World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
“We only have two choices- do something or do nothing” — Tony Kirwan
Every year on 30th July, the world unites to observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a day designated by United Nations, to recognise human trafficking as a serious crime and a complete violation of human rights. The United Nations theme for this year is “Working on the Frontline to End Human Trafficking”. This year’s theme focuses on the first responders for human trafficking who despite the pandemic and its situation continues to provide their services which often go unrecognised. As per the research brief published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in May 2020, the economic crisis caused by the pandemic crisis may lead to favourable conditions for the traffickers to continue their operation.
Human trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, slavery, organ removal, or other forms of crime. It is a demand-driven industry that exploits humans by forcing them into sexual and labour slave trades. Victims of trafficking can be of any age or gender. However, women and children are the most vulnerable target. Traffickers use different means like physical, emotional and mental abuse, threats and blackmails, coercion, drug addiction etc. to intimidate the victims. The victims are often forced to perform gruesome, dangerous tasks with little rest and food in addition to no pay. The vicious cycle of forced activity and abuse pushes the victims of trafficking into a situation from which they are unable to escape. The International Labor Organisation estimates that there are 21 million victims of forced labor around the world. All countries are affected by human trafficking, either as countries of origin, transit or destination.
Northeast remains one of the most vulnerable regions in the country due to the disparities in wealth and rise in the rate of unemployment. Northeastern states like Nagaland and Assam are becoming a source point for traffickers to carry out their illegal activities. Many local traffickers operate from within the Northeast with other larger organised trafficking groups in metropolitan cities. In Nagaland, with the growing demand for cheap labour and domestic help, the traffickers simply go into the poor and isolated villages and communities. They offer better job or education opportunities in big cities and other false promises. During a recent State level conference on Anti-Human Trafficking organised by the Nagaland Police, it was reported that a person goes missing every four days and out of the 87 cases of missing persons registered in the past three years (2017-19) from different districts of the state, 83% are below the age of 18 years; And 13% of the missing persons in Nagaland have been reportedly trafficked. It is disturbing to observe that children from neighbouring states are brought into the state for cheap labour and recruited in hotels, and for manual and daily wage labour. There are cases of children from far flung villages who are employed as domestic helpers and are being abused by the employers. On the other hand, girls and women from Nagaland and other neighbouring states are trafficked to the big Indian cities for sexual exploitation on pretext of recruitment into the entertainment and service industry.
Poor socio-economic circumstances intensifies vulnerabilities. Hence, the traffickers often target people from these sections of the societies; communities that lack access to opportunities. Limited reporting of trafficking does not mean absence of any trafficking activities. The lack of awareness about the issue among the public and the stakeholders makes it easy for traffickers to carry out their operations successfully. In addition, traffickers are using social media for recruitment, posting false advertisements attracting vulnerable people.
There are various laws under the Indian Constitution that address and penalise trafficking. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 penalises trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitations. Child Labour Act, 1986 and Juvenile Justice Act, 2016 prohibits bonded or forced labour. Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively and punishment for such offences are a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 protects children from sexual abuse and exploitations
There are multiple schemes under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, GoI that aims to provide services to women in distress, few of which are as mentioned below:
▪ Ujjawala Scheme is a comprehensive scheme for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficked women and children.
▪ Swadhar Greh Scheme also seeks to address the needs of females in difficult circumstances, including victims of sex trafficking.
▪ Women Helpline-181 provides 24 hour toll free telecom service to women affected by violence and seeking support and information. It facilitates crisis and non crisis intervention through referral to the appropriate agencies.
▪ Sakhi- One Stop Centre (OSCs) provides integrated support and assistance for women affected by violence under one roof with services like medical assistance, police assistance, psycho social support, legal aid, shelter, video conferencing. OSCs are set up in all 11 districts.
Data on human trafficking only reveal the tip of the iceberg since it is a disguised crime. We share a common mission to prevent and ultimately end human trafficking. To raise public awareness to prevent human trafficking and ensure the victims of trafficking receive necessary, comprehensive help and support to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into the community. It is crucial to inform people especially residing in the rural areas about the dangers of human trafficking. Provisions of quality education and better opportunities in the rural areas can curb the problem of trafficking. Stakeholders play a pivotal role in prevention, protection, rehabilitation of the victims of the crime and prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking.
If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave- activities like commercial sex, household work, farm or construction work, retail, factory, manual labour or any other activity, contact the Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) which are set up in all the districts by the Police under Home Department. Women and girls in distress can dial the Women Helpline (181 or 9485239098) for help in any crisis situation or visit Sakhi-One Stop Centres (OSCs) in your respective districts. Your prompt action will help someone in distress. Act now, break the chains and set them free.
To commemorate this day, a state wide digital campaign on the theme, “Break the Chain- Set Me Free” has been initiated by the State Resource Centre for Women, Nagaland (SRCW) and 181-Women Helpline (WHL) Nagaland under the Department of Social Welfare in collaboration with the District Administration, Mahila Shakti Kendra and Sakhi- One Stop Centre. The team have come up with IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials like poster, flyer, brochure, video, for dissemination on various social media platforms to raise awareness and have also introduced many other digital activities inviting the general public to participate. Join the digital campaign to prevent human trafficking. Share about the risk of falling prey to perpetrators and the social and human costs of trafficking in persons. Follow official pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channel of the SRCW Nagaland and 181Women Helpline Nagaland for more information.
Issued in the public interest by:
State Resource Centre for Women & 181- Women Helpline, Nagaland