We find perhaps no greater assault on basic freedom than the evil of human trafficking. Whether it comes in the form of a young girl trapped in a brothel, a woman enslaved as a domestic worker, a boy forced to sell himself on the street, or a man abused on a fishing boat, the victims of this crime have been robbed of the right to lead the lives they choose for themselves, and trafficking and its consequences have a spill-over effect that touches every element of a society……
Only when we start focusing on victims as survivors — not just as potential witnesses—can we provide them with a greater measure of justice, and help them find the courage to step forward. – US Secretary of State John F Kerry
Washington DC: India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The forced labor of an estimated 20 to 65 million citizens constitutes India’s largest trafficking problem screams the “Trafficking in Persons Report 2014” released by the US department of State.
The Report goes on to point out that men, women, and children in debt bondage—sometimes inherited from previous generations—are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. A common characteristic of bonded labor is the use of physical and sexual violence as coercive means. Ninety percent of India’s trafficking problem is internal, and those from the most disadvantaged social strata—lowest caste Dalits, members of tribal communities, religious minorities, and women from excluded groups—are most vulnerable.
The US report on human trafficking underscores the point that the Government of India did not report comprehensive law enforcement data on human trafficking. Reported incidents of inaction by law enforcement and prosecutors reflected inconsistent application of the law across jurisdictions, corruption among officials, and a lack of awareness or capacity in some parts of the country. Information publicly released as human trafficking data by the National Crimes Record Bureau contained aggregated data under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) and a limited number of Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions which only addressed sex trafficking of girls, rather than a broader range of human 205 trafficking crimes; in addition, the data provided did not specify the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions carried out by the government. Some of the 28 states in India reported law enforcement data on human trafficking, but such information covers only a small portion of the country. Observers noted the need for more specialized courts in other states. Experts expressed concern about a lack of political will to combat trafficking and protect victims in West Bengal, which has no Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTUs), trafficking-specific law enforcement units that liaise with other agencies and refer victims to shelters, no rehabilitation services for victims, and no cases investigated or prosecuted in 2013 under the ITPA or the new trafficking laws, despite the area being a major source for trafficking.
It is further pointed out that Officials facilitated trafficking by taking bribes, warning traffickers about raids, helping traffickers destroy evidence, handing victims back to traffickers, and physically and sexually assaulting victims. Lack of political will and sensitivity to victims’ trauma continued, with one senior official stating that victims choose “that lifestyle;” another politician stated that victims were better off exploited than they would be otherwise.
Trafficking victims in India, the Report adds, at times are injured or killed by their traffickers; for example, a labor contractor in the State of Odisha chopped off the hands of two bonded labor victims in 2013. Media reported instances of severe mistreatment of domestic servants in New Delhi, many of whom were victims of forced labor, including cases of rape, torture, and murder. NGOs observed that the majority of trafficking victims are recruited by agents known to them in their home villages with promises of work in urban or other rural areas. Trafficking between Indian states continues to rise due to increased mobility and growth in industries that use forced labor, such as construction, textiles, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, and floriculture.
On the prevailing situation in India, the 2014 Report says:
Thousands of unregulated work placement agencies reportedly engage in sex and labor trafficking but escape prosecution; some of these agents participate in the sexual abuse that approximately 20 percent of domestic workers reportedly experience. Placement agencies also provide child labor for domestic service, meeting a demand for cheap and docile workers and creating a group vulnerable to trafficking. Children are subjected to forced labor as factory workers, beggars, agricultural workers, and, in some rural areas of Northern India, as carpet weavers. A 2013 study of India’s hand-made carpet sector revealed 2,612 cases of forced labor and 2,010 cases of bonded labor of adults and children in nine Northern Indian states, including entire villages subjected to debt bondage in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Begging ringmasters sometimes maim children as a means to earn more money. Boys from Nepal and Bangladesh continue to be subjected to forced labor in coal mines in the state of Meghalaya.
Boys from the region of Kashmir are forced by insurgent separatists and terrorist groups to fight against the Indian government.
Burmese Rohingya and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees continue to be vulnerable to forced labor in India. Boys from Bihar are subjected to forced labor in embroidery factories in Nepal. Experts estimate that millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and tourist destinations. Girls from Assam state are kidnapped for domestic servitude. Around 90 percent of the girls who were from Jharkhand and were victimized work as domestic servants.
A large number of Nepali, Afghan, and Bangladeshi females—the majority of whom are children aged nine to 14 years old—and women and girls from China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, and Uganda are also subjected to sex trafficking in India.
Female trafficking victims are frequently exploited in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, and along the India-Nepal border. Newspapers contain advertisements promising full body massages, often by Afghan women, who are then forced to offer sexual services.
Traffickers also pose as matchmakers, arranging sham marriages within India or to Gulf states, and then subject women and girls to sex trafficking. West Bengal continues to be a source for trafficking victims, with girls more frequently subjected to sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences than traditional red light districts. Experts also reported increasing demand for women from smaller towns in North and Western India for sex and labor trafficking; until recently, victims have typically originated from Eastern India and Bangladesh.
Some Indian migrants who willingly seek work as construction workers, domestic servants, and other low-skilled laborers in the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Bhutan, the United States, Europe, Southern Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and other regions, subsequently face forced labor conditions initiated by recruitment fraud and usurious recruitment fees charged by Indian labor brokers.
Some Bangladeshi migrants are subjected to forced labor in India through recruitment fraud and debt bondage. Trafficking victims—primarily girls—continue to be recruited from Bangladesh and Nepal and brought to Mumbai. An increasing number of foreign women, mostly from Central Asia and Bangladesh, were rescued from debt bondage within Hyderabad; labor trafficking, including bonded labor, reportedly continues in Odisha.
While asserting that the Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; the US report also pats India for “making significant efforts” to do so. Citing experts, the report says that there has been increased acknowledgement of India’s trafficking problem by government officials and increased efforts to combat it. The Government of India collaborated with international organizations, NGOs, and state governments in its efforts to train police, judges, and lawyers on the handling of trafficking cases. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reported that every district across India conducted training for prosecutors and judges on trafficking.
However despite these efforts, the US Report goes on to state that the protection of trafficking victims and the prosecution of their suspected exploiters were uneven among states and municipalities. While some courts in some states have secured serious penalties for convicted traffickers, continued complicity of government officials enabled traffickers to exploit additional men, women, and children.
The Report goes on to recommend that India should prosecute officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish those found guilty; continue to sensitize law enforcement officials to human trafficking issues and educate them about changes to the law; cease the penalization of victims of human trafficking; integrate anti-trafficking procedures into natural disaster planning and training; establish additional AntiHuman Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in source areas; encourage AHTUs to address all forms of trafficking, including forced labor of adults and children; hire additional female police officers to work with trafficking victims; coordinate standard operating procedures (SOPs) among police and child welfare departments for the rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation of trafficked children; prosecute suspected traffickers and punish those found guilty with sentences commensurate with those of other serious crimes; increase funding for shelters, regular training of staff working with victims, and the creation of a quality control board; through continued coordination with stakeholders, increase prevention efforts and services provided to victims of forced and bonded labor; increase prosecutions of all forms of trafficking, including bonded labor, respecting due process, and report on these law enforcement efforts; improve protections for trafficking victims who testify against their suspected traffickers; develop and implement SOPs to harmonize victim identification and repatriation, and prosecution of suspected traffickers when trafficking crimes cross state lines; provide funding for additional states to establish fast-track courts that respect due process and deal with all forms of human trafficking; promptly disburse government funding for anti-trafficking shelter homes and develop monitoring mechanisms to ensure quality of care; require state governments to comply with the October 2012 Supreme Court judgment to accurately report on the number of bonded labor victims; and fund more public awareness campaigns in informal settlements, schools, and colleges. Prosecution The Government of India did not provide adequate antitrafficking law enforcement data; observers noted a lack of progress based on low rates of convictions, with most offenders receiving fines in lieu of imprisonment. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalizes government officials’ involvement in human trafficking, prescribing sentences up to life imprisonment. It also prohibits most forms of sex trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties ranging from seven years’ to life imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
It is also been highlighted in the Report that Section 370 does not provide that the prostitution of a child under the age of 18 is an act of human trafficking in the absence of coercive means, the standard of the 2000 United Nations Protocol to Prevent,. Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (TIP Protocol), though the prostitution of minors is criminalized under other statutes. An April 2013 change in the criminal law, Section 166A of the IPC, holds police responsible for delays in registering a First Information Report (FIR) after a victim makes a complaint. Punishment for inaction ranges from six months to two years’ imprisonment. India also prohibits many forms of forced labor through the Bonded Labor System Abolition Act (BLSA), the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, and other provisions of the IPC; however, these provisions were unevenly enforced, and their prescribed penalties are not sufficiently stringent. India prohibits most forms of sex trafficking under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) and various provisions of the IPC. However, the ITPA also criminalizes other offenses, including prostitution, and is often used to prosecute sex trafficking victims.
Government officials’ complicity in human trafficking remained prevalent and the Indian government made few efforts to bring them to justice; victims were sometimes arrested or targeted for investigation for reporting abuse. In May 2013, Hyderabad police arrested a government official for allegedly operating a brothel. In June 2013, 17 police officers, including two superintendents, were suspended in Kerala for their involvement in a sex trafficking ring run through two airports; several of the officers were arrested and their cases remained pending at the close of the reporting period. Despite cooperating with police, the victim who reported this case was arrested and charged with passport fraud. In June 2013, authorities arrested two police officers for running a brothel. In July 2013, disciplinary action was taken against three Kerala police officers for facilitating the transport of trafficking victims to Dubai. In August 2013, two New Delhi police officers were arrested for running an alleged prostitution and extortion racket. In November 2013, a Member of Parliament and his wife were arrested for the alleged torture and murder of their domestic servant. An Indian consular officer at the New York consulate was indicted in December 2013 for visa fraud related to her alleged exploitation of an Indian domestic worker. NGOs reported other cases of corrupt officials returning rescued and escaped bonded laborers back to their exploiters; government officials attempting to dissuade bonded labor victims from pressing charges, stating that there would be negative repercussions from superiors if reported; and the involvement in bonded labor of regional politicians who used influence to block prosecutions. Police also reportedly accepted bribes in the form of money and sexual services in exchange for ignoring or failing to pursue trafficking charges, sexually abused trafficking victims, tipped suspected traffickers off to raids, released suspected traffickers after their arrests, and helped suspected traffickers destroy evidence.
Under the US law a 2008 amendment to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) provides that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 in that third year. This automatic downgrade provision came into effect for the first time in the 2013 Report. The Secretary of State is authorized to waive the automatic downgrade based on credible evidence that a waiver is justified because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan. The Secretary can only issue this waiver for two consecutive years. After the third year, a country must either go up to Tier 2 or down to Tier 3. Governments subject to the automatic downgrade provision are noted as such in the country narratives.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of TVPA, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
TIER 2 WATCH LIST
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND:
a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) was signed into law on December 23, 2008 (Title IV of Pub. L. 110-457), and took effect on June 21, 2009. The CSPA requires publication in the annual TIP Report of a list of foreign governments identified during the previous year as having governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers, as defined in the Act. These determinations cover the reporting period beginning April 1, 2013 and ending March 31, 2014.
For the purpose of the CSPA, and generally consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the term “child soldier” means:
(i) any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces;
(ii) any person under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces;
(iii) any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces; or
(iv) any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state.
The term “child soldier” includes any person described in clauses (ii), (iii), or (iv) who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a “cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”
When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud,coercion or any combination of such means, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, enticing, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining a person for that purpose are guilty of sex trafficking of an adult. Sex trafficking also may occur within debt bondage, as individuals are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt,” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale”—which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. An adult’s consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative: if one is thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim and should receive benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.
Human trafficking is a complex crime that many communities are still trying to understand, and using outdated terms or incorrect definitions only weakens understanding of the issue. Become familiar with the trafficking definitions of international law, found in the Palermo Protocol to the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention, as well as other related terms that are commonly used.
When media report on only one type of human trafficking, the public is left with only part of the story. Human trafficking includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, and debt bondage. Strengthen the public’s understanding of human trafficking and the full scope of the crime. -Trafficking in Persons Report-2014