Friday, June 19, 2020

Human Trafficking Flexes its Muscles Amid the Pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for all of us to look at deeply entrenched inequalities in our economic development model, which are feeding marginalization, gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking of all sorts.

Trafficking in persons (TIP) is one of the most shameful facets of the modern world. As a criminal act, it is an egregious human rights violation. TIP is a US$ 9 billion industry, and is estimated to be the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century. Being a signatory and ratifying the Palermo Protocol, India has amended its penal code in 2013, which explicitly prohibits trafficking of persons for purposes of prostitution. The POCSO ACT, 2012 further prohibits various sexual offences committed against children under 18 years of age. Despite such laws in place, the country is estimated to have 14 million victims of human trafficking, which includes victims of sex trafficking, bonded labour, domestic servitude, child labour and forced marriages. India acts both as a destination and a transit place for labour and sex trafficking. While 90 per cent of trafficking in the country occurs domestically (intra-state or inter-state), 10 per cent occurs across its national borders.

Influencing Factors

The most definite primary factors contributing to the rising numbers of trafficking in India, or any such developing country, are the weak legal landscape and implementation along with factors like gender discrimination, poverty, lack of access to education, social practices, globalisation, lack of economic opportunities and growth. Beyond these, there are certain secondary causes like low employment prospects for people, lack of awareness of women’s rights, marginalisation of females, a highly patriarchal society and cultural ideas like dowry and violence prevailing in our society. Lack of opportunities in the highly patriarchal society is a major cause of trafficking. In 2012, only 43 per cent of women worked on a regular wage or in salaried positions. The victims are generally of a very young age, illiterate and belong to impoverished families from rural backgrounds. In males it is generally seen that trafficking is tied with forced labour especially to pay off the debts which is widely seen in the Indian social structure.

Effect of COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting the lives of everyone forcing them to adapt to the ‘new-normal’. Likewise the criminals involved in trafficking have adjusted their strategies and business models accordingly. Economic and social inequalities – the root causes of human trafficking – have notched up a level due to the pandemic situation. Martin Wolf recently stated that the current economic crisis due to COVID-19 is clearly the greatest since Great Depression in both size and intensity. The restrictions on movement caused due to the corona virus pandemic in the form of lockdowns are creating a major obstacle for escapes and finding help for these victims. There exists a threat of abuse or neglect by the captors of the victims who are still in confinement. We can already witness a surge in the levels of domestic violence, which is a worrying factor. In the times, where individuals are prioritising their actions towards limiting the spread of corona virus, it acts as an aid to these traffickers to hide their actions and makes the victims’ identification and referral to protection platforms a huge challenge.

Due to the confinement at homes the access to assistance and support from related NGOs or government schemes, in-person counselling, representation and legal aid become difficult.

The victims are also highly exposed to contacting the virus, since they are less equipped to prevent it and there exists a lack of healthcare to ensure their recovery. Violence, especially against children, along with sexual abuse is much more rampant in the current times since children are being forced on streets in search of food and income bringing them to the forefront of the risk of both infection from the virus and exploitation.

Virtual Exploitation: Cybersex Trafficking

The modern day slavery is on a rise due to closure of schools, which makes children vulnerable to online sexual predators. Virtual world is the platform for learning and socialising widely used today. There is a spike in the child sexual exploitation material on the internet, which acts like a profitable business for huge tech platforms. The pandemic is giving a push to such new materials, which are created in exchange for remuneration or a payment. Live streaming – the new modus operandi of offenders – is becoming a platform for on-demand sexual abuse. There is this idea of impunity from a perpetrator’s point of view and the assumption of anonymity, which emboldens them to force and exploit children. While the barriers for perpetrators are extremely low, the barriers of recovery for these victims are extraordinarily high exposing them to the evils of the world through a screen.

There is a high possibility that once the lockdown if lifted and normal activities are resumed, factory owners might opt for employing cheap labour. The desperate and vulnerable workers will contribute to this massive pool of cheap labour, since they cannot possibly negotiate their wage terms with the employers. Children will be trafficked to work where they would be paid meagre or no wages at all while facing extreme physical, mental and sexual torture.

Mechanisms to Combat Trafficking

There are many programmes and schemes already in place which focus on protecting the vulnerable like the Integrated Anti-Human Trafficking Units (IAHTUs), which has been set up in more than 600 districts and are 226 in number with an allocation of Rs 832 million as funds; Swadhar Programme developed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development providing over 200 shelters for the victims of sex trafficking; Ujjawala Programme introduced in 2007 with over 6350 beneficiaries; and Child Line Services, the toll free number 1098, which is available to all children in distress and is operational in 372 cities. The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act 1956Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1976Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act) 1986 and the Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 have provisions for prevention of trafficking and punishments for all such acts.

The problem does not lie in the formulation of laws, but on the implementation front.

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 must be re-visited by the Parliamentary Standing Committee since it lacks clarity, as the approach is scattered across various laws and seems to be inconsistent with the objectives. Further, it is not comprehensive also. Even UN has raised concerns over the provisions of the Bill being ambiguous and for including penal activities not necessarily connected to trafficking. The burden of proof of the offence also lies on the victim, and so it creates a high bar to claim immunity and defeats the very purpose of the provision.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for all of us to look at deeply entrenched inequalities in our economic development model, which are feeding marginalisation, gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking of all sorts. The law enforcement officials must remain vigilant and ramp up the relief programmes. There is a dire need to make parents and caregivers aware about the situation, since it is the youth which is often targeted. It has been a trend for traffickers to seek out for children with behavioural problems, low self-esteem, history of abuse or neglect, poverty or substance abuse. It becomes critical for parents to build a healthy relationship with their children, explain them about gender roles and stereotype threats early, talks about sexual education and the importance of consenting to such acts. These are some of the ways to protect and prevent any sort of cybercrimes. Businesses can provide internships or training to the survivors of trafficking and college students too can take action to raise awareness or take up research work in the field.


Delhi Post 19th May 2020

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Prostitutes have right to live with dignity: SC

Prostitutes have right to live with dignity: SC

Holding that prostitutes have a right to live with dignity, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and state governments to prepare rehabilitation schemes through social welfare boards to redress the grievances of such ‘physically and sexually abused’ women. “A woman is compelled to indulge

in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body,” said a bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra.

Directing the Centre and state governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women across India, the bench asked them to respond by May 4 — the next date of hearing.

The court issued the directions while dismissing an appeal of Budhadev Karmaskar, convicted of killing a prostitute in Kolkatta in September 1999. Upholding the Calcutta high court verdict convicting him to life sentence, the SC said, “Sex workers are also human beings, and no one has a right to assault or murder them.”

Asking the Centre and states to indicate the steps initiated till by them till the next date, the bench also specified what the scheme should consist of.

The schemes, the apex court said, should mention in detail as to who would impart the technical/vocational training. It should also give details on the manner in which they can be rehabilitated and settled by offering employment.(Hindustan Times)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Landlords escape Sex racket busts

Landlords escape Sex racket busts

Deccan Chronicle, 13th Jan 2011.



When a sex racket is busted by the police, it is only the prostitutes, pimps and customers who are booked, while the owners of the premises are usually let off. This is regardless of the fact that Section 18 Clause 1 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act states that landlords too should be punished.

As many as 160 cases have been registered under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act over the last four years and in most cases, house owners have claimed that they had no clue what was going on in their premises and have escaped punishment.

A few months back the police raided different parts of the city including flats in S.R. Nagar, Panjagutta, Jubilee Hills and Banjara Hills. About 20 apartments were found to be functioning as brothels.

However, only in three cases were the house owners convicted and notices of seizure issued.
The owners were let off in all the other cases. "In these cases, it was proved that the owners were explicitly involved in the crime," says IPS Umapathy.

Recently the police had raided the Delhi Lodge at Patny Centre and caught the proprietor, six auto drivers and had rescued 16 sex workers. B.Srinivasa Yadav (46), had been running the lodge on lease. Since the lodge's income was meagre, he had devised a plan to earn money. He used to allow sex workers along with their customers to use his premises and would charge hefty amounts on an hourly basis, said the police. On Thursday, the Central Zone Task Force police arrested Atluri Ramesh and Atluri Prasad, along with two sex workers. The accused had rented a flat at Saifabad for Rs 17,000 per month. The duo started earning Rs 5,000 to 10,000 per day. In none of the above cases were the house owners punished.

The apartments are, however, rented out for prostitution at double the price "The prices vary.
For instance, house owners in Ameerpet charge up to Rs 20,000 from brothel organisers and only around Rs 7,000 from normal tenants. In most cases, police officials fail to mention the owners in the FIR. Thus, they are not brought under the law. If the police officials pay heed to the Act, landlords, if at all they are unaware, would be more careful and make sure that such activities do not occur under the roof of their apartments," said Rammohan, in-charge of HELP NGO.

Mahesh Bhagwat, DIG of Eluru Range, who has been instrumental in nailing many landlords who were hand-in-glove with brothel organisers, says the main problem lies in the lack of awareness of rules. "Sometimes, the police officials themselves do not know about the existence of such a clause in the Act. This is the reason why landlords are not mentioned in the report," he adds.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

identified a missing girl

Police identified a missing girl – Hands over to HELP home

A 15 years old girl is found to police at Chilakaluripet of Guntur district. After taking her to police station, the police informed to HELP and requested to keep in HELP home for counseling, care and protection services.

According to the statement of the girl, her name is SK.Reshma belongs to Bapuji Street, Nellore. She is an orphan who lost her parents at the age of her 3rd year. She is having an elder brother named as Ramana aged 28 years old who is working as lorry driver. He used to travel most of the days in a month and comes to home very rare. She is not willing to stay at home as there is no protection for her.

After some time she wanted to see her aunt at Vijayawada and started from Nellore on 13th evening of this month. She has ascended in a truck as some of the passengers also there in the same truck. On the middle of the way rest of the passengers got down as they reached their destination. Only the girl remained in the truck along with the driver. When the vehicle nearer to reach Chilakaluripet at midnight the driver stopped the truck beside the road around 12 pm and attempted to rape her. The girl shouted loudly, jumped down the vehicle and ran away to some extent. The driver already drags her money purse and escaped from there. The girl remained on the road alone when the police came for night patrolling. They asked her whereabouts and brought her to police station. The police informed to HELP staff on 14th morning i.e. Sunday about the girl. The Guntur district staff approached police and interacted with the girl. She is not willing to get back to home and hence the police requested to provide care and protection services to the girl by keeping her in HELP home.

HELP staff brought the girl to HELP home and providing her counseling, care and protection services. HELP is putting its efforts to interact with Nellore police and is planning to conduct home investigation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trafficked girl reached HELP home

Trafficked girl reached HELP home

A 17 years old girl along with 4 other girls sold at Delhi by Gudivada traffickers. She however escaped from there and found at Vijayawada bus station. Finally the girl reached HELP home through Tv9 staff on 11th nov 10.

HELP collected the information from the girl that, the girl edla amma kondlu @ swathi is the native of Uppalapadu village, Chebrolu mandal of West Godavari District. She is working as a domestic servant at Tadepalligudem. Her parents are agricultural labor. She fell in love with a boy. The boy with the help of two more women sold the girl at Delhi along with 4 other girls who belongs to Vizag district. After some time these girls came to realize entire situation. However they escaped from Delhi and reached Vijayawada. Rest of the girls except “Swathi“left away to their places. This girl sat alone and found to a stranger when somebody at bus station teasing her. The stranger informed to media person (Tv9) when she is in dilemma at Vijayawada bus station. TV9 staff taken away the girl to their office and handover to HELP Krishna dist staff for protection and enquire about whereabouts.

After getting her to HELP home, staff informed and enquired with West Godavari police officials. They revealed that a missing case has been booked as complained by her parents 3 months ago at Tadepalligudem police station and the police are in search. Police from Tadepalligudem came to HELP home for confirmation of the case and received statement from the girl.

Now the girl is in HELP home at Machavaram. Moreover the girl is carrying third month. HELP is providing counseling services and basic needs to the girl. HELP staff is going to conduct home investigation at girl’s native village as a part of further proceedings.

Rescued a victim - Referred to HELP home

Rescued a victim - Referred to HELP home

Police conducted a rescue operation on a brothel house with the information of HELP staff on 13/11/10 at Annavarappadu colony of Ongole, Prakasam district and arrested a trafficker and a customer. The Victim aged 21 years is the native of Mulpur village of Guntur District.

Trafficker Anjibabu brought one minor girls and one women from Mulpur and surrounding villages with a pretext of good job with more money and hence the victim accompanied with trafficker to Ongole. He coarsely drags her in to prostitution. We informed to the police whole issue and joined police for rescue operation. During the operation the minor girl escaped from the brothel house. Now the police in search for minor girl.

The victim’s husband was died. Since then she go to daily wages for meager money. She has two children aged 9 and 6 years. She is the member of a Self Help Group. When she was in want of money, the trafficker found her and assured his assistance in the form of a good job and more money. She believed him accompanied to Ongole.

Police registered a case U/sec. 3,4,5,6 & 8 of ITP Act - 1956 at Ongole - II town police station and filed FIR No.126/10. Police produced before Hon’ble Special Mobile court. The magistrate referred the victim to HELP home.

Now the victim is at HELP transit home and is getting counseling and basic needs.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Police constable run a brothel house – rescued a victim

Police constable run a brothel house – rescued a victim

An AR constable has been arrested by the Ongole taluk police in trafficking case at Samatha nagar-Ongole. By the information about prostitution is run by the AR constable through M.Mani. this information received by HELP team, the police raided on the brothel house on 2nd early hours rescued one girl age bellow 20 years from Vijayawada and arrested G.Susmita of Elur, B.Raju – customer of Chimakurthi along with AR constable and Mani.

Susmitha is trapping the girls from various places and supplying them to brothel houses on contract basis. As a part of this a victim xxx is trapped by Susmita from Vijayawada and brought to Ongole, sold to Mani.

The case is filed under ITP Act sec. 3, 4 and 5. And produced before the court. The honorable court handover the girl to HELP transit center for counseling and rehabilitation.