India does not fully meet the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking: 2018 US Report

Newsroom24x7 Network

The Government of India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons although it is making significant efforts to do so.

This is underscored by the “2018 Trafficking in Persons Report”, released earlier this year by the US State Department.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report is an essential State Department tool used to shed light on the darkness where
modern slavery thrives and to highlight specific steps each government can take to protect victims of human trafficking – The US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo.

The US State Department report says that the government of India demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore India remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by nearly tripling the number of victims identified and increasing its budget for shelter programs for female and child trafficking victims.

Notwithstanding the increased budget for shelter programs, what is a matter of deep concern is that rapes are being committed in shelter homes that were being run with public money. Recently, two States – Bihar and Madhya Pradeh – have remained in news due to this reason. – Lalit Shastri, Editor-in-Chief Newsroom24x7

About India, the Report says that despite India being a destination for child sex tourism, the government did not report measures to reduce child sex tourism.

In January 2018, the government of Andhra Pradesh appointed a panel of legal experts and civil society to make recommendations on which laws could be used to prosecute buyers of sex. The government did not report additional efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The Indian
military conducted training on trafficking for its personnel before deployment on peacekeeping or similar missions. The government did not provide information about any anti-trafficking training provided to its diplomatic personnel.

Tier placements: The country’s tier ranking is based on the government’s efforts to combat trafficking as measured against the minimum standards and compared to its efforts in the preceding year. India has been at Tier-2 of the US State Department reports on human trafficking continuously since 2011.

Further, on the basis of what’s been reported over the past five years, the US Report on Trafficking of Persons says that India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Forced labor constitutes India’s largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage—sometimes inherited from previous generations—are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, embroidery factories, and agriculture. Most of India’s trafficking problem is internal, and those from the most disadvantaged social strata—caste Dalits, members of tribal communities, religious minorities, and women and girls from excluded groups—are most vulnerable. Within India, some are subjected to forced labor in sectors such as construction, steel, garment, and textile industries, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, pickling, floriculture, fish farms, and ship breaking. Workers within India who mine for sand are potentially vulnerable to human trafficking.

Thousands of unregulated work placement agencies reportedly lure adults and children under false promises of employment into sex trafficking or forced labor, including domestic servitude.

Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages within India or Gulf states and subject women and girls to sex trafficking. In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications, and online money transfers to facilitate commercial sex. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and by foreign travelers in tourist destinations. Many women and girls, predominately from Nepal and Bangladesh, and from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia, including Rohingya and other minority populations from Burma, are subjected to sex trafficking in India. Prime destinations for both Indian and foreign female trafficking victims include Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Hyderabad, and along the India-Nepal border; Nepali women and girls are increasingly subjected to sex trafficking in Assam, and other cities such as Nagpur and Pune. Some corrupt law enforcement officers protect suspected traffickers and brothel
owners from law enforcement efforts, take bribes from sex trafficking establishments and sexual services from victims, and tip off sex and labor traffickers to impede rescue efforts.

Girls from northeast in India were reportedly vulnerable to human trafficking as they transited Burma on fake Burmese passports to circumvent the Indian government’s required emigration clearance to migrate
for work to certain countries. Some Bangladeshi migrants are subjected to forced labor in India through recruitment fraud and debt bondage. Some Nepali, Bangladeshi, and Afghan women and girls are subjected to both labor and sex trafficking in major Indian cities. Following the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, Nepali women who transit through India are increasingly subjected to trafficking in the Middle East and Africa. Some boys from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are subjected to forced labor in embroidery factories in Nepal. Burmese Rohingya, Sri Lankan Tamil, and other refugee populations continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in India.

During the reporting period, the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) issued the 2016 Crime in India Report, the most recent law enforcement data available. The 2016 report utilized different sections of law from previous years’ reports by including additional sections of the penal code relevant to human trafficking and removing ITPA data from the reported totals for human trafficking, thereby making past data incomparable. The 2016 report also included IPC section 367 in its aggregated trafficking data despite this section covering crimes broader than trafficking; the government did not report if it had disaggregated non-trafficking crimes from the data.

In 2016, police investigated 5,217 trafficking cases and the government completed the prosecution of 587 cases. Of these cases, courts convicted traffickers in 163 cases and acquitted individuals in 424 cases. The acquittal rate for trafficking cases increased from 65 percent in 2015 to 72 percent in 2016. The
government did not publish the categorization of the cases between sex or labor trafficking. The NCRB did not include cases of bonded labor in the overall human trafficking statistics, but did separately report 114 investigations and 13 prosecutions of cases in 2016 under the BLSA. This was an increase from 77
investigations and seven case prosecutions in 2015.

The courts’ convictions under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) remained notably low at only three in 2016 (compared to four in 2015), although bonded labor offenders may also be charged and convicted under other laws. The government did not report sentences for convictions.

Particilarly, the Report points out that Official complicity in human trafficking occurred at varying levels of government. The government did not report comprehensive data on investigations, prosecutions, or
convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

The 2016 Crime in India Report, the most recent law enforcement data available, stated under the corruption act and related IPC sections, there were 4,764 officials charged, 1,071 officials convicted, and 1,947 officials acquitted in 2016; the government did not report whether any of the cases were related to human trafficking. Some corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly protected suspected traffickers and brothel owners from law enforcement action, received bribes from sex trafficking establishments and sexual services from victims, and tipped off sex and labor traffickers on forthcoming raids. Media quoted a Delhi government official as stating Delhi’s red-light area had become a hub for human trafficking, especially of girls, and alleging the involvement of police, politicians, and local government officials. There were no reports of investigations into such cases of complicity for the second consecutive year.

The government increased efforts to protect victims. The NCRB reported the government’s identification of 22,955 victims in 2016, compared with 8,281 in 2015. The NCRB reported 11,212 of the victims were exploited in forced labor, 7,570 exploited in sex trafficking, 3,824 exploited in an unspecified manner,
and 349 exploited in forced marriage, although it is unclear if the forced marriage cases directly resulted in forced labor or sex trafficking. The government did not disaggregate the type of exploitation experienced by the age, gender, or nationality of the victim and included a small number of non-trafficking crimes in its overall victim demographic numbers; thus the following information included 162 more persons than the total number of trafficking victims identified. The government identified 8,651 boys, 7,238 women, 5,532 girls, and 1,696 men as trafficking victims. Of the victims, 22,932 were Indian, 38 Sri Lankan, 38 Nepali, 36 Bangladeshi, and 73 were various other nationalities, including Thai and Uzbek.

The Report points out that Human trafficking is a global phenomenon to which no country is immune. Victims of modern slavery are exploited in every region of the world, compelled into service for labor or
commercial sex in the real world of industry and on the pages of the internet. The enormity of the problem necessitates the development of a unified, comprehensive response from world leaders to collectively address a crime that defies all borders.

This year’s report focuses on effective ways local communities can address human trafficking proactively and on how national governments can support and empower them.

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