Laws for Child Trafficking in India

Laws for Child Trafficking in India

Poverty is one of the main causes of child trafficking. Economically disadvantaged families sometimes have no choice but to abandon or “sell” their children and place them in the hands of traffickers. Child trafficking is particularly prevalent in India in areas affected by natural disasters. Illiteracy and lack of education make families more vulnerable to traffickers. Among those most at risk are children whose births have never been registered. Often, early child marriage is also practiced as a cover for child trafficking. The government has stepped up its efforts to prevent human trafficking. The MHA and MWCD continued to lead government efforts to combat human trafficking; The MHA led the national response to public safety issues, while the MWCD managed the prevention and reintegration aspects. In May 2021, the MHA issued a recommendation calling on all EU states and territories to provide support and assistance to groups deemed vulnerable to human trafficking – including women, children, the elderly and members of marginalized groups – in response to the pandemic. The recommendation highlighted the INR 1.07 billion ($14.39 million) made available to states and union territories to establish or strengthen “women`s assistance offices” in local police stations. The opinion also recommended using the Crime Multi Agency Center, a communication platform at the national level, to share information on missing persons and cases of human trafficking. The government maintained an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the MWCD to discuss issues related to human trafficking. Although the government indicated that it continued to rely on a 2012 NAP to combat sex trafficking in women and children, it did not report on its implementation efforts or the convening of meetings to coordinate measures.

Since 2016, the central government has offered a reimbursement of INR 450,000 (US$6,050) to each district that conducted a debt bondage census every three years, as well as additional funding for valuation studies. The Tamil Nadu Ministry of Labour and Employment accepted funding in 2019 and has begun developing a debt bondage database to determine the number of bonded servants and the industries in which they operate in 11 districts. NGOs provided data to which the state government has committed to use data from civil society organizations to conduct anti-trafficking operations. Government agencies have regularly issued guidance and SOPs on combating human trafficking, including in response to pandemic conditions, as well as awareness campaigns to prevent human trafficking. Preventive measures to combat trafficking in human beings vary considerably from one State to another. Some state Governments conducted awareness-raising campaigns against trafficking, although NGOs reported that local officials, migrant workers and agricultural workers were often unaware of human trafficking and their legal rights. The governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu marked 9 February 2021 as “Anti-Bondage of Labour Day” to mark the anniversary of the formulation of the BLSA, and intensified public awareness campaigns on debt bondage during the reporting period. Officials and NGOs reported that restrictions on public gatherings imposed through the pandemic had severely hampered the ability of local and state governments to launch new awareness campaigns or to continue existing ones during the reporting period.

Several state governments suspended or amended their labor laws to boost economic activity immediately after the first pandemic-related lockdown. The changes included higher maximum working time limits for certain industries, lower social security benefits, suspension of settlement of labor disputes, and suspension of the right to strike. Trade unions and union representatives criticised the changes and highlighted the possible negative impact on vulnerable groups. State governments emphasized that economic recovery measures did not circumvent debt bondage, POSCO or other anti-trafficking laws. The Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act 1956 (ITPA) is the main law aimed at preventing trafficking in persons for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Foreign victims had the same access to housing and services as Indian nationals. The Government`s policy towards foreign victims dictates the repatriation of survivors to their country of origin as soon as possible. Authorities detained foreign victims of sex trafficking in shelters until they were deported, and repatriating foreign victims who wished to return home and deporting victims could take years due to bureaucratic restrictions.

Some officials refused to refer victims until they testified in the prosecution of their traffickers. The government continued to finalize a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Bangladesh on the identification and repatriation of victims of human trafficking in Bangladesh. The long and complex repatriation process forced some Bangladeshi victims to languish in Indian shelters for years before being repatriated. The government provided funds to NGOs to repatriate victims of child trafficking, but did not offer financial assistance for the repatriation of adults. Indian embassies abroad have supported Indian citizens identified as victims of human trafficking. The MHA facilitated the repatriation of Indian women to the Middle East, including victims of human trafficking, through the Indian Community Social Welfare Fund. Six Indian embassies abroad, mainly in the Gulf, have shelters where migrant workers showing signs of forced labour can be temporarily housed. However, alleged victims of trafficking have previously reported that some shelters do not provide adequate food and basic amenities or allow victims to contact families. Policy-making is crucial for sustainable social change, and effective legislation can bring significant benefits. However, given the complexity of the problem, there are no easy solutions in a vast country like India. As recommended by the International Judicial Mission, some proactive measures can be taken to deter crime.

The central government funds a program whereby county officials identify victims of debt bondage and issue them certificates of release that give them access to non-monetary assistance and, after their trafficker is convicted, compensation. In 2016, the government amended the program to include victims of female trafficking and forced child labor as beneficiaries, requiring local county authorities to provide immediate financial assistance of up to INR 20,000 ($274) to a victim within 24 hours of identification. regardless of the status of the court case in question. Payment of the full amount of compensation (between INR 100,000 [USD 1,370] and INR 300,000 [USD 4,110], depending on the victim`s demographics) remained subject to the conviction of the trafficker or the conclusion of legal proceedings, which could take several years. The government has not adequately implemented any step of this program, and when states have implemented the program, it is often because of the continued advocacy of NGOs. Some states had SOPs to deal with bonded labour. The Delhi government had an SOP to rescue victims from enslaved men. In March 2020, Karnataka, in collaboration with civil society organisations, published a comprehensive SOP on human trafficking addressing sex trafficking, victim identification, forced child begging, debt bondage and child labour. In July 2020, Tamil Nadu issued an SOP to address debt bondage among migrant workers.

The state government also instructed district collectors to form vigilance committees and monitor the welfare of indentured servants who had been removed from exploitation. The government did not indicate whether other states had bonded labor SOPs. Child trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or reception” of a child for the purpose of exploitation. To learn more about laws protecting against human trafficking in India soon, please read the following video: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO), which came into force on 14 November 2012, is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It provides precise definitions of various forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault and sexual harassment. The worst could happen. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has predicted that with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world could see an increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years, which could jeopardize years of progress in this area. Efforts by law enforcement agencies throughout the country, particularly against debt bondage, remained insufficient in relation to the scale of the problem. The law required police to submit a First Information Report (FIR) as soon as information became available about the commission of a recognizable crime, such as forced labor or sex trafficking, which required police to open a criminal investigation. Police did not always arrest suspected traffickers, file FIRs to file a formal complaint, or file FIRs for human trafficking offenses. Public servants often resolved cases at the complaint stage.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) continued to investigate and prosecute cases of cross-border trafficking in persons, including those involving Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan nationals. Civil society has welcomed the NIA`s actions as a deterrent to potential traffickers.

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