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A Detailed Description of Child Trafficking In India


In a civilized society, the welfare of the entire community depends upon the well-being of its children. They are essential assets of any nation because they will determine how the country will progress. As every child has a human right, the state is responsible for making a policy that facilitates opportunities and growth in freedom and dignity.

That childhood and youth are protected against any form of exploitation. However, in practical aspects, the extent of child slavery, child bonded labour, child prostitution and immoral trafficking of children has become a severe concern in India, despite various rules and regulations, plans, policies, enactments, Etc. Particularly the extent of child trafficking has reached alarming proportions.

What Is Child Trafficking?

Trafficking means the "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons below the age of 18 years, within or across borders, legally or illegally, by means of threat or use of other forms of coercion, abduction, deception, the abuse of power or the position of vulnerability or, of the giving or receiving of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of such person, with the intention or knowledge that it is likely to cause or lead to exploitation".

The Three Critical Elements Required For The Formation Of Trafficking Are:
  1. Action (the transportation, recruitment, transfer, and procurement of a person.)
  2. Means (the use of coercion, deception, force, abduction, abuse of the position of the vulnerability of the victim, abuse of power enjoyed by the trafficker, giving or receiving payments or benefits or some consideration.)
  3. Purpose (exploitation which includes forced labour in domestic, industrial, dance bar, Prostitution, Pornography, commercial servile marriage, removal of organs Etc. According to International Labour Organisation, "Child trafficking is about taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for exploitation".

Factors Responsible For Child Trafficking:

There are many reasons that are responsible for child trafficking in India. These are:
  1. Expanding commercial sex Industry in India, which employs a large number of sex workers, is increasing the demand, especially for minor girls.
  2. Industries demand cheap labour, due to which many children got trafficked to work as bonded labour on a lower wage.
  3. Economic Disparities within the country and between countries create demand for trafficking from low-income to high-income areas.
  4. In specific communities, Traditional and religious practices like (Jogin and Devadasi), which dedicate girls to gods and goddesses, also promote child trafficking by selling such girls in brothels.
  5. Lucrative businesses with low investment but higher monetary returns attract crime syndicates, which is why the trafficking industry is the third most lucrative business in the world for the criminal syndicate after Drugs and Weapons.
  6. Inadequate educational opportunities lead to illiteracy, which plays a significant factor in trafficking because the children, especially girls, are not aware of their legal rights. Due to this, they are not able to take steps against exploiters.
  7. Lack of Political will of the Government to make a robust mechanism for stopping trafficking through their enforcement agencies.

The extent of the problem
Child Trafficking is being accelerated by sex tourism, the Pornographic Industry and paedophilia Etc. Children from the South Asia region are being trafficked across the country for these illegal activities.

According to the NCRB Report of 2021, 2877 children were trafficked in India. Approximately eight children were trafficked daily, and the reports account for only those cases that Anti-Human Trafficking Units have registered; the unregistered traffic figure is enormous compared to this.

The report also shows that trafficking increased in India by 28 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020 and 44 per cent of these victims are children. According to the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), approx. Two million cases of child sexual abuse are reported every year in India.

Some reports also quoted that approx. Fifty thousand girl children are forced into prostitution through trafficking; also, the children are forced for different immoral purposes like Physical and Mental Torture, rape, drug dealing, forced abortions Etc.

The Legal Framework To Deal With Child Trafficking

Child trafficking has become a colossal problem; many steps have been taken at the International and the Country (India) Levels to combat this. An overview of some of the essential steps is given below:

International Instruments

  1. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
    Article 19 of this Convention prohibits the illegal transfer of children abroad. Article 19 states, "The State's obligation to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse perpetrated by parents or others responsible for their care". espically, Article 34 and 35 are directly concerned with child prostitution, child pornography and child trafficking, and, in this regard, the state parties must take immediate measures to prevent these activities.
     
  2. Palermo Protocol of 2000
    India signed this Protocol in 2002, but it was ratified in 2011. This Protocol, for the first time, provides a clear definition of trafficking, which helps in combating trafficking according to this Protocol: -

    Trafficking means "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs".

    The impact of this Protocol was immense. It provides frameworks for many countries to make laws to deal with Issues of trafficking and to fill the gaps within the current legal framework.
     
  3. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the child on the sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Etc., 2000
    This Protocol seeks to raise the standards in protecting children from all sexual exploitation and abuse. Under Article 1, this Protocol wants to prohibit "the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography".

    Article 2 defines "the sale of children as any act or transaction whereby any person transfers a child to another remuneration or other consideration". Similarly, 'child prostitution' has been defined as the use of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or other consideration. According to this Protocol, "Child pornography means any representation of a child of the sexual parts of the child primarily for sexual purposes engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation".

Besides all these conventions, many international organizations and NGOs are constantly prohibiting the trafficking of children at the international level, like The United Nations, UNICEF, ILO, "Maiti" in Nepal, and "The Daughter Educational Programme for Daughters and Communities" in Thailand Etc.


Indian laws dealing with child trafficking at the Country Level

  1. Indian Constitution
    Article 23 of the Indian Constitution "prohibits traffic in human beings and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the Law". Thus, Child trafficking is prohibited under this law. Further, Article 39(e) and (f) of the DPSP envisages that "The State should direct its policy towards securing such childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment so that the children are given opportunities to develop healthily in a free environment with dignity".
     
  2. Section 370 of IPC
    "Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or persons, by:
    1. using threats, or
    2. using force or any other form of coercion, or
    3. by abduction, or
    4. by practising fraud, or deception, or
    5. by abuse of power, or
    6. by inducement, including the giving or receiving of payments or benefits, to achieve the consent of any person having control over the person recruited, transported, harboured, transferred or received, commits the offence of trafficking".

      *The above definition also includes Minor in it.
       
  3.  Section 370A. The exploitation of a Trafficked Person
    1. Whoever, knowingly or having reason to believe that a minor has been trafficked, engages such minor for sexual exploitation in any manner, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine".
    2. Whoever, knowingly by or having reason to believe that a person has been trafficked, engages such persons for sexual exploitation in any manner shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

      Here, Section 370a (1) specifies punishment for the offence against the Minor.
       
  4. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
    This act aims to inhibit or abolish commercialized sexual abuse and exploitation and the trafficking of persons as an organised means of living. This object is achieved by two major strategies: punishing those guilty of such conduct and rescuing and rehabilitating the victims of such exploitation.

    Further, this Amendment Act has introduced the concept of 'child' victims as against minors and majors.
     
  5. Government and NGO Intervention.
    The Govt. of India established the Department of Women and Child Development, which has the responsibility to prepare guidelines for combating child trafficking through prevention, rescue and rehabilitation etc., and from time to time, it has set up various workshops to seek solutions and to prepare a plan for addressing child trafficking. In this matter, National Commission for women and the state commission have also responded to the need to attend to the problem of trafficking immediately. There are many NGOs which are continuously working at the regional level to combat child trafficking and have shown tremendous progress are 'Campaign Against Child.
Trafficking, Sanlaap, Prerana, Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (ATSEC) Etc.

Possible Measures For Prevention Of Child Trafficking:
  1. Awareness regarding child Trafficking is fundamental in society
  2. Stringent punishment should be given to exploiters and Brokers Etc., and the legal provision should be stringent.
  3. Cyber Pornography should be strictly monitored.
  4. Sex Tourism should be banned.
  5. The Govt. should take remedial measures to prevent the trafficking of children (buying and selling of children).
  6. Proper steps should be sincerely taken by the Govt. to rehabilitate rescued children.
  7. Legislative Provisions are needed to be strengthened and adequately implemented.
  8. The establishment of Proper coordination between different levels of Government and NGOs is significant.
  9. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act should be strengthened.
Conclusion
Children, on which the future of any society depends, are being sexually abused to a great extent in almost every corner of the country. At the same time, child trafficking poses a more significant challenge in front of us. The Government should have to enact more stringent laws against these illegal exploiters, and they should have to evolve a

long-term policy for the rehabilitation of the rescued children in society after proper counselling. There is also a need to learn from other countries that are doing well in combating child trafficking. As in the digital world, trafficking occurs globally, so the government should form an organisation with regulating power to stop child trafficking across the globe. The need of the hour is to educate the people at the regional level about these illegal activities through various State Agencies and NGOs.

References:
  1. Child Trafficking In India - iPleaders
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304657887_Child_Trafficking_in_India
  3. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (bareactslive.com)
  4. Convention on the Rights of the Child text | UNICEF
  5. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities | United Nations Enable
  6. Book "Offences against Children and Juvenile Offences" By Dr S.K. Chatterjee

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