laws meant for adults. Commercial sex-trafficking offences
are handled under the Immoral Traffic
(Prevention) Act. Labour-trafficking offences are handled under the
Child Labour Act for those hazardous industries in which child labour
considered an offence. There is no law prohibiting employment of
children in work outside the definition of “hazardous”.

As a result, many cases of trafficking are not booked by the police.
“Begging or giving alms or selling wares at traffic signals is an
offence, but has even one single conviction taken place so far?” asks
Praveen Bhatt, secretary, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

One positive development in this regard has been the preparation of a
draft by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Offences
Against Children Bill, 2005,in circulation since January this year, is
hailed by child rights activists as a landmark document; it is the
time that a law specifically aimed at protecting children’s rights has
been under debate.

“So far there was not a single law aimed at safeguarding children and
protecting them against abuse. Offences against children were so far
booked under laws under the IPC, which at times failed to result in
prosecution and conviction simply for the reason that crimes involving
children need to be handled with different tools,” said Rajmangal
Prasad, director, Pratidhi, another NGO active in the field of child
rights. According to him, if the proposed draft does become law, it
go a long way to check child trafficking because specific sections in
the draft deal with precisely this issue.

Furthermore, the definition of trafficking goes beyond trafficking for
commercial sex. The proposed document has specific sections dealing
various offences against children, including sale/transfer, sexual
assault, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, commercial sexual
exploitation, child pornography, grooming for sexual purpose, incest,
corporal punishment, bullying and economic exploitation. The document
makes it clear that provisions in this law will be in addition to other
legislation within the IPC and the Juvenile Justice Act because these
laws do not separately cover persons who commit crimes against children
and some other categories of children under various circumstances of
abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Child rights activists are calling for the draft under consideration to
be made into a law so that the suffering children have some hope. As
first paragraph of the document states, “although India has the second
largest child population in the world, there is no separate legislation
to deal with offences against children”. It is high time it was

It may soon be curtains for babies’ day out at Preet Mandir

It may soon be curtains for babies’ day out at Preet Mandir
Child & Welfare Dept seeks Centre’s nod to clip agency’s global wings
Sunanda Mehta
Pune, June 26 FOLLOWING the recent controversy over alleged malpractices by the city-based adoption agency, Preet Mandir, the State government has sought the Centre’s permission to cancel the inter-country adoption licence. For Preet Mandir’s head J S Bhasin, who not too long ago attributed Pune’s emergence as an important centre for adoption in the country — ‘‘…this is the mandi, the market for babies’’ — this has come as a rude shock.

Football Stitching Kills Tender Dreams

Football Stitching Kills Tender Dreams

New Delhi, 27 June, 2006. While the World Soccer Cup 2006 has stormed the heart and mind of people all over the world, the dream of thousands of children in several villages of Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh is seized in football stitching, which they follow at the cost of their right to study and play, and to fetch some earnings for the family.
However, the earnings of these children are pathetically meager and they barely get Rs. 3-5 for producing a football. Working long hours stitching just two balls in a day, they burn themselves out and their health is severely impaired, resulting in fragile eyesight and bruised fingers. These deprived children of lesser God do produce football, yet never dare playing with balls. Access to schooling and acquiring education is a distant dream for them.

On 26th June 2006, few children from these villages revealed their stories of agony, trial and exploitation in a Press Conference at Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi (India). Normally the entire family including the minor children is engrossed in football stitching. About 6-7 members of the family work hard for long hours in a day to produce about 10 balls and barely manage to earn Rs. 30-40 in a day.

Uma, a nine year young girl, who helps her mother, sisters and brothers in stitching soccer balls, informed that she was enrolled in class III in the primary school in village Kherki in Meerut district. However, she does not go to school. The teachers do not teach and remain involved in activities other than teaching. Out of desperation, she prefers helping her family in stitching balls and makes some earnings.

One can see the bruises, wounds and pus that have formed through piercing of needle on the tender fingers of 11 years old Musharad, She has never gone to school. Her mother informed that her children did not get admission in Government school and she could not afford to send her children to private school. Now the entire family is engaged in football stitching to feed itself and survive. The contractors exploit families involved in soccer ball stitching and never pay in full. Normally payments are delayed also.

Sabana, aged 12 years, has been stitching balls since young age. Her mother informed that they never get their due wages. They barely get Rs. 3-5 for a soccer ball, which is available in the market for not less than Rs. 80-100. Their health is severely impaired, resulting in poor eyesight and bruised fingers. Often needle pierces the fingers, resulting in pus formation and septic. Forward bending results in severe backache. She demanded that at least Rs. 20 should be paid for stitching a ball.

Kailash Satyarthi, the Chairperson of Global March against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which have been involved in struggle at national and international levels for elimination of child labour from soccer industry, addressed the Conference. Mr. Satyarthi informed that Global March mounted a massive campaign during FIFA World Cup 2002, appealing to the FIFA, sporting goods manufactures and the world at large to focus on the plight of children working in sporting goods industry, especially in football manufacturing units. Our efforts resulted in announcement by FIFA to introduce code of conduct in collaboration with the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and specifically the monitoring of the elimination of child labor in India and Pakistan’s soccer ball industry. However FIFA has failed to implement the code of conduct. Today the Pakistan (Sialkot) and India (Jalandhar and Meerut) are the largest producers and exporters of soccer balls. Around 10,000 children are involved in football stitching and manufacturing of other sports goods in Jalundhar and Meerut. After removal from Sialkot, several thousand children have engaged in sports goods manufacturing in nearby villages.

Mr. Satyarthi said that Global March, ILO and ICFTU are mounting pressure at various levels for elimination of child labour. As a result, international sports goods manufacturing companies have taken some positive steps. Some result can be seen in Sialkot and Jalundhar. Yet, a lot has to be done. Mr. Satyarthi appealed to football players, spectators, sports lovers, students and clubs to promote only those footballs, which are free from child labour.

Mr. Satyarthi informed that Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) is trying to develop about 10 villages as child friendly villages in Janikhurd block of Meerut. Our efforts are geared towards ensuring that all children go to school instead of stitching balls, receive good quality education in schools, and have their own democratically elected Bal Panchayat, who would work with the Village Panchayat. BBA has successfully developed Pohli village in Daurala block in Meerut as Child Friendly Village. Today all children of this village regularly attend school and have elected their own Bal Panchayat, which contributes significantly to Village Panchayat in development work.

Mr. Kailash Satyarthi said that BBA is mounting pressure to ensure that minimum wages are paid to adult workers and children do not make footballs. BBA is trying to bring quality change in the situation of education in these villages.

Bar girls from Bihar eyeing Gulf

SASARAM (Rohtas):
[ Friday, June 23, 2006 12:11:28 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

With little chance of relief in the immediate future despite a favourable court order, about 100 former dance bar girls from the state are willing to bid goodbye to their motherland and settle in any Gulf country to eke out a living. The ban on dance bars in Maharashtra had forced these girls to return home in different part of Rohtas district. However, their home could not even guarantee them two square meals.

Girls at risk as ever

The Kathmandu Post, June 24
Girls at risk as ever
DARJEELING, June 23 – Orphaned at age three, Nima grew up with her neighbors in the shadow of Mt Makalu.
Today she’s 15 years old. And in the shadow of Kanchanjungha, in this predominantly ethnic Nepali hill town in northeast India, she is struggling to grow into a normal woman of dignity. But only after she got trafficked, exploited and sexually abused by her “relatives” who shipped her out of eastern Nepal.
That happened about two years ago. Then she was just 13. “My grandpa brought me to this place via Dharan and …,” she narrates as her teachers seated next to her in her dormitory encourage her to speak. She was sexually abused en route. At her distant folks’ place at nearby Alubarai village here, more exploitation followed.
Months later, she fell ill. Suffering from rheumatic fever, she arrived at Edith Wilkins’ School with one of her friends. It was there that she got a new life. Nima is just one among 233 other children — mostly Nepali girls — benefiting at this shelter by the Chaurasta slope.
By all standards, these kids are lucky. But there are many more unlucky ones. They are in the thousands in impoverished pockets of Nepal and other areas in the Eastern Himalayas such as Sikkim, Darjeeling, Assam, North Bengal and Bhutan, say experts. They are trafficked for child labor — and a life of bondage and slavery in the fast-emerging “sex markets” across India.
From eastern Nepal alone, around between 1,500 to 2,000 children — among them teenage girls — are trafficked across the border into this part of India every month, according to a recent study by the Edith Wilkins’ Foundation, India, and Maiti Nepal’s eastern branches at Ilam and Jhapa.
About 30 kilometers from the Nepal border, the bustling town of Siliguri serves as transit to North East India, mainland India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
In worst cases, says Wilkins, 48, who’s spent 24 years in West Bengal with the needy, “Children are also traded like animals in the bordering towns [of Siliguri, Kakadbhitta etc].” Generally, they are taken to new places by their close relatives. “It’s a very chronic situation, and needs to be changed.”
Overall, 12,000 Nepali children and women are trafficked to India for commercial sex work every year, according to International Labor Organization (ILO). India serves both as destination and transit for trafficking of women and children.
There are over 200,000 Nepali girls who have been sold into prostitution in different metropolises of India, according to a ten-year-old estimate. That number, activists fear, could be much higher today. As per children trafficked for hazardous work, no data exists.
But does anyone care?
Non-profit organizations like the Wilkins’, Maiti Nepal, Concern in the ‘chicken neck’ of Siliguri and dozens of others that have mushroomed in the region seem to be doing their bit, occasionally rescuing some and, sometimes, even taking them into shelters.
Yet the trend of inter-state and intra-state trade in children and women, fuelled by the region’s widespread poverty and illiteracy, is showing no sign of tapering off.
The West Bengal and Sikkim governments, and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), which governs Darjeeling hills, for instance, spend millions of rupees every year for the welfare of the areas’ women and children. The Council also gives away monthly IRs 600 to every child as nutrition allowance, and funds some NGOs.
Still, trafficking of children and women from here is an issue the Subash Ghising-led DGHC administration has not been able to properly deal with, says a local journalist who doesn’t want to be named. “Children are exploited and girls are being trafficked from here, but the administration is doing little,” he said. “The problem is that rulers here are low on vision and high on corruption.”
South Asia-wide, while NGOs’ transparency records are often under scanner, some NGO-led drives have yielded encouraging results. Two years ago, activists with a coalition of NGOs called the Global March Against Child Labor rescued nearly two dozen minor girls, mostly Nepali, exploited by a north Indian circus company.
These days, however, very few children are working in circuses, claims Kailash Satyarthi of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which is part of the Global March. “There’s hardly any girl child from Nepal or anywhere in India who’s working in an Indian circus today,” he says.
But other activists fear the region’s vulnerable children could be ending up in other hazardous professions like camel jockeying and other small-scale industries.
In recent times, the United Nations-run UNDP and UNIFEM may be endlessly talking about “safe migration”, but here in Darjeeling and down in Siliguri “high risk children” are on the move as ever. After arriving at New Jalpaiguri Railways Station and the nearby bus and truck stands, “they can be easily approached and lured,” says Dolly, a teacher at a nearby school.
Street children don’t understand development buzzwords like “safe migration”. So until safe migration can be ensured, nobody knows what’s in store for them? Nobody knows where they will end up? “Safe migration is not possible unless there’s a fair amount of government-to-government dialogue,” says Anuradha Koirala, of Kathmandu-based Maiti Nepal. “That doesn’t seem to be happening.”
In Darjeeling, meanwhile, Nima is growing into a healthy girl, undergoing stitching and beautician training and learning how to read, write and speak Nepali, Hindi and English. Would she want to return to her village in Makalu some day? She has no answer. She bursts into tears and expresses her quiet, ‘No’.
Posted on: 2006-06-23 20:42:06 (Server Time)

Indian village heads to fight people trafficking

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Village heads across impoverished rural India will be asked to help fight human trafficking by keeping a register of people who leave in search of work.
The United Nations Development Project (UNDP) is also asking village chiefs to watch out for traffickers who lure villagers with promises of well-paid jobs but force them into the sex trade.

Bride sales increase as girls go missing in Gujarat
Ahmedabad: Sale, sale, sale, for one bride, get two grooms free, reads a poster campaign pointing to the stark reality of declining number of girls in India following years of rampant sex selective abortions. “India`s growing gender imbalance is a cause of concern. As 50 million girls already go missing today, according to the Lancet study — the fallout of this dangerous trend can destroy the social and human fabric of our country

‘India is transit hub for human trafficking’

Thursday, June 22, 2006 08:58:32 pmIANS ]
Iimes of India

NEW DELHI: India has become a key destination and transit hub for human trafficking from East Europe and other places, says a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored study released on Thursday. Delhi and Mumbai are the favourite destinations for human trafficking from various regions, says the study conducted by NGO Shakti Vahini as part of its project on prevention of Trafficking, HIV and AIDS (TAHA) in women and girls. The NGO works under UNDP India. “Trafficking occurs from Egypt, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Russia and several other Eastern European countries,” said the TAHA study. Lots of women are brought from these places to India from where they are trafficked to other places, it said. Shakti Vahini director Ravi Kant painted a gloomy picture of human trafficking in the country. The study said 72 per cent of human trafficking is for commercial sex, 80.26 per cent of trafficking of women takes place in Bihar – most of it happening during migration for labour – and 12.36 per cent of the total trafficking is due to family traditions. “Madhya Pradesh is prominent among the states where women get into sex work and thus get trafficked because of family traditions. Ninety five per cent of the women in Madhya Pradesh in commercial sex are due to family traditions. So are 51.79 per cent in Bihar,” said the study. “Although Mumbai and Goa are the favourite destinations for paedophilic activity, where children are trafficked, tourist destinations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Orissa are also not far behind,” Kant said. Out of the 593 districts in India, 378 or 62.5 per cent are affected by human trafficking. The study found that domestic violence, illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, unsafe migration and child marriage are the major reasons for the increasing rate of illegal human trafficking. While 43 per cent of the total women trafficked are minors, 44 per cent of the women are into flesh trade due to poverty. Interestingly, in Kerala, which claims the highest rate of literacy and has a matriarchal tradition, violence is often used to push women into flesh trade. Of the total women who are into sex work in the country, 60 per cent are from the lower and backward class, which indicates the pathetic living condition of the communities. In Madhya Pradesh, 96.7 per cent of the women sex workers are from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Although the rate of increase in human trafficking is alarming, Kant said only 7.7 per cent of police officials in the country consider it an issue of high priority. “More than half (54.8 per cent) of police officials think that it is not an issue at all,” he said. While Kant pointed out that the country did not have any effective legislation in place on human trafficking, Manjula Krishnan, economic advisor to the women and child development ministry, said the government would focus on prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and sensitisation to fight the menace. Sensing the seriousness of the issue, Femina Miss India World Natasha Suri and Femina Miss India Earth Amruta Patki, who attended the function, said they would make efforts to create awareness about the issue. “I can represent the youth,” Suri said. TAHA has initiated efforts with local communities in 300 districts across 11 states to create awareness among the people that trafficking is closely linked to the spread of HIV and AIDS.

A Tribute to our Dear Friend Jayant

A Tribute To Our Dear Friend Jayant
(Star News Assam)

Jayant of Star News Assam died of Brain Hemorrhage on 20 June 2006.

A very sensitive reporter who used to do lot of sensitive reporting on Development issues from Assam and the North East. He regularly used to reports lots of stories from the source area of North East and the Bangladesh Border.

He was associated with Shakti Vahini since 2001. We still remember how he went to the village of Kanika Das (from Hajo, Kamroop) a trafficked girl, who is still reported missing. He took personnel interest in the above case and helped Kanika mother and sister, by doing a half hour story and letting the world know how worse the situation was. He did one of the First stories on Trafficking from Assam to North India. I remember when we were doing press conference in Guwahati Press Club, and he missed our briefing , he took personnel interest to track us and visit our hotel to complete his story. After doing report he took us to his home and we had a happy time with his family.

He was a young man, with lot of sensitivity to work for the rights of victims and letting the world know the REAL stories of humanity. I met him a day before he fell ill on 16th and we had a good discussion about Guwahati Media Coalition workshop on right based media reporting on Trafficking and HIV/AIDS.

He was very happy that the National Media Coalition is doing the conference in September and also helped us by giving valuable suggestions. He said the conference will help media in writing sensitive reporting. He was thankful to UNIFEM for selecting North East which he thought was a neglected sector. He requested us to make drugs trafficking also an issue in the Consultation.

We were scheduled to meet in August but due to his untimely death we will never meet our dear friend again.
The National Media Coalition will mark respect and hold the Guwahati consultation as a tribute to one of the brightest upcoming young Reporter from the North East.

He has left behind his wife and a daughter. We pray to God to give courage to his family members to bear this untimely loss.

Note : Tributes and condolence message for Jayant can be sent and the Blog in the Comments section. The Coalition Secretariat will deliver all the messages to his Family.

Skewed sex ratio is great for business

Paul John& Prashant Rupera, Times of India

SURAT/VADODARA: You might have heard of rent-a-womb, but who ever heard of rent-a-wife – it goes a step further of even wifeswap! And these are certain people – especially in tribal belts – who have sniffed up a rather unusual business opportunity in the difficulty posed by the skewed sex ratio in Gujarat. If many tribal daughters are being sold in marriage, there are also reports of husbands agreeing to their wives staying with higher caste men not able to find a wife in their community for a monthly rental charge! In Netrang taluka in Bharuch, police officials quote the instance of Atta Prajapati allowing his wife Laxmi to stay with a Patel in Mehsana for a monthly rental of Rs 8,000. Laxmi has two children and used to work as a farm labourer at Patel’s farm. The demand for brides fuelled by the dwindling number of girls in Mehsana, Patan, Rajkot, Gandhinagar and other districts has inspired many agents and poverty-struck families to capitalise on the situation and make some quick bucks. In certain pockets of Netrang, Valia, Dediapada, Sakbara, Rajpipla and Jhagadia, tribals from Vasava community families can be witnessed entering into financial agreements with brokers – called Vachetias – from Banaskantha, Mehsana and Ahmedabad districts to marry off their daughters to Patels or those from the Thakur community for a price. The broker charges anywhere between Rs 65,000 to Rs 70,000 from the Patel and then pays the Vasava families Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 for their daughters. Many “middlemen” operate in the tribal heartland to supply tribal girls for Rs 500 and Rs 60,000, depending on how desperate the girl’s family is. With the demand for girls escalating, a committed agent easily makes Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh every month! “We cannot take action against this activity as no one comes forward to lodge a complaint.
We do not rule out the possibility of minors being married off to the rich Patels,” says Ankleshwar deputy superintendent of police, Naresh Muniya. The business of selling brides is also going international. In Godhra, Heer Baria’s marriage to Kalpesh Patel is the talk of the town. Not because Heer had married an NRI from the US, but because her family was suspected to have taken Rs 1 lakh cash for the marriage. “After the marriage, the Baria family has gone missing from the district. We think they are living in Surat,” says Mohan Baria, a community member. Activist Kanu Brahmbhatt concedes that many tribal families in Chotta Udepur and Devgadh Baria get more than Rs 50,000 for marrying their daughters off to men from other communities, especially from North Gujarat and Saurashtra. (Inputs by Radha Sharma in Ahmedabad)