Human trafficking has emerged as one of the most profitable forms of organised crimes across the globe. The buying and selling of persons for the purpose of exploitation has become very common.
The form of exploitation in this regard can vary from region to region. The various purposes behind human trafficking are sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic work and organ trade.
Ninety percent of trafficking in India is internal, the victims are mostly from the disadvantaged socio-economic strata of the society and are trafficked to other states for various purposes.
Children are trafficked as they can easily be controlled and groomed and pushed into prostitution, industrial or factory based labour where they work in bondage, domestic labour where there the demand is high.
Children who are the most vulnerable section of the society have become even more vulnerable to trafficking since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020 that resulted in subsequent lockdown of the country not once but several times.
Due to the frequent lockdowns since last year, either many workers in the unorganized sector lost their jobs or their earning shrunk.
Due to this, their children who were earlier in schools or staying at home are now being forced into work in order to contribute to family income.
As per the ILO UNICEF report on Child Labour Global Estimates 2020, child labour rose to 160 million in 2020.
63 million girls and 97 million boys were in child labour globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide.
The COVID-19 crisis threatens to further erode global progress in eradication of child labour unless urgent mitigation measures are taken.
New analysis suggests an additional 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the pandemic.
Trafficking a child for forced labour is very common in India. The trafficker is usually a known person or a distant relative of the parents of the child. These people lure poor parent into getting their child a better life where he/she can earn and send money to the parents back home.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan an NGO led by the Noble Peace Laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi receives many calls from distressed parents whose child has been trafficked or has gone missing and they have not received any money earned by the child as was promised by the so called trafficker and they also do not know the whereabouts of their child.
The main problem with children being trafficked for forced labour is that even when they are rescued they are not recognised as children who are survivors of trafficking.
In most of the cases, no FIRs are registered and where FIR does get registered, sections of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 leading to the trafficker getting away with very less punishment and fine. As result, the traffickers are back to their illegal work in no time.
After the huge public uproar following the horrific Nirbhaya case in Delhi in 2012 trafficking as an offence was included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2013.
The Section 370 and 370A covers trafficking and stringent punishment for the offender however, just a penal provision is not sufficient to deal with this organised crime.
A comprehensive trafficking law is necessary in the country to curb the menace of trafficking, that deals with prevention, rescue, care, protection, rehabilitation including monetary relief and compensation for the victims of labour and other forms of exploitation.
The new Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill likely to be introduced in the Parliament this year provides for such provisions such as inclusion of situation where victim including a child is put in a situation of forced or bonded labour or debt bondage or in situation of slavery or servitude. This is covered under aggravated form of trafficking with higher punishment.
The Bill also provides for attachment and forfeiture of place of exploitation and property purchased by the trafficker from the proceeds of crime. The organized crime syndicates and criminal groups are specifically covered under the Bill with rigorous imprisonment and fine.
The rehabilitation of victims including compensation is an integral part of the Bill with focus on prevention to ensure victims do not get trapped in the malicious dreams shown by traffickers.
The passage of the bill will be resounding victory of 12 Lakh Indians who marched across 22 states and 12000 kms demanding the anti-trafficking bill along with Sh Kailash Satyarthi in 2017.
Children who are trafficked for the purposes of labour, suffer bodily and mental harm, and are denied their Fundamental Right to education. Their health and well-being is always at risk threatening their future.
Passage of the Human Trafficking (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 is a pressing priority especially when the world is going through an unprecedented crisis likely to leave millions vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
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