“For to be free is not to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Trafficking in the human being is the slavery of our times. Its patterns evolve along with the changing socioeconomic circumstances, while India commits to working together for its eradication. Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after the drugs and arms trade which has emerged as a very significant problem all across the world.
Especially, in times of economic and financial turbulence, traffickers continue targeting the most vulnerable of our societies, both men and women, who are trapped in bonded and forced labor, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, organ removals, illegal activities, etc. In general, it is very difficult to count the full extent of trafficking in human beings due to its criminal aspects.
While women represent a majority of the victims, traffickers do not discriminate, men are forced into hard labor, children are coerced into begging and stealing, and girls and boys are forced into sexual exploitation. The victims face many consequences as they suffer long periods of exploitation even after they come out of that state.
Although it is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, but mostly about 80% of human trafficking victims across the globe are females, which is for sexual exploitation. According to the report periods of the National Crime Record Bureau, the statistics had shown more than 8000 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2016, where 64% were women and 48% were below 18 years old, and the number has been rising with each passing year.
Presently, the most affected states in India are West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, and Assam. People from economically disadvantaged classes, and belonging to the categories of SC, ST, OBC are more allowed to fall victim to such malpractices.
Largely, the reasons for high instances of human trafficking can be associated with lack of education, poverty, political instability, corruption, poor legal framework etc. This social evil often results in both mental and physical issues such as forced marriage, bonded labor, sexual exploitation, organ trade, sex racket, depression, anxiety disorders such as PTSD etc.
The NCRB states that 23000 persons were rescued in 2016 from the clutches of traffickers, of which 182 were foreigners. One of the most horrendous cases of human trafficking was that of Baby Tara (Falak), rescued by Delhi Police in 2012. The case came to light after the two-year-old baby was brought to the AIIMS by a teenage girl, who herself had been sold to a brother.
Delhi Police investigated this case and it was established that Falak’s biological mother was Munni, a 22-year-old who was also sold by her husband itself. Munni was allegedly forced to leave the baby with the teenager when she was traded. This incident, which caught national attention, exposed the shocking and nightmarish world of human trafficking, particularly child and prostitution and minor abuse.
The saddest part of this story is that India is plagued with widespread poverty and lack of proper education in a myriad of human rights violations, especially against women and girls. There are rather some landmark cases related to human trafficking and child labour such as:
M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu in this case, the Supreme Court stated that the problem of child labour can be solved by insisting on compulsory education. Poor citizen doesn’t send their children to school due to a lack of money. Therefore, unless a family is provided with a stable source of income the problem of child labour will not be solved.
Since it is not possible for such parents to educate their children, the state owes a duty to come forward and discharge its obligation in this regard.
Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India in this case, the supreme court observed that it is obvious in a civilized society that the importance of child welfare cannot be over-emphasised, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development depends on the health and well-being of its children. Children are a “Supremely Important National Asset” and the future of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop. Therefore, Supreme Court framed elaborate guidelines to regulate inter-country adoptions.
In India, trafficking of human beings, accompanied by forced labor, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, begging, child pornography and organ trades, is forbidden by Article 23(1) and Article 24 of the constitution of India.
The Indian Penal Code addresses the issue with the sections such as 366A, 366B, 370 and 374 prohibiting traffickers from prescribing harsh punishment for criminals.
Additionally, the Government of India in 1950 has also ratified the International Convention for the suppression of immoral Traffic and the exploitation of the prostitution of others. A few years later, India passed the suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women Girls Act in 1956. In 1986, the act was further amended and changed with ITPA known as the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986.
The Protection of Children from Sexual and Offences Act (POSCO) Act, 2012 aims at protecting children from sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault. Among all of these, there is also the Juvenile Justice Act, The Prevention of Child Labour Act, The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act which tries to penalize trafficking.
However, The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha in July, 2018 to combat the trafficking of individual,s especially women and Children.
The Bill provided for the prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked persons. This law provides a way for rehabilitation centres and organization in different places of the country. Seizing bank accounts and property, making better relations with another country to mitigate and tackle cross-border trafficking, and creating a designated courts for time board prosecution of offenders are the aims and objectives of the case.
This bill is both crime-centric and victim-centric as it protects the victims and also prosecutes the offender. Notwithstanding all these steps, cases of human trafficking have been on the rise, which only suggests that legislation for combating human trafficking needs to be further strengthened.
Though there is no dearth of related laws in the country but there is a problem of inadequate understanding and unfaithful implementation of laws which is important to understand for everyone. As India does not have any law to regulate the use of Facebook, WhatsApp and even Twitter in certain matters.
Thus, social media is also becoming a new tool for human trafficking. Institutions like the National Human Rights Commission must also become more proactive, fund research on the issue and contribute to formulating effective laws against human trafficking. The rights of women and children guaranteed by the constitution must be ensured and every necessary step must be taken to put an end to human trafficking.
It is, thus, imperative to have a careful watch and monitoring mechanism as well as strong interventions and commitment through which we can attempt to clean out this crime across the globe.
 Deepshika Sharma, Infrographic: Human Trafficking In India,( July 30, 2020), https://femenisminindia.com/2020/07/30/infographic-human-trafficking-india/
 AIR 1997 SC 699
 AIR 1984 SC 469
This article has been contributed by Kriteeka Agrahari, a student at Amity University, Chhattisgarh.