Child Trafficking: The Victimised Child


Article 35 (Abduction, sale and trafficking): The government should take all measures possible to make sure that children are not abducted, sold or trafficked. This provision in the Convention is augmented by the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

The Indian Constitution prohibits and penalises human trafficking. Article 23 and 39 of the Constitution of India clearly establish every citizen’s right to freedom from exploitation of all forms. Article 23 particularly prohibits traffic in human beings, ‘beggar’ and other forms of forced labour.

8.1 What Is Trafficking?

The dictionary meaning of ‘trafficking’ is ‘illegal trade in a commodity’. Making people commodities, literally, has never before reached the proportions as in the world today, not under slavery, not even in feudal times. There is virtually no difference when one compares people who are trafficked now with the traditional slaves who were bought and sold in olden times. Although slavery was abolished two centuries ago, slavery is very much alive in full force in today’s times as human trafficking. There would be far greater number of persons trafficked today who are virtually slaves and are exploited in all forms than the traditional slaves who were there centuries ago. As per William (2008), trafficking is a growing phenomenon internationally, regionally and nationally considered as a contemporary form of slavery and a gross violation of basic human rights. Trafficking has emerged as a low-risk high return well-organised criminal activity. Human trafficking is the third largest illegal trade. Trafficking in human beings is taking place in almost all countries, only the magnitude differs.

‘Trafficking’ as a phenomenon has been defined by UN General Assembly in 1994 as the illicit and clandestine movement of persons across national and international borders, largely from developing countries, with the end goal of forcing women and girl children into economically oppressive and exploitative situations for the profit of recruiters, traffickers and crime syndicates as well as other illegal activities such as forced domestic labour, false marriage, clandestine employment and forced adoption (Bajpai 2006).

In the year 2000, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking) for the first time defined trafficking as an organised crime and a crime against humanity. The Palermo Protocol on trafficking supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, 2000, and is hence limited to cross-border trafficking. It does not address trafficking within the countries. It defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Consent is considered irrelevant in the case of children. If any of the means stated above are used, consent becomes irrelevant in the case of adults also” (Ali and Thukral 2007).

Working definition of Trafficking by Campaign against Child Trafficking in India (CACT) is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons below the age of 18 years, within or across borders, legally or illegally, by means of threat or use of other forms of coercion, of abduction, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or, of the giving or receiving of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of such person, with the intention or knowledge that it is likely to cause or lead to exploitation. The words ‘legally or illegally’ were inserted by CACT to cover all forms and purposes of trafficking in children be it marriage that is valid or adoption that has met all legal procedures and formalities.

Every day men, women and children are trafficked across India and throughout South Asia, with India being a source country as well as transit and destination point. Trafficking is happening not only across international borders, but considerable exchange is happening within the states of India. The Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI, estimates that 90 % of trafficking for sexual exploitation is within the country. The profits from trafficking lead to the practice taking root in a particular community, which is then repeatedly exploited as a ready source from where victims are picked up. People are being trafficked not only for prostitution, but also for labour, entertainment and sports, pornography and sex tourism, begging, organ trade, for sexual exploitation through marriage and for adoption. Many of those trafficked are children, sometimes as young as 8 years old, or even younger (Ministry of Women and Child Development n.d.).

Trafficking is not the same as migration or smuggling. In migration, a person moves from one place to the other at her own will, for a job or for moving residence or any other reason. Smuggling involves illegal import or export of goods or persons from one country to the other with some consideration. The smuggler and the smuggled are both agreeable to a mutually decided figure or consideration for this illegal act. There is no fraud or coercion between them, whereas the following elements put together would constitute child trafficking:

  • Involvement of children, i.e. persons under 18 years of age;

  • Movement of children from one place to another, either by way of procurement, sale, purchase, recruitment, transportation, transfer or harbouring;

  • Use of force, deception, fraud, coercion;

  • Exchange of money or goods or a loan waiver in lieu of the child;

  • Gain of third party; and

  • Exploitation of child while or after trafficking.

Children everywhere are at risk of being abducted/trafficked. But there are groups of children who are more vulnerable than others. These include as follows:

  • Children of poor parents,

  • Children of unemployed unskilled parents,

  • Children who have been affected by disaster or a natural calamity,

  • Children from strife and civil unrest prone areas,

  • Children living in communities where religious and cultural norms force parents to give children for prostitution,

  • Children affected by transitory poverty in families,

  • Children of bonded labourers,

  • Migrant children, and

  • Children of prostitutes.

Traffickers take advantage of the dependency of young pre-pubescent children—for food, shelter and even emotional needs—to persuade the child to do as they are told. The forms of control and coercion used include beating or slaps; rape and sexual abuse; threats of physical punishment; threats to relatives; withholding food and starvation; and confiscation of identity among others (Agarwal 2008).

Child trafficking is about mafias and nexuses. It is also about demand and supply forces. There is a growing demand from people who survive on making profits out of the situation of the child, and on the other hand are the powerless and helpless children that makes their supply easy. ‘Child export rackets’ or ‘child smuggling rackets’ are some such organised rackets involved in buying and selling of children for adoption. Then there are ‘organ trade rackets’, ‘drug mafias’, ‘begging mafias’ and so on and so forth. Many children are also kidnapped for trafficking (CACT 2002).

Sinha (2014) states in Times of India that India is now world’s slave capital. With over 14.2 million in India being involved in forced labour and being victims of trafficking—for sexual exploitation and forced marriage, the country is home to the largest number of people trapped in modern slavery. Globally, 35.8 million people are enslaved across the world. Of them, 23.5 million people are in Asia, two-thirds of global total in 2014 (65.8 %). The Global Slavery Index 2014 announced on Monday that India and Pakistan alone account for over 45 % of total global enslaved population and have highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia. The Index said, “Particularly in countries such as India and Pakistan, nationals—often including entire families—are enslaved through bonded labour in construction, agriculture, brick making, garment factories and manufacturing”. Modern slavery exists in all 167 countries with five countries accounting for 61 % of the world’s population living in modern slavery. It estimates that over 23.5 million people in Asia are living in modern slavery. This is equivalent to almost two-thirds of the global total number of people enslaved. Of these, over 14.2 million are in India and over 2.05 million are in Pakistan, which demonstrate the highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia (1.141 and 1.13 % of their populations, respectively). Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrew Forrest, chairman of Walk Free Foundation, said: “There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country. We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the desperate misery it brings upon our fellow human beings. The first step in eradicating slavery is to measure it. And with that critical information, we must all come together—governments, businesses and civil society—to finally bring an end to the most severe form of exploitation.”

8.2 Purposes of Child Trafficking

Clearly, human trafficking is an organised crime, carried out by a nexus of individuals in connivance with or under the patronage of high-ranking government officials and politicians. It is estimated that after drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking is the third largest illegal business in the world (Ali and Thukral 2007). National Human Rights Commission (2005) reports that 44,000 children go missing in India every year. They are being trafficked for prostitution, marriage or illegal adoption, child labour, begging, recruitment to armed groups and for entertainment (circus or sports). With the opening up of markets and increase in tourism, children have fallen prey to operating paedophiles and sex abusers (Planning Commission 2008).

Although trafficking has been viewed synonymously with child prostitution, but children who are trafficked and sold could be for many purposes. As put by Ali and Thukral (2007), Child trafficking takes various forms. Whether sold or kidnapped or duped or lured, the end result is exploitation. Some known forms and purposes of Child Trafficking are as follows:


Source Ali and Thukral (2007)

The notorious ‘child trade’ has now replaced the ‘silk trade’ from district Murshidabad, West Bengal. Girls and boys are sent for begging to Saudi Arabia during the Haj Pilgrimage. Out of a national total of 1000–1500 children flown out each year for Haj, 400 are from district Murshidabad alone. These children ‘consent’ to their enslavement after rice and chicken meals at Mecca with free Pepsi are given to them. But many children never return home. No trace of many girls who routinely ‘disappear’ every year into slavery and perhaps to their death (CACT 2002).

Have you noticed the child beggar at the red light signal on the road? Have you ever wondered whose children they are? Where are they from? What do they do with the money that they collect by begging? Are they part of some organised mafia? Where these children trafficked from some remote tribal/rural poor districts of India? Some of them are maimed and disabled. Did someone maim them? Do these children have any rights? Are the girls, and even boys, sexually abused? Do they become part of organised crime? Which law protects them? Have you ever spoken to them, or you have just shunned them? To be able to survive on the roads of huge metropolis, exposed to all kinds of dangers, mostly without adult protection must be a big challenge for these children.

Focus: the domestic child worker who is ubiquitous in urban homes. It is possible that this child was trafficked by the placement agent and brought to the city? Is the money that he earns reaching his family back in the village? Will the child ever be able to go home?

The acrobats we see on the streets, or the children who are part of a circus. Do we even bat an eye lid when we see them in our midst? Children who have been sent to the middle east for camel jockeying, which could even result in their death. Children as young as 2 years and as small as 4 kg in weight are tied to the camel backs. When the camel moves, the child screams out of fear. This excites the camel and the camel runs faster. This leads to the child falling from the camel, being trampled and even killed. Although the UAE has made using small children as camel jockeys an illegal activity, but it still takes place in the remote desert areas. Children are trafficked for this activity. The younger the children, the more they are in demand!

Children are also trafficked for marriage. Remember a child bride Ameena from Hyderabad, all of 9 years old, was bought for Rs. 10,000 and married to an old Arab sheikh. This news made headlines for a very long time in 1991–92. Ameena was saved. But many such child brides are sexually used in the name of marriage and then left behind in brothels. Children being part of the sex industry in Goa (and of late even Kerala) keeps making news.

The whole racket of trafficking for marriage came to light in August 1980 when the Statesman Weekly carried a news story titled “Marriages Not Made In Heaven”. This was about Muslim girls from Hyderabad being married off to Arab nationals for anything between Rs. 5,000 and 10,000, depending on their age and appearance. The story narrated the plight of 25-year old.

Raheema Begum, who managed to escape from the clutches of her 75-year-old Arab husband after she slaved him for over 5 years and bore him two children. Raheema’s parents had received Rs. 5,000 from her husband in lieu of their marriage. It further said, “Bride-running from Hyderabad to the Gulf countries has been a lucrative business and on an average 200 girls leave the city every month, according to the regional passport office here.

Marriage brokers have sprung up in the city. Some of the Arabs marry as many as three to four girls on a single trip. Arabs who come to Hyderabad in search of young brides are not the oil-rich sheikhs. They are small time businessmen or petty traders. In a number of cases, these young brides never leave the Indian shores. They are taken to Bombay and when the Arab visitor’s tourist visa expires, he leaves the country, promising to send her a ticket on reaching home. The girl never hears from him”.

After 10 years from then, in October 1991, the newspapers carried another story of 9-year-old Ameena from Hyderabad. Ameena was married off to 60-year-old Arab Sheikh Yahyah-al-Sageih, who paid Rs. 10,000 to buy her from her parents in the name of marriage. Ameena was Yahyah’s fourth victim in the last 6-months (Sinha 1996).

In State versus Shri Freddie Peats and others case (1992), the accused Freddie Peats then 66 years old, claimed to be a man of God (Father Peats), a medical doctor and social worker who ran a ‘boarding’ or ‘orphanage’ for boys generally from broken homes and deprived families. Peats used to sexually abuse and assault the boys. On his arrest there were 2305 photographs found in his flat. These photographs recorded different acts of sexual assault, abuse, exploitation and other brute and silent violence against children. These photographs covered a period of 17 years and the boys were from Goa. Apart from photographs there were negatives, syringes, drugs, and other torture paraphernalia. Peats was held guilty by the sessions court and was given life imprisonment and fine (Bajpai 2006).

Few crimes in this county have been marked by such inhumanity as the Nithari killings, a story of abduction, rape, murder, and necrophilia. Several children had gone missing from Sector 31, NOIDA and Nithari village, Gautam Budh Nagar from the year 2005 onwards. The remains of 17 children were found in a home in Noida U.P, in December 2006. These children had been abducted by the domestic help, Koli, who is now waiting to go to the gallows. He also confessed to have slain various woman and children and thrown the body parts in the enclosed gallery at the back of the house and in the drain which flowed in front of the house in which he stayed. The case pointed towards an organ trade racket too and at times even gave indications of Koli having cannibalistic tendencies.

Customs, traditions and religious practices do not spare children. As much as we would hate to accept it, we do follow religious practices and traditions that have for centuries allowed sexual servitude of young girls to temple priests—all in the name of dedicating them to gods and goddess. Examples of these are found in Devadasi, Jogins and Matammas traditions practiced in some parts of India. It is now well established that this dedication is a gateway to trafficking of girls for sex servitude (CACT 2002). The victims of religious prostitution, the Jogins and Devadasis join at a very early age. 95 % of Harijan (Scheduled Caste) families send about 5–10 thousand girls every year in this practice (Sinha 1996).

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in trafficking of girls for and through marriage. In States where there is gender imbalance due to low sex ratio, finding brides for eligible men is becoming difficult. As a result buying brides from other States has become common. In Haryana and Punjab for instance, girls are bought from Assam and other parts of Eastern India for marriage. While trafficking of girls for marriage is a relatively new phenomenon, using marriage as a means to traffic girls into prostitution and farm labour has been an old practice in India. Organisations working in the Balasore district of Orissa have reported an increasing trend of girls belonging to poor families being lured by middlemen to Eastern Uttar Pradesh with promises of good dowry-less marriage. Inevitably, the aspiring grooms are already married or old. These girls are forced to work as agricultural labourers during the day and cater sexually not only to their husband but to others too at night (Thukral 2005).

Just 350 km from Bhopal, dotted along the Mandsaur–Chittorgarh state highway are girls and women indulging in the sex trade. Nothing unusual, except these women belonging to the Bachda tribe conduct the sex trade in the name of tradition. For them, prostitution is a way of life, passed down generations. No questions asked.

This happens in 35 villages alongside the highway from Mandsaur to Chittorgarh in Rajasthan where pan shops and tea stalls with girl attendants are just a cover up. Asking for a 12-year-old for the night is not considered unusual.

When NDTV reached the highway and asked for a couple of pre-pubescent girls for the night, they were told it could be arranged for.

On the 100 km stretch from Mandsaur to Chittorgarh, the NDTV crew spotted at least 700 girls soliciting customers. Girls who should have ideally been in school or college. They spend their day luring customers who are mainly truck drivers.

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