Exploiting the vulnerable
A monumental report on an issue that involves serious human rights violations
TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN INDIA: Researched by Institute of Social Sciences, sponsored by NHRC and supported by Unifem, Coordinator Sankar Sen, Principal Investigator P.M.Nair; Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd., 3-6-752, Himayat Nagar, Hyderabad-500029. Rs. 1200.
This monumental report researched by the Institute of Social Studies and sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission can be considered the first of its kind for the sheer data and research undertaken on an issue that involves serious human rights violations. The report does not restrict itself to trafficking for sexual exploitation; since trafficking in women for sex work is extremely high and not much data is available a large part of the study is on this subject.
The research in primary data has been collected through interviews with 4006 persons belonging to various categories that include victims, survivors, clientele, brothel owners, traffickers, children trafficked for labour and other exploitation. Extremely disturbing facts emerge from the study. To give a few examples, 90.9 per cent of victims have not been rescued even once while 6 per cent have been rescued once before and 2.7 per cent had been rescued two or more times and subsequently re-trafficked into the brothels. The findings clearly indicate that the law is violated in majority of the cases. On the income generated and shared, survivors in a brothel receive only a meagre amount for their expenditure while the rest is split among various stakeholders comprising brothel owners, agents, brokers, pimps, managers, financiers, `goondas' and law enforcement officials. The profile of clientele disproves the perception that it is mostly men staying away from their families who visit brothels. A disturbing factor is that a large majority of clientele looks for young girls the highest preference being virgin girls.
The study notes that this is an important factor to be taken note of by law enforcement agencies and health workers. "There is an all-pervasive assertion of male power and machismo. It is important to note that 53.3 per cent of respondents stated that they looked to having sex with girls who are submissive and willing to surrender to all their demands. This included acquiescing to all their perversions, being ready to have sex without condoms and catering to their client's pleasure needs."
The study identifies three categories of traffickers. The primary traffickers form a nebulous group of all those who assist the kingpin in different activities involved in trafficking. These are the transporters, master operators, procurers, pimps and the crime syndicates involving brothel owners, brothel managers and others who are `merchants in human trade'.
The tertiary level traffickers deliver the `human cargo' to the primary traffickers who operate at the grassroots level. Often this group includes relatives, friends, and acquaintances of the victim, local goons as well as petty criminals. "The intelligence gatherers may be at the command and under the control of the master trafficker or the primary traffickers. They visit bazaars, markets, villages, railway stations, bus stations and other places where they collect intelligence about vulnerable persons. These spotters give their feedback to the primary traffickers or the kingpin who, in turn, deals with the secondary traffickers to carry out his `trade'."
Others who support the trafficking structure are financiers who finance the transaction at various levels, goons who provide security at various levels, the hoteliers who provide accommodation during transit, transporters who arrange transport, paramedical persons and quacks who attend to the illness of victims during transit, officials who provide security services and, the exploiters and abusers who may be part of the network. "All these persons together dictate terms regarding supply and demand and modulate the trafficking process."
The study indicates profiles of traffickers, their entry into trafficking, hierarchy, modus operandi and costs involved after interviewing 160 of them. Tackling this elusive group must have been an uphill task. Other areas in the study include migration, tourism, culturally sanctioned practices (such as the devadasi system), and missing persons all of which have links to trafficking. It also includes trafficking of children for specific purposes such as performance in circuses, camel jockeying, begging, domestic help, organ donation, marriage and debt bondage.
The report includes responses of the enforcement agencies and judicial intervention besides an analysis of the existing legislations, international initiatives and the legal framework against trafficking in South Asia and Thailand and concludes with a series of recommendations. Despite the sheer magnitude of trafficking, we still do not have a legislation that defines trafficking except in the Goa Children's Act that came in response to increasing abuse of children in the State.
The mapping of trafficking patterns presented in the report indicate that in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and in West Bengal there are very high rates of inter-district trafficking.
These also indicate the close link between poverty and trafficking that given the extreme disparities is only bound to rise unless strong measures are taken to address the socio-economic issues underlying trafficking. More than 300 pages relate to case studies from 13 states with a separate chapter on case studies including initiatives in Nepal and Bangladesh. A list of NGOs working in the area of trafficking is also included.
The study is extremely comprehensive and creates a clear understanding of the critical concerns relating to trafficking. It is bound to be extremely useful to facilitate changes in existing policies and laws.
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