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U.S. report on human trafficking during pandemic


An annual study released by the U.S. State Department shows an increase in vulnerability to human trafficking during the pandemic.


GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Women and Children), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Human Trafficking
  2. Highlights of the U.S. report on Human Trafficking
  3. Constitutional & legislative provisions related to Trafficking in India:
  4. Prevalence of Human Trafficking problem in India

Human Trafficking

  • Human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.
  • Exploitation include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs.

How do people get entangled in trafficking?

  • People trapped by traffickers are mostly trying to escape poverty or discrimination, improve their lives and support their families.
  • Vulnerable people are often forced to take unimaginable risks to try and escape poverty or persecution, accepting precarious job offers and making hazardous migration decisions, often borrowing money from their traffickers in advance.
  • When they arrive they find that the work does not exist, or conditions are completely different. They become trapped, reliant on their traffickers and extremely vulnerable. Their documents are often taken away and they are forced to work until their debt is paid off.

Highlights of the U.S. report on Human Trafficking

  • The concurrence of the increased number of individuals at risk, traffickers’ ability to capitalise on competing crises, and the diversion of resources to pandemic response efforts has resulted in an ideal environment for human trafficking to flourish and evolve.
  • The Report said that India did not meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking – however, the Indian government was making significant efforts especially when it comes to bonded labour. However, these efforts were inadequate as India still achieved fewer convictions, and the acquittal rate for traffickers remained high at 73 percent.
  • The report said that the Chinese government engaged in “widespread forced labour, including through the continued mass arbitrary detention of more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and other Muslims” in Xinjiang.

Constitutional & legislative provisions related to Trafficking in India:

  • 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 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 are other specific legislations 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 legislations to deal with the issue. (e.g., The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012).

Prevalence of Human Trafficking problem in India

  • According to data submitted by the National Crime Records Bureau to the Supreme Court in 2019, Mumbai and Kolkata had the highest cases of trafficking in women and children, mainly for forced marriage, child labour, domestic help and sexual exploitation.
  • A 2014 Dasra report stated that approximately 16 million women are victims of sex trafficking in India a year, while 40 per cent of them are adolescents and children. And more than 70 per cent of victims are illiterate and 50 per cent of them have a family income of less than $1 per day.
  • Called a top destination for human trafficking, India was once named the most dangerous country for women in terms of human trafficking according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.
  • Aside from sex trafficking, India is also riddled with the problem of trafficking for organs. In 2007, the World Health Organisation described India as a “commonly known organ-exporting country”.
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 5264 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2018, where 64% were women and 48% were below 18 years old.
  • The most affected areas are Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Orissa and West Bengal. People from economically disadvantaged classes, and belonging to the categories of SC, ST, OBC are more susceptible to fall victim to such malpractices.
  • According to data, 95% of trafficked persons in India are forced into prostitution.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023