2023 JUL 13
Social justice > Human Resources > Vulnerable & Backward sections
- Recently, the Ministry of Women and Child Development approved a scheme to provide financial assistance to states and Union Territories to set up protection and rehabilitation homes for victims of trafficking in states with international borders.
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- These homes would provide shelter, food, clothing, counselling, primary health facilities, and other daily needs for the trafficking victims, most of whom are children and minors.
- Till now, the Women and Child Development Ministry has been providing financial assistance to all States and Union Territories under the Nirbhaya Fund to set up and strengthen Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) in every district of the country. Funding has also been provided for setting up these units in border guarding forces such as the BSF and SSB.
- As of now, 788 AHTUs, including 30 in Border guarding forces, are functional.
CURRENT SITUATION IN INDIA:
- According to the NCRB data, there were 6,533 victims of human trafficking in the 2,189 cases filed in 2022 under anti-human trafficking units; out of these, 4,062 were female and 2,471 were male.
- As many as 2,877 victims were minors. While more underage boys (1,570) were trafficked in 2021 than girls (1,307), this trend reversed in case adult victims of human trafficking with women outstripping men.
- In 2021, the highest number of the cases have been registered in AHTUs of Telangana (347 cases), Maharashtra (320 cases), and Assam (203 cases).
- India is a source as well as destination country for trafficking of persons.
- The source countries are Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar from where women and girls are getting trafficked in the guise of proving better life, jobs and a good living condition In India. A majority of them are minor girls/ women of younger age, who are after their arrival in India are sold and forced into commercial sex work.
- These girls/ women often reach major cities like Mumbai Delhi, Hyderabad, etc, from where they are taken out of country mainly in Middle East and South East Asia. This is the reason why, the bordering States to these countries need to be more vigilant and have adequate facilities to provide relief and rehabilitation services to the victims of trafficking.
EFFORTS TO CURB TRAFFICKING:
I. CONSTITUTIONAL & LEGAL:
- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour:
- Trafficking in Human Beings is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1).
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA):
- It is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
- It covers exploitation like physical/sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to it. The consent of the victim is immaterial in determination of the offence of trafficking.
- Provisions in IPC:
- Section 370 & 370A of IPC: Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking including trafficking of children for exploitation.
- Sections 372 and 373 of IPC deals with selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.
- There are other specific legislations enacted relating to trafficking in women and children:
- Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
- Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994
- State Governments have also enacted specific legislations to deal with the issue. (e.g.: The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012)
II. ADMINISTRATIVE INTERVENTIONS:
- Anti-Trafficking Cell (ATC):
- Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking.
- To improve the effectiveness in tackling the crime of human trafficking and to increase the responsiveness of the law enforcement machinery, MHA has issued comprehensive advisories to all States/UTs from time to time.
- Judicial Colloquium:
- Judicial Colloquium on human trafficking are held at the High court level. The aim is to sensitize the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure speedy court process.
- Assistance and rehabilitation measures:
- Swader Greh:
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing the Swadhar Greh Scheme which targets the women victims of difficult circumstances who are in need of institutional support for rehabilitation so that they could lead their life with dignity.
- The Scheme envisages providing shelter, food, clothing and health as well as economic and social security for these women.
- Pencil portal:
- It is an online platform that aims at engaging the Central Government, State Government, District, civil society and the public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of child labour free society.
- United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC):
- India has ratified the UNCTOC which has as one of its Protocols Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children.
- SAARC Convention:
- India has ratified the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution. A Regional Task Force was constituted to implement the SAARC Convention.
- Bilateral mechanism:
- India has Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with its neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar for Prevention of Human Trafficking, Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-integration of Victims of Trafficking.
WHY IT PERSISTS:
Precarious neighbourhood & Porous borders:
- India’s neighbours are characterized by political instability, ethnic tensions and poverty. Hence, they have become the source of international human trafficking into India.
- The porous borders, such as the marshlands of Sundarbans delta along India-Bangladesh border, makes surveillance difficult.
- Eg: After the 2015 Nepal earthquake, there was a sharp increase in human trafficking cases from Nepal to India.
- Loopholes in Law:
- The Child Labor Acts allows children under the age of 14 to work in family occupations after school hours. However, this provision is widely misused, leaving a glaring gap in the prohibition of child labour and encouraging traffickers.
- Informal nature of economy:
- Millions of trafficked victims remain invisible, due to the informal nature of the economy. Eg: Many children who work as domestic help in homes remain “hidden”, since such employments do not feature in any government data.
- Prevalence of child marriage:
- Despite being illegal, child marriages are prevalent in India. According to the UN, 1 in 3 child brides in the world is from India. Traffickers exploit poverty and hardship in poor Indian families, provide money for adolescents and traffic them for marriages.
- Growth of cyberspace:
- The increase in Internet access has led to increased cyber-trafficking. Traffickers are taking advantage of the loss of livelihoods and the increasing amount of time spent online to entrap victims.
- Eg: Due to online education, children are spending more unsupervised time on the internet, making them vulnerable to the threat of traffickers and child pornography.
- Pandemic induced hardship:
- The pandemic has resulted in economic hardship and loss of parental care due to death and illness. This has reduced families’ capacity to care for women and children, thereby increasing the risk for violence, neglect or exploitation.
- These factors are compounded by the prolonged closure of schools, increase in demand for cheap labour and child marriages.
- For instance, according to a child rights non-governmental organisation, between April 2020 and June 2021, on average 21 children have been trafficked every day in India.
- Denial of justice:
- There were 140 acquittals and only 38 convictions in 2019, according to government data. This points to a failure of investigation. Trials drag on for years, which exposes the vulnerability of victims to prolonged mental suffering and intimidation by the traffickers.
- Absence of support mechanisms:
- In most cases of trafficking, the monetary compensations are low. The victims are housed in overcrowded and poorly maintained shelter houses and there is lack of consistent access to psychological counselling. These factors increase the risk of the victims falling for human trafficking again.
- Effective law enforcement:
- Proper implementation of the legislations, increased convictions, effective punishment and timely disposal of cases can curb the issues of trafficking to a great extent. For this, proper case management must be introduced.
- Spread awareness:
- Parental and societal awareness of the evils of child labor can prevent disruption in schooling and pushing of children into labor. Aware communities can comprehend and respond to children’s issues much more effectively.
- Ensure cyber security:
- India needs to bridge the digital divide among people and ensure that the cyber space is not utilized by the traffickers. For this, holistic cyber security policies and mass awareness campaigns needs to be in place.
- Restructure policy support:
- The failure of existing mechanisms to foresee the crisis during the pandemic should spur the Government and other stakeholders to take preventive action.
- Policies are required specifically to protect women and children from the socio-economic aftereffects of COVID-19. Eg: India can provide basic social security to children through health insurance and facilities.
- Utilise NGOs:
- There are various NGOs in India that work towards preventing trafficking and rehabilitating victim. They can be utilized as a channel of communication and ensuring that welfare measures reach the intended beneficiaries.
- International cooperation:
- For dealing with cross border trafficking and to address the various issues relating to prevention of Trafficking, victim identification and repatriation and make the process speedy and victim-friendly between India and Bangladesh, a Task Force of India and Bangladesh was constituted.
Q. Cases of human trafficking have been on the rise in India in recent time. Discuss the reasons for the same. What measures have the government taken to address the issue of human trafficking?