January 23, 2022

Human Trafficking in India and Laws Protecting It

Illegal human trafficking is a grave problem in India. India has been the ‘Top Destination for Human Trafficking” in South Asia for years, according to a study conducted by the United Nations Office on Organised Crime (UNODC). The victims are often imported from Nepal and Bangladesh to India. The traffic victims of India are often sent to Middle East countries and parts of Europe. According to the data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in The top states in India where the trafficking of children is rampant are: West Bengal, Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. The state of West Bengal is leading with the most number of cases reported. Even Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi can be seen in the purview.

Human trafficking is a deplorable violation of basic human rights of individuals. Men are also susceptible to human trafficking. In fact, the Indian Government has identified boys to be the most affected as victims. They are often used for the purpose of serving as bonded labours and slaves but it does not mean that they are not sexually exploited like women. The victims of trafficking end up suffering from mental illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) clinical depression, anxiety, and physical illnesses that can be resulted from sexual abuse like HIV, AIDS, STDs and tuberculosis. Human Trafficking can be done in the form of:

1. Bonded or forced labour (factories, servants, agriculture)

2. Debt bondage

3. Prostitution

4. Child pornography

5. Forceful marriage or adoption

6. Forceful Military recruitment

7. Fraudulent recruitment

8. Gigolos, male escorts

9. Different forms of sexual abuse and exploitation of women

10. Physical abuse

11. Domestic servitude

12. Part of terrorist or insurgent groups

13. Begging

14. Child marriages

15. Drug peddling

16. Forceful smuggling

17. Sex tourism

18. Organ harvesting

19. Organ transplantation

20. Forced Criminal activities e.g. pickpocketing

The traffickers generally look for people who are emotionally vulnerable and who could be maneuvered into the human trafficking industry. The refuges, natural disaster survivors, migrants, people fleeing from their homes or people having economic hardships are all the more susceptible to falling prey. The reasons for trafficking could include:

1. Unemployment

2. Lack of skills or proper knowledge

3. Displacement

4. Lack of independence

5. Financial crisis

6. Political instability

7. Times of war

8. Social and cultural practices

Provisions against Human Trafficking

1. Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986

The act was first passed as the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act 1956 (SITA) but it was further amended in 1986 which resulted in the making of ITPA, 1986. ITPA Act is also known as PITA Act, 1986.

PITA Act deals with Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) which involves the gain of any person from sexually exploiting women and children. This act deals with provisions of trafficking only in relation with prostitution. The prescribed penalty can be of seven years to life imprisonment.

2. Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • Section 366A– The section defines the procuration of a minor girl. Inducing any girl under the age of eighteen years to go to any place or to do any act with the intent that such girl will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person. Penalty can be imprisonment which may extent to ten years and shall also be liable for fine.
  • Section 366B– Whoever imports into India from any country outside India any girl under twenty-one years of age with intent of forcing or seducing her to illicit intercourse with another person shall be punishable with maximum imprisonment of ten years and also a fine.
  • Section 370– The section was amended in 2013 after the spine chilling Delhi gang rape case. Section 370A was also added in the new amendment. It deals with buying or disposing of any person as a slave. The detailed provisions on the punishment for trafficking are mentioned in the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013.
  • Section 372– This section deals with the selling of minors for the purposes of prostitution etc. Penalty is the same as mentioned in section 366 A.
  • Section 374– It involves punishment of any person who unlawfully compels any person to labour against the will of that person for a term extending to one year, or with fine, or both.

3. Constitution of India

  • Article 23– Prohibits trafficking in any form in human beings, beggars and other forms of forced labours while making these punishable offences.
  • Article 24– Prohibits employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factory, mine or any other hazardous works though it does not prohibit any harmless work.

4. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

The act prohibits employment of children below a prescribed age in certain type of occupations. It does not support the employment of minor children and makes it a punishable offence.

5. Information Technology Act, 2000

  • Section 67A– Punishes the publication or transmission of material containing sexually explicit act etc. in the electronic form.
  • Section 68B- Punishes the publication or transmission of material depicting children in sexually explicit act etc. in the electronic form.

Other protective laws also include-

  • Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976
  • Child Labour Act, (Prohibition and Regulation) 1986
  • Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children), 2000
  • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006,
  • Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

State governments have also enacted specific laws to deal with human trafficking. Such as:

  • The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012
  • Goa Children’s Act, 2003
  • Andhra Pradesh Devadasi (Prohibiting Dedication Act, 1989
  • Karnataka Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982

Author Details:  Aditi Deshpande (Student, Hidayatullah National Law University)

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

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