Slavery is one of the most despicable and vile
institutions to have been created by man. According to the United Nations, at
least 2.5 million people are still subjected to modern day slavery, and human trafficking is a huge part of this problem. World Day against
Trafficking in Persons is meant to highlight the plight of those who fall victim
to this crime. Human trafficking is a global problem that facilitates and
sustains modern-day slavery.
Modern-day slavery involves and includes indentured
servitude, forced prostitution, forced labor, child labor and organ removal. A
quarter of all of the victims of human
are children with around
half of them being from the Middle East and Africa. A third of these victims
originate from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The problem is especially
pervasive in underdeveloped and theocratic states like the Islamic Republic of
Mauritania, where about 4% of the country's population lives in enslavement.
According to some estimates, the actual figure is more likely to be in the
vicinity of 20%. The problem is also endemic in societies and cultures where
social discrimination has been institutionalized over centuries or millennia as
is the case with the caste system in India or the subjugation and
discrimination of Arabized populations with sub-Saharan African origins in
parts of North Africa like Mauritania and also in Middle Eastern countries like
Yemen and Oman.
Human trafficking is not necessarily global but can
also occur within a country's borders. This is especially true in the case of
human trafficking in India, wherein children and women from poor rural
communities are often brought to or sold in cities for child labor, domestic
help or sexual exploitation. In many cases, human trafficking doesn't even
involve movement of people but simply involves business transactions in which
people are treated as commodities. According to UN estimates, the illegal trade
generates as much as $31.6 billion and it is one of the biggest and fastest
growing activities of crime syndicates, in many cases uses to fund terrorism.
Human Trafficking in
Although the Global Slavery Index cannot be treated
as a reliable source of human trafficking data because of flaws in data
collection methods, it still gives us a rough idea of the global prevalence of
slavery. India ranks fifth in the global slavery index. A large part of the
problem here is on account of social inequality and widespread discrimination
on the basis of caste and socio-economic position. While India has made great
strides in improving social equality and there has been considerable social
mobility in the past few decades, the gaps between rich and poor have once again
started to widen. This only serves to exacerbate the problem and perpetuates
exploitative relationships. The problem is further compounded by widespread
illiteracy and superstition in both urban and rural parts of India.
In India, human trafficking is primarily used to
supply women for commercial sexual exploitation
while children, women and men are also trafficked for forced or bonded labor.
Although reliable government statistics are hard to come by, it is estimated
that as many as 20 to 65 million Indians are victims to the human trafficking
trade. Women and young girls are often sold in servitude to families, and also
to men for forced marriage, especially in areas where the sex ratio is
imbalanced because of practices like female feticide or infanticide. Young
women and girls are also often sold and forced into prostitution, while many
children are trafficked to be used for forced labor in factories, as domestic
servants and even as beggars.
India also occupies a prominent position in the
international flesh trade as women and girls from across the border in Nepal
and Bangladesh are often trafficked for forced prostitution. A large number of
women from India are also trafficked to the Middle East, again to be exploited
in the commercial sex trade.
Often, poor Indians who are desperate for work fall
victim to unscrupulous agents and middlemen who lure them with the promise of
higher paying work overseas. In most such cases, they end up being duped into
forced labor and find themselves in situations of debt bondage. Fraudulent
recruiters often charge a huge fee that reduces them to the status of indentured
servants. In many cases, domestic workers are trafficked overseas to work as
servants and they are underpaid, exploited and mistreated. All too often these
migrant workers are subjected to physical and sexual
In an effort to tackle the problem of international
human trafficking the UN General Assembly passed the 'Global Plan of Action to
Combat Trafficking in Persons' in 2010, to urge governments to take coordinated
action in tackling this problem. The plan sought to integrate anti-trafficking
policies and strategies into other UN programs so as to boost the effectiveness
of such measures and to strengthen international security. A UN Voluntary Trust
Fund was also setup under the plan to help victims of human trafficking. In
2013, a resolution was also passed to mark the July 30 as World Day against
Trafficking in Persons to raise more awareness and trigger greater action.
Action Against Guilty
While India has been a signatory to various
international anti-trafficking treaties and has also passed the Immoral
Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), as is often the case in India, there is poor
enforcement of the laws. This is mainly because of widespread corruption, the
indifference of authorities and a general lack of awareness. The Bonded Labor
Abolition Act, the Child Labor Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act protect
juveniles from exploitation through labor or abuse, but children are still
trafficked to cities to work as domestic help and also in bonded labor. It
isn't uncommon to see child workers in grocery stores, restaurants and small
scale factories in almost all of the major cities.
Until the exploited lower classes are empowered
through education and awareness is raised among the general population, people
will continue to be afflicted with apathy and this shall be yet another fight
left for NGOs to fight on their own.