Shafiq R Khan


Behind curtain : Duality on Trafficking

What is Trafficking?

Trafficking of humans involves moving men, women, and children from one place to another and placing them in conditions of forced labour. The practice includes forced sex work, domestic servitude, unsafe agricultural labour, sweatshop labour, construction or restaurant work, and various forms of modern-day slavery. This global violation of human rights occurs within countries and across borders, regions, and continents.

Trafficking has been defined by the UN General Assembly statement of 1994 as: “The illicit and clandestine movements of persons across national borders, largely from developing countries and some countries with economies in transition, with the end goal of forcing women and girl children into sexually or economically oppressive and exploitative situations for profit of recruiters, traffickers, and crime syndicates as well as other illegal activities related to trafficking, such as forced domestic labour, false marriages, clandestine employment and false adoption.”

The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, 2000, defines trafficking as: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of a threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.

Trafficking in South Asia

Trafficking has been found to be integrally linked to the lack of secure livelihoods; it forces large numbers of people to leave their homes, seeking income to improve the living conditions of their families.

South Asia is home to one-fifth of the world’s population, of which over 500 million live in absolute poverty, with an income of less than a dollar a day. Various studies and researches have shown that children, especially girl children and women bear a disproportionately large burden of the deprivation and exploitation resulting from such poverty related issues. The current globalisation processes on the one hand are creating further livelihood opportunities in urban areas and specific sectors, but on the other are leading to diminishing choices in rural settings, thus prompting greater human mobility driven by both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. Such trends reflect underlying patterns of poverty, marginalisation and disempowerment. Several economic liberalisation policies have entailed a progressive ‘feminisation of poverty’, coupled with decreasing rural participation rates for both men and women and rising female-underemployment. The number of women living in poverty and the number of women headed households living below the poverty-line have increased over the last decade, impacting significantly on the wellbeing and human security of children, often leading to situations of trafficking.

Women and Girl Children: Specially Vulnerable

Trafficking is by and large a gendered phenomenon. Although trafficking of men and young boys is also taking place within and from the region, evidence from major government and NGO sources indicates that the incidence of trafficking of women and girls over the past decade has escalated considerably. The majority of trafficking in India, both trans-border and in-country, happens for the purpose of commercial sex work, and over 60 percent of those trafficked into sex work are adolescent girls in the age-group of 12-16 years.

In South Asia, women are now reported to constitute up to 35 percent of new HIV infections (UNAIDS 2000). A complex web of socio-cultural and macro-economic factors affect women's vulnerability to HIV, including poverty, migration, urbanisation, gender inequalities compounded by women's lack of autonomy, abuse within and outside families, insufficient access to health care services, violence and ethnicity (UNIFEM 1998). Significantly, these factors also influence women's vulnerability to trafficking (STOP, Maiti Nepal, BNWLA).

“Women of all ages are more likely than men to become infected with HIV during unprotected vaginal intercourse. This vulnerability is especially marked in girls whose genital tract is still not fully mature. Compounding their biological vulnerability, women often have a lower status in society at large and in sexual relations in particular. This gender vulnerability, again, is particularly acute for young girls.” (Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, UNAIDS, June 2000)

South Asia is witnessing an alarming trend of increasingly younger girls being trafficked into the sex trade; the average age of girls trafficked from Nepal into India has fallen over the past decade from 14-16 years to 10-14 years. In Mumbai and other Indian cities, girl children as young as eight or nine are sold at auctions. One common myth fuelling the demand for young girls in South Asia is that sex with a virgin can cure Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. The multiple vulnerabilities to trafficking and HIV/AIDS faced by women and girl children in the region are further reinforced by socially sanctioned forms of violence, and skewed gender and power relations. These take various forms--rape, trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, dowry-related violence, female infanticide, domestic violence and violence in conflict situations. The lives of millions of women in this region remain defined by traditional practices that enforce disempowerment and endorse unequal treatment.

It is difficult to be precise about the exact numbers of women and children trafficked. Estimates based on the reports of law enforcement agencies, researchers and groups working with survivors and communities indicate that hundreds of thousands of women and children have been or are vulnerable to being trafficked from South Asia. Police estimate that more than 15,000 women and children are smuggled out of Bangladesh every year and NGOs estimate that 160,000-250,000 women and girls from Nepal are held in India’s brothels; 35 per cent of them were taken on the pretext of marriage or with offers of lucrative jobs. NGOs report that the numbers growing, and that trafficking is affecting communities where it was formerly unknown.

Impact of Trafficking

Trafficked people often suffer from a multitude of physical and psychological health problems. Women are specifically vulnerable to reproductive and other gender-specific health problems in trafficking situations as they have little or no access to reproductive health care. These problems include lack of access to birth control, constant rapes, forced abortions and contraceptive use, lack of regular mammograms and Pap smears, and other health issues. Women in domestic servitude are subject to rape and other physical abuse, while women in forced prostitution suffer increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.

Trafficking for marriage

Interesting case studies (case study no. CS-AP-1 and CS-AP-17 of Trafficking in Women and child in India 2002) have revealed how minor girls are sent to Arab countries after marrying them to Arab nationals. A number of brokers and agents are involved in these operations. They try to convince the parents to give up their daughters in marriage by luring them with handsome offers of money and hopes of bright lives for their children. Foreigners intending to marry young girls engage middlemen to locate suitable brides. Hyderabad has become a frequent destination of many of these persons. Agents of the Arab nationals scout the city for pretty girls from vulnerable families. After the marriage takes place, the girl is made to leave her house without giving the parents time to check the antecedents of the groom and the credibility of the agents.

After some time, the Arab national leaves the girl and she is left at the mercy of the brokers. The brokers then sell the girls to the brothels of Mumbai, Pune, etc. However, as the parents of the victims are ignorant of the law and their rights, they seldom come to the police to lodge complaints. In a study done by an NGO (Prajwala) in Hyderabad, many such cases of trafficking of girls for fake marriages have come to notice. It is, however, a crowning pity that no effective intervention has come either from the civil society or law-enforcement agencies to stamp out this deleterious practice.

Paro or Molki

Six prominent districts of Haryana which not only decide political and socio-economic feature of the state but these were the very districts which put forward the demand of a separate entity and new Haryana state came into being. These districts are called Jaat land. Separate Haryana state became the symbol of successful peasants’ movement and at the same time Haryanvi Tau, Chaudhary Devi Lal’s towering name was announcing prominence of Jat community in national scenario. Though the state capital is Chandigarh, the key of political control lay in the hands of above districts, and where jat community register its dominance. The majority jat community has its history of daring struggles.

Prior to Independence, communities like Jat, Gurjar, Meena and Meo were the symbols of resistance against Delhi rulers and hence their history has always been associated with barbarism. In addition, the rulers of Delhi branded them with terms like ‘lootera’ and ‘daurai’ (looter….). Even today, impression of these communities among common people of fringes is the reflection of the mindset created by the above tradition.

Obviously, the communities engaged in struggle against the political sovereigns have always been away from the ‘main stream’ and practiced its tribal customs and traditions. It is a common perception that communities that are away from the ‘main stream’ have their own set of very strict rules and that are generally based on their situations. These rules are for the benefit of that particular set of people. And majority of warrior tribes’ women experience comparatively low status and are treated as mere an object of household and their use are only into provide food, household management, physical (sexual) needs, entertainment and producing children. Loot of women with other items of substance in battle might be one of the reasons behind this mindset.

These communities i.e., Jat, Meo, Meena, and Gurjar have historical ties and interlinks among themselves. Many clans (gotra) are interlinked to each other, for example, sahrawat is common clan between Meo and Jat and they have warm relations. So it is obvious that they have many traditions in common, among these one is karewa (levirate).

According to the tradition, after the death of husband of a women her brother-in-law, elder or younger, are maintained a relationship of husband with the widow’s

In this tradition, (karewa) after death of husband of a women her brother-in-law, elder or younger (jeth or dewar), are maintained a relationship of husband and are free to access physical relationship with her.

This tradition was a caste rule made out of need of the contemporary society which dictated to have less number of ‘weak creatures’ (women) in the band and also to make use of the wives of killed men in the battles, which later took shape of a tradition.

The mentality behind the use of term Paro or molki (trafficking victim) is to point out those girls who has been purchased and brought from the other states in Haryana. The scarcity of girls due to female foeticide has been the normal thinking behind the importing of the Paro. But the census of 1901-2001 shows a balance of 3% was recorded sex ratio in 1981’s cohort. On the other hand the increasing rate of imbalance of 0.5% to 1.5% was recorded in the rest of the census. Obviously the logic of scarcity of girls seems dead behind the importation of Paro in this condition. And then it gives the birth to the logics like cheap labour and sex toy.

Migration and trafficking

Migration is understood simply as a process of movement by people from one place to another, with an objective in mind. It is however, a process of some complexity. M.S.A. Rao states, “…it is a shift in the place of residence for some length of time…” (Rao 1986: 19) and is rooted in the economic, socio-cultural, ecological and political realities of a society. It is while examining trafficking in all its dimensions, that one’s attention shifts to migration. The concern of this focus is mainly a search for more effective strategies, to combat trafficking, especially in the area of prevention, without violating the rights of migrants. Radhika Coomarswamy’s report provides important indicators for the possible intersections between trafficking and migration (United Nations 2000). The two recent reports published by Raymond and Blanchet have made this relationship the basis of their studies. The relationship is stated to be important because an understanding of migration trends and patterns; factors promoting migration; and the processes involved in migration; will play an important role in combating trafficking (Raymond 2002). Unlike the relationship between trafficking and other phenomena, migration and trafficking appear to intersect at almost all levels. It seems that the exploitation of migration by trafficking is the dominant nature of this relationship. Evidently, they first intersect

at the crossroads of physical movement. At a structural level it looks as though migration provides the basis and the context in which trafficking occurs. The fact that these contexts create a high degree of vulnerability for the people within them is apparent. That the character of the migration process provides the opportunity and means for the enactment of trafficking is undeniable. The relationship between these two processes suggests a possibility that trends in migration influence trafficking. .......….Continued

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