Child trafficking in India – India has failed in upholding the Palermo Protocol

Child trafficking

A 15 year old beautiful once lived happily with her parents and three siblings. Albeit poor, she was happy. She was forced to marry a 40 years old man at the age of 13 for Rs.15000. This was done to her so that she could give birth to a male child. The little girl got into a very violent marriage. She did not only lose her childhood but also her life.

A 12 years old boy was sold to an Indian family living in Paris for adoption purpose who was later found out to be a bonded labor of the family, was exploited physically, mentally as well as sexually.

A minor girl confessed that she was not a girl and asked the counselors to address her as a male. He later narrated his story to the confused counselor. He was a boy who lived in Mumbai. One day, in the local train, his fellow passenger offered him something to eat. He lost his consciousness after taking it. When he woke up, he was in a luxurious hospital in great pain. He figured out that he had been castrated. He had an artificial vagina and was given hormone injections, due to which he developed breasts and other female characteristics. He was later handed to a brothel owner where he was forced to entertain clients. He was later rescued. But his case remains the most unusual and freakish for the rescue teams.

A 7 years old boy studying in one of the most expensive and popular schools in India was kidnapped by the bus conductor who was employed by the school without verification. The boy was kidnapped for organ harvesting purpose. He was blinded and was forced to beg on roads.

A teenager eloped with her lover. She was later sold and was forced into prostitution.

All these cases are heart breaking and shocking. It draws our attention towards child trafficking and raises numerous questions related to the safety of children and future of the country. Does humanity exist in this world? Children are the purest form of life. Does their innocence make them vulnerable and weak? Is our society weak enough not to take care of the innocent smiles? Does this country get mad only when cows are butchered? Does this country talks only about caste, religion, temples and mosques, and irrelevant rallies or remarks by politicians? Isn’t the safety of child, women and other marginalized sections important enough to create a hullabaloo in the country asking for change and safety?  Do these cases deserve a mere candle march and no real or strict actions?

Child trafficking is a very serious issue in both developing as well as developed nations. As said, it is the third largest profitable “industry” in the world.

According to UNICEF, “Any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harbored or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country”.
Children, who happens to be unaware of such evil are often kidnapped and are forced into crimes like child labor, illegal adoption, sport and organ procurement, child marriage, prostitution etc.

The victims of child trafficking are vulnerable to violence which hampers them physically, emotionally, mentally, socially. They are exposed to exploitation, neglect and abuse which is saddening but a bitter truth.

According to the National crime records bureau, one child disappears over night in every eight minutes. This is shocking!

If we observe the nature of the crime, the modus operandi and try to find out or investigate about it, we’ll figure out the complexity and the fact that it is difficult to track and hence, data is hard to obtain.

India is a country where child trafficking prevails on a large scale. Albeit it’s a global phenomenon and is not limited to any geographical region, but India happens to be one of the prime areas for this crime to occur. According to the data provided:

# in 1998, 5000-7000 Nepalese girls who were barely 9-10 years old were trafficked into the red light districts in India and 200000-250000 were already in Indian brothels.
# 12.6 million children are engaged in hazardous occupations. (Data provided by UNICEF)
# 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide (as estimated in 2009)
# according to a report by the National Human Rights commission of India, 90% of human trafficking in the country is interstate. Nearly 40000 children are kidnapped every year of which 11000 remains untraced.
# NGO’s estimate that 12000-50000 women and children are trafficked from the neighboring states in India for sex trade.
# there is approximately 300000 child beggars in India
# 44000 children fall into the clutches of the gangs every year.

These facts and figures are shocking as well as depressing. It forces us to wonder the reasons behind such crime.  After a careful examination, it was found out that the main cause behind child trafficking is poverty. Economic deprivation leads to selling off of children by their parents to the gangs to exploit them. Since children are more vulnerable than adults, the gangs find it easy to target them and use their bodies for organ harvesting, sexual exploitation, child labor, begging etc. Due to lack of employment opportunities and poor social status, the children are sold. This is harsh and bitter but is a truth. The trafficked children are compelled into service and their bodies are used as sacrifices when the demand for soldiers increases due to political uprisings. The children are kept in unhygienic conditions and are exploited at extremes.

Albeit India has an Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, but it refers only to trafficking for prostitution and hence does not provide security to children. India has also failed in upholding the Palermo Protocol, which provides protection to children against trafficking. In several cases, the police and the system are found to be casual. They fail to perform their duty properly. Government is constantly being urged to have better legislation for tackling child trafficking.

Is there a solution to this problem?
Will the spread of awareness and education contribute in the process to combat the evil?
Can strict laws against the crime and encouraging of business to not use child labor help?
Will support to NGOs like “save the children” in the fight against trafficking work?
Well, through a joint effort of civil society and government in child education, health and nutrition, child protection, humanitarian response, hopes can be given to the children. Some basic “prevention is better than cure” measures need to be taken.

Concluding it, I believe that no problem in this world exists without a solution. This evil crime takes place around us. We just need to live with our eyes and ears opened. Lalu’s personal comment on Modi and Arvind’s baseless allegations are not as important as the childhood of an innocent creature. Deepika Padukone’s bikini makes a sensational news item, but a small documentary or an advertisement can not be aired by the channels to spread awareness. A daughter of bureaucrat can be considered as a “daughter of the nation” but thousands of children who are being exploited don’t even get sympathetic ears and support.

Where is this country going?
What will be the future of the nation?
Well, I feel scared now!