Imperatives to Tackle Child Trafficking
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 40.3 million people are in modern slavery at any given time and that one in four victims of modern slavery is a child. Child trafficking is a “form of slavery or practice similar to slavery” as argued by the ILO. It occurs when children are forced from safety and exploited. Children who are trafficked are often manipulated into some form of work, sexually exploited, or simply sold. They are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential because they do not get the fundamental rights of education and freedom to make their own choices. Child trafficking is linked to the demand for cheap labour from areas/regions where working conditions are poor. It is an issue that every country in the world is affected by, whether as a victim’s original country or somewhere they travelled through, or in being the destination.
Superintendent of police, Kohima, Kevithüto Sophie, had stated during a district level workshop on combating child trafficking that Nagaland too has seen hundreds of children being trafficked. The children were brought with the promise of jobs, education, accommodation, and free meals. They were then forced to work as domestic workers, abused and even sexually exploited by employers. Minors are particularly vulnerable as they are more easily manipulated and are unknowingly brought into trafficking situations. An interesting fact he highlighted was that there had been a decrease in the number of reported cases against child abuse but that case numbers could be higher as many victims do not register cases with the police for fear of traffickers and also because they do not know the law.
There are several global initiatives working to tackle and eradicate the issue. The ILO has a programme called the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour that works with governments, charities and other organisations to fight child trafficking. The UNICEF also provides temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces, the organisation set up such facilities in Nepal after the devastating earthquakes in 2015, as it was learnt that there was a huge increase in the number of girls forced into labour and sexual exploitation after the disaster. The children were educated on how to keep themselves safe and healthy and how to avoid the lure of traffickers.
The Nagaland State Commission for Protection of Child Rights works in collaboration with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to identify and respond to child victims, while holding accountable those who are responsible for their exploitation. However, in Nagaland the issue of child trafficking is exacerbated by the demand for child domestic helpers from rural and poverty stricken families. Thus, there is a great need to create more safe spaces where children can be made to feel less vulnerable, be educated on their rights and ensure protection to those who fall prey to predators by persecuting the criminals involved. Nagas need to take a firm stand against those that employ child workers. It is imperative for us Nagas to educate ourselves and our children about the rights of minors, including the right to development, survival, participation, and protection.