Though India has seen an increased percentage of literacy among women, there is no falling off in the violence against women. Recently The Odisha High Court expressed serious concern over increasing women trafficking in India. The High Court has said that the commercial sexual exploitation is expanding multi-fold, despite the protection afforded by stringent laws, large number of treaties and conventions.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2016, 33,855 people were kidnapped or abducted for the purpose of marriage. Among this half were under the age of 18. Also, NCRB published a report in order to determine the areas that are more prone to the trafficking of children and women in India. According to the report, 2,23,621 female was missing in 2018. Among the states, Maharashtra tops the list followed by West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Maharashtra and West Bengal registered maximum number of missing women during the year 2018 with a figure of 33,964 and 31,299 respectively. The highest incidence of women being trafficked in 2018 was observed from the cities of Mumbai & Kolkata with a figure of 5,201 and 2,584 cases respectively. These missing women are usually forced to work as sex workers undergoing severe exploitation and abuse. The NCRB report itself suggests that factors like lack of formal education and employment opportunities are leading women to such horrible situations.
What can be done to stop Women Trafficking?
- Relief & Aftercare Programs: In this Covid 19 pandemic, relief and aftercare programs need to have specific components focused on the rights of women and children. Since natural calamities and manmade disturbances do worsen the vulnerability situation.
- Legal awareness: Creating legal awareness is one of the most important functions of any social action program. Legal awareness empowers people by making them aware of their rights and can work towards strengthening them to develop zero tolerance towards abuse and exploitation.
- Develop a database of missing persons: All the state governments or concerned authorities develop a system to monitor missing persons across district and state borders and compulsorily create a database on trafficking
- Education &Awareness: Education which consists of a valuable education on gender issues, reproductive health, human rights and social environment makes it compulsory up to secondary level. Support basic capabilities of women and children through awareness & better health.Campaigning is necessary to inform media and make people (particularly poor) alert about the traffickers.
- Legal reforms: Identifying areas for law reforms in the area of trafficking. The Orissa high court said in a recent order that, The Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITP) has failed to prevent sexual exploitation of women for prostitution as the law lacks a “stringent punishment regime”.
- Protection of the trafficked victim: Sensitive handling of these cases to ensure that the victims of this crime are treated with empathy they deserve. With appropriate measures, the victims can be rescued, repatriated and reintegrated into society. This must include all steps towards the redressal of their grievances thus helping the victim survive, rehabilitate and establish herself.
- Implement Training Programs: Provide training programs for police and prosecutors. The police are the first responders to the victims of trafficking. So, if the police respond challenges effectively, it is possible for a successful conviction of offenders and consequent prevention of trafficking. Police should respond to the crime effectively by collecting the trafficking network, prompt action in investigation & prosecution, ensuring all legal & administrative follow up measures towards victim-witness protection. The essence of a successful prosecution is improved coordination between trained investigators and skilful prosecutors.
Trafficking is one of the worst forms of violence against women and girls. It is done for various purposes such as prostitution, begging, forced labour, marriage, organ transplant, for child sex tourism and for the use of adults and children in pornography. Usually, the places involved in trafficking are beauty & massage parlours, hotels & lodges, friendship clubs, exclusive clubs and tourist destinations.
Trafficking of women is not only a heinous crime but also the violation of basic rights and dignity of the individual in various ways. The root cause of prostitution and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is the male demand for women and girls who can be bought and sexually exploited. For centuries, bride trafficking has been a booming business in the states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan in North India. In several villages of Haryana which had a smaller number of girls, buy brides from poorer families of nearby states. The brides, who are called “Paro” (from the far side) or “Molki”(one who has a price) are exactly treated as “goods” and sold and resold between men. There is no official government data on the numbers who have fallen victim to trafficking rings, but it is believed that hundreds of thousands of women and girls, mainly from Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand or Bihar, have been sold into marriage. Usually, girls from poor families are trapped because parents were happy to marry their daughter without paying dowry. These parents were unaware that they pushed their daughter into trafficking or sexual exploitation.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has taken a number of measures to prevent and counter human trafficking in the country. Nevertheless, the issue of trafficking is more an issue of society than of law enforcement. Hence civil society needs to take it more seriously.