Battle against human trafficking
By Lakshmi Sharan
Trafficking is one of the most rampant crimes in a labour-surplus and developing country like India. Unfortunately we have not been able to tackle the issue, lack of stringent rules in the country being a major deterrent in holding the atrocity.
Recently, India’s first comprehensive anti-trafficking bill, seeking to deal with the crime from the point of prevention, protection and rehabilitation, was tabled and passed in the Lok Sabha. In this context, NGO Prayas, in collaboration with IWG (Interim Working Group), organized National Consultation on Human Trafficking: “Survivor Speaks – Words for Action”. Prayas is deeply committed towards addressing the issues of the deprived and exploited children, youth and women for the last 27 years, as it is a humanitarian development organization and has been working at reorganizing and rebuilding the lives of children who are trafficked, helpless and homeless. The Interim Working Group is a working group of 18 organizations that engage regularly on anti-trafficking and other related issues.
Notably, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe. The 2016 NCRB Statistics suggest that 8,132 cases of trafficking were reported across the country with the number of victims rescued being 23,117. 45% of these victims were trafficked for the purpose of ‘forced labour’, followed by ‘sexual exploitation for prostitution’ (22%) etc.
“It is a very pathetic condition that children and young women are brought from rural areas or sometimes even other states, to be engaged as domestic help in households or various small-scale establishments in urban centers. Many of these people eventually get exploited economically, physically and also sexually. To address this, we have been constantly engaging for a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in the country which could guarantee better institutional support to the victims as well as ensure that their rights remain protected,” says Amod K Kanth, Former DGP, Chairperson, DCPCR, General Secretary, Prayas, JAC Society.
Deva, a survivor from Tamil Nadu’s Erode district and an engineering student said, she was accidently trafficked. She was lured by an agent who promised her a job at a spinning mill in Tirupur. She wanted to pursue her studies but due to financial constraints, she was advised by her mother to work. When she reached Tirupur, she was tortured and physically abused. She was made to work for more than 12 hours a day.
“I realised that I was not the only one. Several girls like me were trapped. I was 12 when I was lured with false job promises. Even when we went on sick leave, we were made to work extra and were not paid. When we approached the police, they blamed us for taking up these jobs,” she added.
A 21-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh participating in the conference voiced out that she and her family were forced into bonded labour.On the pretext of giving jobs, she and 13 others from her village were taken to Odisha and later, “sold” to a landlord.
“One boy came to my village saying that he will marry me. He took me away from home and left me with this lady, who he claimed was his mother. I never saw him after that day. I understood later that I was sold away to this woman for Rs 40,000. This boy was a trafficker. The lady forced me into prostitution. I kept resisting but they didn’t listen and continued to rape me. I found many girls like me who were pushed into prostitution. Some were as young as 10 years.
There was no way to escape from there. All of us felt so desperate that we wanted to die. The only way one could be freed from this place is only when the police raid such a place and rescues them. They are so cruel that they abandon anyone who contracts diseases like AIDS or HIV,” shared a survivor who is living in a Home run by Hope from Andhra Pradesh.
Lok Sabha MP Manoj Tiwari, who is also the Delhi BJP chief, during the interaction said that he did not go into the details of the bill, but having heard the stories of the survivors, definitely supports the legislation.
“Why should we be punished for their crime?”
“I was lured by an aunty named Rajini. She came to our village promising me a job in the city. She took me to a temple and I was married away to a man. I understood that she sold me for Rs 55,000. This man was mentally deranged and he used to lock me up in the house and forced me to do all kinds of wrong things. I was sexually assaulted innumerable times and if I refused I was made to undergo physical and mental torture. Today, I have been rescued but there are so many girls like me who are still suffering.
I have come to this forum to appeal to the government for anti trafficking legislation. The law should take care of the victims as there is a stigma in the society after we go back to our homes. So it is important that we are compensated enough to take care of ourselves. Today I have escape but the criminals are still roaming around and we have been punished. What troubles me most is we have been ruined even though we haven’t committed any mistake. But those traffickers are out on bail and enjoying their lives today. Why should we be punished for their crimes?”
Lalita, a minor narrates her ordeal who was sexually assaulted repeatedly, until she was rescued after a raid by the police.