Thriv­ing Hu­man Trade

South Asia has emerged as a lead­ing re­gion for sex traf­fick­ing. As the trend in­creases, ded­i­cated ef­forts are re­quired to erad­i­cate this heinous prac­tice.

Southasia - - Social issues - By Bushra Khalid The writer vol­un­teers for var­i­ous hu­man rights fo­rums and writes on gender-re­lated is­sues.

Hu­man traf­fick­ing is the world’s third largest il­licit profit-mak­ing in­dus­try and South Asia re­mains the sec­ond largest re­gion that har­bors this prac­tice. A study con­ducted at the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health showed an es­ti­mated 150,000 girls and women were traf­ficked each year across the re­gion. Hu­man traf­fick­ing refers to force­ful trans­porta­tion, re­cruit­ment or har­bor­ing of per­sons for the pur­pose of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. On most oc­ca­sions, these traf­ficked vic­tims are used for forced la­bor, or­gan re­moval, mar­riage or adop­tion.

In­ter­nal dis­place­ment due to con­flict, poverty or lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties al­lows the vul­ner­a­ble to be traf­ficked, thereby mak­ing cross-bor­der traf­fick­ing com­mon­place in South Asia. Bangladesh, poverty stricken and over­pop­u­lated, pro­vides a ready ground for traf­fick­ers in ru­ral ar­eas. In Nepal, sta­tis­tics re­veal that on av­er­age 12,000 Nepali women and mi­nors are traf­ficked ev­ery year for the pur­pose of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. Most of these women are in­fected with HIV/AIDS and also tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

On the other hand, most of In­dia’s sex traf­fick­ing is in­ter­nal; with states like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bi­har, West Bengal and the North­east lead­ing the trend. Speak­ing at a South Asia Re­gional Con­fer­ence in 2007, Renuka Chowd­hury, Min­is­ter for La­bor and Em­ploy­ment stated, “Traf­fick­ing in hu­man be­ings, es­pe­cially women and chil­dren, is a heinous crime that vi­o­lates all tenets of hu­man rights and dig­nity.” Nearly three mil­lion sex work­ers ex­ist in In­dia where 40 per cent of them are chil­dren. A study by the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, also re­leased in 2007, shows that women sex-traf­ficked from Nepal to In­dia were nearly 40 per­cent Hiv-pos­i­tive. The fig­ure rose be­yond 60 per­cent among younger girls who were sex traf­ficked prior to the age of 15.

Ac­cord­ing to UNODC7, Bangladesh, In­dia, Nepal and Pak­istan are ranked at the top in the coun­tries that traf­fic women and chil­dren, mak­ing com­mer­cial sex­ual ex­ploita­tion com­mon in the re­gion.

Ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion against hu­man traf­fick­ing within South Asia has also been in­suf­fi­cient due to lim­ited aware­ness. Although the will to speak out against traf­fick­ing has in­creased im­mensely in the past five years, the move­ment re­mains at neg­li­gi­ble lev­els. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by the National Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, in In­dia 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 and are ar­rested on charges of so­lic­it­ing.

On a pos­i­tive note, South Asia has proven that with modest amounts of fund­ing, fo­cused ad­vo­cacy tar­get­ing law en­force­ment and the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, re­mark­able changes can take place. In 2007, New Delhi wit­nessed a se­ries of brain­storm­ing dis­cus­sions that deemed sex traf­fick­ing a se­vere crime that must be treated with a holis­tic ap­proach by the national gov­ern­ments as well as in­ter­na­tional agen­cies. Fur­ther­more, lo­cal ac­tivists, the me­dia and, most im­por­tantly, the youth were iden­ti­fied as the lead­ing agents of greater aware­ness against the crime of sex traf­fick­ing in not only their re­spec­tive coun­tries, but in the re­gion at large.

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