Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Human Body : The Great Commodity Exchange

Every year, The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 mandates the State Department to report as a way of combating human trafficking around the world and punishing those responsible, the annual Trafficking in Persons report. The document for 2007, the latest available, says that as many as 800,000 people -- largely women and children -- are trafficked across borders each year around the world. Many are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, domestic labour, farming and child armies.

Most of us Indians would not like to know that India is a key source, destination, and transit country for humans trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. While no comprehensive study of forced and bonded labour can ever be completed, there are estimates that the trafficking “industry” touches 20 to 65 million Indians. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Children are subjected to forced labour as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers, and have been used as armed combatants by some terrorist and insurgent groups. India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

Due to the clandestine nature of the problem, little is known about those who carry out human trafficking. Studies show that they may be family members or friends, brothel owners and brokers, community leaders, women in sex-work or people in powerful positions such as police and other government employees. Data collected from victims of trafficking for the UNIFEM study, suggests that 50% of traffickers are women (reported in Sen, A. 2005: A Report on Trafficking of Women and Children, UNIFEM).

And India, says Global Citizens Trust (GCT), is becoming a hub for prostitution, pornography and cyber crime and a growing destination for sex tourists from the west. A large number of women and children from neighbouring countries are also trafficked into the country, with around 10,000 persons brought in from Nepal annually, according to Kumar Yaru, editor of Rajdhani national daily, a Nepalese newspaper.

Trafficking can be disguised as migration, commercial sex or marriage. But what begins as a voluntary decision often ends up as trafficking as victims find themselves in unfamiliar destinations, subjected to unexpected work,” A BBC report for instance quoting the Assam police informs that since 1996 3,184 women and 3,840 female children have gone missing in the state and many have ended up working as call-girls around Delhi or used as “sex slaves” by wealthy landlords in states like Punjab and Haryana. That piece of statistic means that we are talking of about two women a day.

The market rate for a bride currently it seems is between 4,000 and 30,000 rupees ($88 to $660) and the custom of buying brides has not just infected the states of Haryana and Punjab only, it is spreading. In a district where the urban sex ratio is the lowest in the country at 678/1,000 and where the largest tehsil has a sex ratio of 535/1,000, the system of bride buying has become quite rampant in the last five years. Shahjahanpur’s block Bhawaal Kheda has several villages where, due to the low sex ratio, men have been buying brides from states like West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in any form. We have special legislations like the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000.

However , several members of the Indian parliament (from various political parties), the country’s law makers have been implicated in a scandal where these elected representatives, the diplomatic passport-holders, were trafficking people out to foreign countries by taking them along as spouses or children, and helping them clear the immigration check-points at India’s international airports.

So, even as Trafficking is understood and interpreted as modern-day slavery, and a matter of global concern, with India as one of the worst affected countries, clearly a lot needs to be done before the great commodity exchange trading in human bodies is controlled , let alone wiped out.

No comments: