Central Chronicle, Bhopal
Human trafficking has been a big problem in many parts of the world and specially in India and many other Asian countries. The UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons, in effect since December 2003 makes human trafficking a crime. The Protocol has been signed and ratified by more than 110 countries, yet the participating governments and their criminal justice systems have not effectively curbed the practice. Few criminals are convicted and most victims are not properly rehabilitated.
Trafficking in persons has mainly been for sexual exploitation or forced labour and, according to reports of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), 127 countries get exploited among 137 nations. Some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited–a process called human trafficking. The UN and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion; about $10 billion is derived from the sale of individuals and the remainder representing the estimate profits from the activities or goods produced by the victims of this barbaric crime.
Apart from slavery is booming international trade and involves both the sexes. The most important aspect of human trafficking is of women and girls, 80 per cent of whom, as per UNDOC data, are forced into prostitution. The other reasons for women and children being trafficked are: labour in garment, carpet and other industries/ factories/work sites; work in the entertainment industry, including bars, massage parlours etc; forced labour in construction sites; sex tourism; drug trafficking; organ trade; and domestic work.
Poverty, lack of opportunities and the desire for better existence have been the principal reasons for the increase in human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Third World countries. It is distressing to note that the trafficked victim is subject to the worst form of human rights abuses–physical violence, sexual abuse, confinement, denial of basic needs of health and nutrition, deprivation of earnings etc.
In India, the problem of trafficking has suddenly received much attention with even politicians being engaged in this work. However, trafficking has been a long-standing problem in this region, specially in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh Thailand and India. The spread of consumerism and western life styles in society along widening inequality among the urban and the rural sectors have accentuated the problem at least in the Asian countries.
The problems in populous countries like India are well known which have a stagnant rural sector with all-round poverty and squalor very much manifest. Moreover the discrimination of the girl child has been another aspect of the problem. Apart from the desire to make the girl child work by the parents, the passion of girls (generally aged between 15 and 25 years) to live a better existence induces them to be trafficked. They generally enter the flesh trade or are used in hotels for entertaining clients, whether in India or abroad.
It is not that girls only from the poorer sections of society that become prone to abuse and sexual exploitation. It has been found that girls and women from the middle or even upper class in their quest to earn more become prone to human trafficking. In today’s world, prostitution has attained a new dimension whereby sharing a bed is not taboo. Thus well-off girls starting with such practise eventually become prone to trafficking.
Meanwhile the Centre has come out with startling revelations on child abuse, mainly of girls, according to a national survey. More than 53 per cent of children have been found to be subjected to sexual abuse in ways that ranged from rape to kissing. Apart from this, 69 per cent of children faced physical abuse, in most cases (89 per cent) from parents or members of the family. These and many other things were revealed by the 13-state survey report Study on Child Abuse: India 2007 conducted by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in association with UNICEF, Save the Children and Prayas and released recently. This was incidentally the first-ever nation-wide survey on child abuse with a sample size of 12,447 children, including 5981 girls.
Delhi, by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Assam have been found to be the front-runners in child abuse cases. These states showed higher physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children. In 50 per cent of cases, the abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust and responsibility and most children did not report the matter. Thus it can very well be assumed from the survey that the children were not safe even in their homes and remain victims of different forms of abuse.
The study also found that children in the 5 to 12 age group reported higher levels of abuse and boys were as much at risk as girls. The high abuse has been attributed to fathers looking at children as their property, the patriarchal set-up of society and poor parenting skills although no empirical research was conducted to gauge the exact reasons. But whether it is physical or sexual abuse, most children don’t report the assaults to anyone.
Another aspect of the problem of women is abuse and sexual violence. According to the National Family Health Survey -III, 37 per cent married women reported abuse though one can be very sure that another significant section do not report. The top offenders include Bihar 50 per cent, followed by Rajasthan 46.3 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 45.6 per cent, Manipur 43.0 per cent and UP 42.4 per cent.
The question arises: how could girls be provided security? This can come about if there is thrust on education along with not just mid-day meal but a maintenance allowance every month, specially for those belonging to the economically weaker sections, to help them continue with their studies. The thrust on girls education has to be taken up with all sincerity and should reach all backward areas of the country.
The other aspect of tackling the problem is the spread of awareness among women and girls about their rights. Though this has been taken up by NGOs and CBOs, there is need for giving a boost to this campaign, including generating basic legal awareness among the opposite sex. It is indeed distressing to note that in spite of setting up national and state level women’s commissions the problem of trafficking and sexual exploitation has remained unchecked.
More resources need to be allotted for the development of the female child and ensuring a dignified existence for her. Recent reports indicate how a million girls would be eliminated every year in the coming four years because efforts have been grossly inadequate in restraining the promotion of foetal sexing. Preference for a son has caused hatred for a daughter in India in recent years due to the widespread ‘legitimization’ of this form of violence against women.
The 11th Plan, which talks about inclusion needs to give a fair deal to women, should take up various injustices committed against girls and women and deal with them through an iron hand and also simultaneously ensure their education and awareness in a target-oriented approach. The NGOs and CBOs should be provided with adequate funds so that they could make inroads into the rural and backward areas and tackle trafficking and sexual violence against the opposite sex while also pursuing that girls enter school in a big way.
The intervention strategies should focus on the following areas: prevention through raising public awareness, setting up neighbourhood watch committees for monitoring incidents of missing girls, ki dnapping/abduction and migration, networking for information sharing and quick response to crisis situations and providing opportunity for holistic development to children of women in prostitution so that they are not forced to follow their mothers; securing the rights of women and children; rescue and after-care; documentation and study; and promotion of a secure and protected environment for women and children.
Dhurjati Mukherjee, INFA