Monthly Archives: November 2011

Stuck in heavy trafficking

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“The sun shines evenly for all, but for 5 years, it couldn’t reach me in the room that I was locked in. I was abducted from my village when I was 15. Locked up, beaten, starved and forced into prostitution for 8 years. When my son was born, I went into depression thinking that my first born would grow up in a brothel.” – Poonam, aged 25.

I had spoken to Poonam (name changed on request) and a couple of other victims while doing my research for this article. I was only half way through when the actual gravity started to become in-your-face visible. Judge me if you like, but I was relieved to simply finish the article and run back to the comforts of my life. Unfortunately, for millions across the world the gravity is much greater and easy escape is unlikely.

Not less than 130 million people across the globe are directly pulled into the human trafficking racket and equal numbers of people are affected indirectly. More than 70% victims are pushed into prostitution and rest into forced labour. It is estimated to be a $31.6 billion industry, second only to illegal drug trades. Yet these are just speculated figures as NGOs across the globe find themselves struggling to collect data about the people who mostly don’t even have a proper recognized identity. The organized global crime racket, which involves kidnapping, illegal immigration, people smuggling, debt bondage and forced prostitution, is becoming a bigger menace with each passing minute.

Closer home, the steady increase in the rise and hold of human trafficking in India is also worrying. The Constitution of India states trafficking as a serious violation of Fundamental Human Rights as per Article 21 and 23. The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1976 was introduced as a step towards curbing the trafficking industry. Internationally, India is not behind in tackling the issue by being part of various inter-nation conventions such as Convention on Rights of the Child (1989); The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000); and latest SAARC’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution (2002). The National Human Rights Commission in 2006 had also framed a Plan of Action to combat trafficking. Special law and order tactics were also suggested. The Union of India, in collaboration with NGOs, has launched Ujjwala and Swadhar schemes which are focused towards anti-trafficking and short stay homes. Victims brought to these are provided with medical attention, psychological counseling and vocational training, in addition to facilities for education and clothes for them and their children.

In spite of the efforts, the government has constantly been facing criticism for being unable to meet the needs and expectations. Committee meetings dissolving before they happen, poor statistical surveys and alleged corruption are few of the chinks in the even-otherwise-weak armour. A NGO worker, in exchange of anonymity, revealed “The policies and schemes are amazing on paper. In reality, the officers in-charge themselves are the biggest hurdles. When we refused to give 40% of the grant money as bribe, the officer refused to give us the clearance required. External agencies and central authorities gave us encouraging feedbacks on our reports. The officer in charge still wouldn’t budge, he advised us to go to the court.” The law and order system has also failed on many fronts. NGOs are known to provide legal advocacy assistance to the commercial sex workers as, instead of trying to bust the rackets, the police are notorious for bugging the women with repeated arrests.

In such a case, the rehabilitation rests majorly with the selfless NGOs. Himanshu Dubey, a NGO worker at Devi Ahilya Village Development Association that has been working at the rehabilitation of CSW, said “Major reasons are of course extortion and fake job promises, but some women may also get into this work due to abject poverty. During our rehabilitation program, we don’t try to relocate them immediately. We let them continue with their lives and provide them education, vocational training along with medical attention for HIV and other STDs. Only when they are able and convinced themselves about the other source of income, we try relocating them.”

Poonam has now taken up sewing under her rehab program at an NGO run Mahila Ashram. Her son goes to school. She says, “My life has changed now. But I wish there was a way to end all of this for everyone. This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Nobody deserves this.”