Tuesday, November 1, 2011

South Asian borders: Home to sex trafficking

Trafficking in persons can be explained as the transport, recruitment, transfer, or harboring of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of fraud, for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficking is primarily known to be done for sexual exploitation. Many times trafficked victims are used for forced labor, organ removal and marriage or adoption.
Human trafficking is the world’s third largest illicit profit-making industry where South Asia has emerged as the home to the second largest numbers of internationally trafficked persons. India is among the favored destinations in South Asia.
At the times of hardship, this mostly starts out as an illegal migration which ends up as trafficking. Internal displacement because of conflict in some of these countries, poverty and lack of employment opportunities allow the vulnerabilities to be trafficked.
Mostly, Porous borders with poorer Bangladesh and Nepal intensify the problem of cross-border trafficking. Bangladesh is observed to be a source country for women and children. This proves that traffickers target is mostly in the poverty stricken rural areas.
On the other hand, Nepal is known as a source country in the region where fair looking Nepali young women have to become the primary victims of the trafficking. Besides that, it has been observed that the new trend emerges with attraction for boys too. An unconfirmed statistics has revealed that in average 12,000 Nepali women and minors are trafficked every year for the purpose of sexual exploitation in outer countries. As a result, most of the trafficked women from Nepal were found to be infected with HIV/AIDS and also tuberculosis.
India with over a billion populations has also been observed as a state of transit country for trafficking in persons. According to an estimated research, 90 per cent of India’s sex trafficking is internal; where States like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and the Northeast put in their shares. But often, women and children, trafficked from neighboring countries, are sent to the Middle East, Gulf countries and even to the Europe. On the other hand, Pakistan as well as Sri Lanka has also lately joined in the circuit.

According to Ms.Renuka Chowdhury, the Indian Women and Child Development minister, trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, is a dreadful crime that violates all tenets of human rights and dignity. On her address to the Conference, Ms Chowdhury informed that there were nearly three million sex workers in India where 40 per cent of them are children. Statistics has disclosed that children below the age of 10 years are also found in the Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
According to the studies, Nepali women who have been trafficked into the sex trade in India were found to be nearly 40 percent HIV-positive. The situation was found to be even worse among younger girls, with the figure rising beyond 60 percent among those who were trafficked before 15 years of age.
South Asia is one of those worst areas which are affected with AIDS. It includes areas with some 2.5 million people infected with HIV/AIDS in India alone. A report estimated that some 150,000 girls and women are trafficked each year across the region.
United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human trafficking South Asia include countries which serve as high origin, transit and destination countries for women, children and men being trafficked.
According to UNODC7, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan are ranked top in the countries of high origin. India and Pakistan are also ranked as countries with high destinations. Many of the countries in this region are trafficking in women and children. It is a matter of great concern throughout the world. In South Asia, trafficking through Cross-Borders, sourcing, transit to destination has really become a big problem. The movement of persons within the countries for exploitation in various forms is very common. However; there are no definite figures about the actual number of victims. Trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is one of the most dangerous forms in South Asia.

The response against the crime of human trafficking by the countries of South Asia has been insufficient. There is a limited awareness. Although knowledge and the enthusiasm to speak out against trafficking have increased appreciably in the past half decade, it is still only at negligible levels. Besides the lack in awareness, existing legislation of anti-trafficking in most countries is inadequate. The law enforcement response is also weak and irresponsive.

According to a recent survey by the National Human Rights Commission, in India, it is stated that only 7 percent of the police personnel have received any kind of training until now. The number of registered cases and the percentage of traffickers’ convictions are low. The victims are often ‘re-victimized’ when they are brought in contact with the law as they are arrested on charges of soliciting. This shows that the victims need a better shelter facilities for their safety and there is an immense need of proper steps to be taken against this evil crime of sex trafficking.
At a positive side, South Asia has proved that with modest amounts of funding, focused advocacy targeting law enforcement and the political establishment, remarkable changes can occur in the response of “governance structures” for bringing improvements in the situation.
The United Nations entity has always focussed on the criminal justice element of such crimes, the work that UNODC does to fight against human trafficking is underpinned by the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.On the 15th of July 2011, in‘India’s Journey of hope’, UNODC showcased inspiring initiatives to take strong actions against human trafficking. Similarly on the 26th of August 2011, The UNODC Human Trafficking First Aid Kit for Law Enforcement Agencies was introduced to support front-line officers who might come into contact with cases of human trafficking.
Trafficking in human beings is a severe crime that must be treated with holistic approach by the national governments as well as international agencies. There is a great need of awareness and the activities of the local activists including media. Education, awareness and the role of youth must be recognized as the changing agents who can take active steps against the crime of sex trafficking in their region and especially in all of South Asia.