Written by Thaneesha Vashishta
Class 11, Vivek High School, Chandigarh
Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.
Human Trafficking is the most gruesome crime of all times in the world. It entails modern-day slavery that involves the illegal transportation of individuals by force of deception for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic work, organ trade or activities in which traffickers are benefitted financially (Britannica,n.d.) Children are one of the most vulnerable communities and at highest-risk populations since and traffickers are targeting them to become both victims and perpetrators.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (known as the Palermo Protocol adopted in November 2000) defines trafficking as:
. . . the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of the position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery, servitude or the removal of the organ.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) “there is a larger child trafficking force in India than anywhere else in the world. Education, knowledge and awareness of trafficking in persons among all members of society are key to beating human traffickers”. There is an inverse relationship between education and child trafficking. This implies that an increase in the educational level of the children the lesser their involvement in child trafficking activities.
This problem is deeply rooted in our system and one of the prominent ways to tackle it is through education. This paper underlines the role of education in eradicating child labour.
Background: Child Trafficking in India
The volume of child trafficking in India is very high. According to the National Crime Records Bureau every eight minutes one child disappears. The number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are estimated to be in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide (UNICEF INDIA).
According to data submitted by the National Crime Records Bureau to the Supreme Court in 2019, Mumbai and Kolkata have the highest cases of trafficking in women and children, largely for the purpose of forced marriage, child labour, domestic help and sexual exploitation. Primarily, children are lured with the false hopes of a better life but, eventually, get trafficked for labour and begging wherein traffickers bribe them and provide false hopes of a better life. Nonetheless, the crime of child trafficking is still not given enough importance in India due to a lack of awareness.
In the transnational arena, India is an origin country of trafficking in women and girls to other countries of Asia, the Middle East and the West. India is also a destination country whereby about 50,000 women and children get trafficked annually from neighbouring states like Bangladesh and Nepal for the sex trade. The porous borders between the countries, such as that between India and Bangladesh, allow traffickers to cross over with relative ease. Around 43% of trafficked persons are used for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of which 98 per cent are women and girls (ILO, 2007). India has been identified as a source, destination and transit location for trafficking of women and minor girls for CSE and forced labour (USDOS, 2012).
Causes and Effects of Child Trafficking in India
The most affected states that are prone to trafficking in India are Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Orissa and West Bengal since the majority of the population here resides under poverty. Moreover, people from economically disadvantaged classes, and belonging to the categories of SC, ST, OBC are more susceptible to fall victim to such malpractices. The prominent causes of trafficking are poverty, social or cultural practice and migration. Other causes are the porous nature of borders, corrupt government officials, the involvement of international organised criminal groups or networks and the limited capacity of or a commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control borders (Sharma, 2020).
In 2017, the Asian Age has reported the prevalence of Child trafficking in Bihar. The report stated that there is a steady rise in the cases of child trafficking in Bihar. Activists fighting against trafficking claim that victims, including girls under the age of 18, are from poor families who are getting pushed into slavery, prostitution and surrogacy by agents who manage to mislead poor parents with their lucrative offers of getting their children good jobs. Every year about 2,000 children disappear from the state - statistics cited by Human Liberty Network, a social group involved in rescue and rehabilitation work. One such incident is documented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It was the case of a 14 - year- old girl, Tina, from Darjeeling who got trafficked to Delhi and subsequently she got rescued with the intervention of NGO-MARG (Mankind in Action for Rural Growth) and CBI. The MARG revealed to UNODC that the girl was lured by a guy named Rajan who promised her to work in a big city as she was constantly beaten up by her alcoholic father.
What’s happening in India with respect to Child Trafficking?
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2016 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Government of India penalizes trafficking through various laws such as:
Trafficking in Human Beings or Persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1). The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) is the premier legislation for the prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking including trafficking of children for exploitation in any form including physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, which has come into effect from 14th November 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It provides precise definitions for different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment. There is other specific legislation enacted relating to trafficking in women and children 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, apart from specific Sections in the IPC, e.g. Sections 372 and 373 dealing with selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.State Governments have also enacted specific legislation to deal with the issue. (e.g. The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012)
The Impact of Child Trafficking on an Individual
To the victims of child trafficking, the world is often cruel, bitter and greedy. Children trafficked are victims of physical violence and sexual abuse this has a major effect on their mental health and physical well-being. This is also associated with a range of mental disorders, substance abuse and suicide attempts. There is a high rate of depression among these victims due to which they tend to isolate themselves from their family and community. Often victims of trafficking commit suicide because of guilt. A recent study by the Ark of Freedom Alliance found out that human trafficking survivors have an alarming higher-than-average rate of suicidal thoughts with a percentage of 23% of survivors having attempted suicide, compared with 3% of the population with no prior domestic violence exposure. There are risks for unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions, miscarriages and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Overview of the Education problem in India – and how it is connected to trafficking
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
The reasons for such an increasing rate of child trafficking in India are mainly because of lack of access to quality education and low literacy levels. The challenge of limited access to education impacts all of the people involved worsening the consequences. The absence of an effective public education system and a lack of financial security make unskilled labour sectors (such as construction and domestic help) much more appealing to children for employment and earning purpose rather than pursuing an education.
The Contribution of Education to Curbing the Issue of Child Trafficking
Education should be free and compulsory up to the age of 14, according to Article- 45 of the Indian Constitution. Considerable measures should be taken to ensure that a child who is enrolled in the school is able to successfully complete the courses (MHRD,2002). Even though education is free in India families to spend as much as 350 rupees per child yearly for stationery, transportation, uniforms, and more if tuition is added. The national campaign such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan plays a significant indirect role to make education accessible in remote areas of the country. The government in the last nearly three years has made impressive strides with this campaign, and according to the Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER) 2016, there has been an improvement in the number of schools with toilets but, even now nearly 200,000 are running without toilets. Therefore, these conditions push children, especially girls to drop out, along with bringing children at risk of illnesses that can be avoided (Wada Na,2017). The Indian education system is facing various issues such as the urban-rural gap. It seems that there is inconsiderable attention paid to the education system in rural India. According to ASER, about 50% of students in 5th standard attending rural schools are not capable of reading a text meant for junior classes (Ritesh Rawal Foundation,2019). In many places, good schools are located outside villages and therefore it is hard for the parents to send them to schools. Lack of funding, poor infrastructure, lack of good quality of education and accessibility all contribute to the problems in the education system in India. Since getting a proper education is every child’s dream, usually, traffickers give children the bait of providing them with a better education. Children often show disinterest in working hard and studying because they are made to believe they have no future. These disparities in the education system often result in choosing the wrong ways to earn quick money like trafficking.
Ways To Make Education Accessible
Education is the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life (Infed.org, n.d.). It is a discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various non-formal and informal means of socialization (e.g., rural development projects and education through parent-child relationships). Accessibility means the fact of being able to or reached easily. There have been numerous advancements in the Indian education system and policies to make the privilege of education accessible to every citizen of the country. However accessible education is still unknown to many people especially from the downtrodden classes who have to choose between earning for their family and getting an education. The latter often chooses to earn money. The major reason for this is that in our country education is rarely given any importance. According to the ministry of home affairs, the overall literacy rate works out to be 64.8 %, the male literacy rate is 75.3%and that for females is 53.7%.
Education can be made accessible and inclusive to everyone in various ways such as:- raising awareness about the new government schemes, plans and their importance in our life, generating funds to improve the quality of education, availability of schools in remote areas, improvement in technology for the easy accessibility of education in the remotest part of the country also talking about the importance of mental health and physical well-being and introducing it as an integral part of the curriculum. Since an average child spends 4-5 hours in a school it will help him/her come out of his/her own shell of fear, insecurity, guilt, shamefulness and various other disorders. This way cases of child trafficking and abuse will also reduce as people will be more aware of their rights and several other opportunities, they are offered by being literate. Instead of choosing the path of crime, there will be brotherhood and empathy for people and slowly the rates of such gruesome crimes will decline. Therefore, it is rightly believed that education can tackle any evil.
The road to overcoming this problem in India is very long because it’s deeply rooted in the system but education is the strongest tool that can help in overcoming this issue step by step and decreasing the cases of child trafficking in India. The horrors of this crime are spread all over the country and there is an urgent need to combat it since it is a violation of basic human rights. The implementation of proper laws, a fair and just legislative system, accessibility of good and proper education, availability of employment and awareness regarding such gruesome crimes are just a few ways to slowly overcome this issue. As responsible citizens of the country it is the duty of people to report such crimes, make sure to provide everyone with proper education, to help the victims of child trafficking and continuously raise awareness regarding the same. The road to overcoming this problem is long but not impossible.
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