Home Contact Us  

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4116, 12 September 2013

Special Commentary

South Asia: Anti-Trafficking, Flesh Trade and Human Rights
Roomana Hukil
Research Officer, IReS, IPCS
Email: roomana@ipcs.org

The release of the US State Department’s report, ‘Trafficking in Persons 2013’ (TIP), showcases a premier document that underlines the status of human trafficking in the international community.  The report is a country-wise assessment that sets in motion the misconstrued definitions and methodologies associated with victim identification, sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labour and so on.  The report has been providing global law enforcement data i.e. a statistical break-down, since 2005, on the number of prosecutions, convictions, victims identified and new or amended legislations. It provides an account of some of the major trafficking cases that were registered and/or are under trial across the world. It focuses on victim identification, which is seen as the top most priority, throws light on the training techniques that make identification efforts successful and highlights new innovations and partnerships within and beyond the capacity of various governments. Finally, it provides an account on the analyses of the report’s data to develop an overall response to trafficking.

This report analyses the various components with regard to the issue of trafficking in persons. What are the major compulsions that coerce the vulnerable populace, especially women and children, to fall prey to trafficking? What are the fault lines in our legislative systems that have failed to implement a standing order as regards trafficking of persons? What is the role of civil society and non-governmental organisations in curbing this menace?

South Asia’s Position on ‘Modern Slavery’
As identified in the report, only a fraction of the people in South Asia, who are estimated to be suffering ‘modern slavery’, have been recognised by governmental institutions as ‘trafficked’ and are being provided with rehabilitation support. The traffickers operate with impunity and are inaccessible by the reach of law. Modern anti-trafficking laws and structures in South Asia are redundant and are merely theoretical instruments that in most scenarios remain either biased or undue.

Apart from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which fall under the key watch list, countries in the rest of South Asia have been qualified as making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards of the TVPA which they currently fail to fully comply with. The report states that most of South Asian states are source, transit and destination regions for persons subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. This does not take into account Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka that are source, destination and source countries respectively. All these countries have an inadequate understanding of the definitions of human trafficking and migrant smuggling and often impose punitive actions on trafficked victims. This placement of the burden of the proof on the victim, thereby, holds the victim guilty.

For instance, India has narrow laws for the types of crimes that are considered trafficking. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) criminalises sex trafficking victims more than it prosecutes traffickers. A lack of effective victim-witness protection services continues to be a major impediment to prosecution processes in South Asia. In Bhutan, the 2011 penal code indicts human trafficking crimes on the basis of ‘any illegal purpose’ rather than ‘exploitation’. This definition employs vagueness and departs from the 2000 UN TIP Protocol because it focuses on aspects of legal jurisprudence rather than on factors of exploitation. Compounding the confusion in Afghanistan, in Dari, ‘human trafficking’ and ‘human smuggling’ are terms used interchangeably. Nepal’s constitution criminalises forced prostitution but it does not consider the prostitution of children as a form of human trafficking. As a result, these social fetters continue to exacerbate trafficking issues in South Asia due to poverty, weak economies, deteriorating security systems and the rule of law.

A more pertinent question is whether South Asia is the emerging destination/source region for trafficking, and, if so, why? The answer to this question lies in the evolving economic status of the region and provides an insight into the nature of the existing laws and policies. Vulnerable communities such as women, adolescents and children fall prey to traffickers due to their poverty stricken conditions. In addition, one of the main reasons is the fragile and cumbersome administrative policies in these countries as regards anti-trafficking. Unless anti-trafficking is dealt with zero tolerance, the future of South Asia continues to remain blurry and static in extending justice, protection support and rehabilitation towards the victims.

Law Enforcement
Internationally, human trafficking is considered a crime, therefore law enforcement agencies lead most of the trafficking interventions. Through the support of high ranking officers, proactive detection methods, protocols and targeted training units, efforts to identify victims have been enhanced. Specialised anti-trafficking agencies have been identified as effective because of the provision for investigators to receive and practically apply their learning from training programmes.

Sadly, in addition to the woes of the trafficked victims, some governments in South Asia impose punitive measures against the trafficked. Multiple cases have emerged in South Asia where government officials have failed to recognise the characteristics of the crime despite having heard the victim’s plea. Most of the officials also fail to recognise male victims of forced labour and associate trafficking crimes with women only. They fail to recognise that men can also be victimised even when the latter describe the severe exploitation that they have endured. Officials also fail to recognise the indicators of human trafficking or simply do not view trafficking as under their authority or jurisdiction.

South Asia is the epicentre of such issues, and to combat the evils of trafficking in humankind, it faces several challenges from the process of victim identification to rehabilitation. To prevent lacunae in the system; government efforts must not cease but must go beyond laws guaranteeing such mechanisms, rights or status. Governments need to foster their efforts by implementing proactive strategies through which victims have been or might be found. Anti-trafficking training is a mandate to ensure that law enforcement regulations, prosecutions, the judiciary, responders, and other government officials develop a common understanding of trafficking crimes. Protocols and training curricula must align with this shared comprehension. Such training endeavours must bank on policies and procedures that provide the trainees and activists a clear understanding of action-oriented measures. What is also crucial is collaboration among agencies (social service agencies, non-governmental organisations, international organisations etc) that have overlapping areas of responsibility to extend support to the trafficked persons. Access to comprehensive services must be a part of the policies for victim identification. In the context of South Asia, the major drawback that governments and policy-makers are facing is that they fail to go beyond awareness-raising. Clear guidelines on how to identify a case of trafficking, approach a possible victim, improve the effectiveness of victim identification systems etc are some of the aspects that require intensive study. Achieving measurable results is a dimension that has not yet been fully facilitated in South Asia. This means not only developing anti-trafficking mechanisms but also meeting the expectations whilst providing positive results. 

Civil Society, NGOs and IOs
Governments and legal institutions bear the ultimate responsibility to identify victims, protect their rights and provide rehabilitation support and services to survivors. On the other hand, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and International Organisations (IOs) are skilled in victim protection and provide comprehensive trafficking victim assistance services. Thus, cooperation between the former and the latter leads to more effective delivery.

Many groups and organisations besides the government have developed and implemented training and awareness campaigns in South Asia that is essential for effective government proceedings. National hotlines, commonly in partnership with government agencies, are functional - they send and receive information about trafficking cases; this data is then forwarded to law enforcement agencies. NGOs and IOs often offer a safe haven for victims to initiate the recovery process, such as providing critical services and listing available options. Such facilitation assists the victims in having their needs and concerns heard if not immediately addressed. This initiation also helps them in later opening up with the police and prosecutors – which is another critical juncture in the process.

In South Asia, several NGOs and IOs have adopted anti-trafficking mechanisms to ensure that the survivors give their inputs to increase effectiveness. Through such organisations, many trafficked female survivors have become activists and advocates in the field. It is due to their role and steadfastness that trafficked victims feel more confident about opening up. Civil society institutions have not been able to garner as much momentum as they ought to due to the ineffectiveness and failure of governmental bodies. NGOs and IOs can, at a maximum, raise awareness and provide protection to the trafficked victims, however, failure to identify victims, procedural delays and incorrect judgements often undermine the performance of such institutions.

As discussed, these institutions in South Asia that are in their early stages of development continue to be impeded by governmental inefficiencies. South Asia is the emerging destination for trafficked persons, and the numerous transit points for trafficking also allow the maximum number of people to be trafficked to other countries.

The 2013 TIP Report reflects several South Asian narratives on prosecution, prevention, protection and recommendations for these countries. Yet, it fails to specify the nature of sources on which the ranking is based. While the report points out the lacunae in governmental, private sector and civil society institutions in dealing with the issue of trafficking in South Asia, it also fails to specify recommendations, drawbacks or the role of the international community and regional organisations in combating all forms of trafficking. International cooperation measures regarding extradition, legal assistance, asset confiscation, raising awareness etc are vital aspects that must be provided for in all of South Asia’s government units. For the most part, South Asian countries do not have strong international cooperation mechanisms to expedite mutual legal assistance or extraditions. As a result, current efforts by international organisations and criminal justice machinery across borders to address human trafficking remain crucial.

Summing up figures within the report, 150,000 (approx.) persons were trafficked in the year 2012. The report could have included an objective review of the reasons for the rise in human trafficking but no significant evaluation was provided. A fact that holds true for South Asia is that the low numbers of convictions of human traffickers and migrant smugglers contrast sharply with the high numbers of trafficking survivors or victims, suggesting that efforts undertaken so far have been limited. In the assortment of propositions in the report, one noteworthy suggestion is encouraging the South Asian states to be party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Save India, no other South Asia country is party to the protocol. Further discussion must also be had on the Protocol’s preparedness towards preventing trafficking and providing justice to victims of trafficking, especially women and children, to supplement the UN’s Convention against Transnational Organised Crime for South Asia. Such interventions, if seriously considered a policy priority, will help alleviate the status of modern slavery in South Asia.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Pakistan: Why are Christians Being Persecuted?

Muslims in Sri Lanka: Four Reasons for their Marginalisation

Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Buddhist Radical Groups: New Alignments?

China’s Cartographic Aggression

Modi’s Thimpu Visit: Deepening India-Bhutan Relations

Malaysia, Thailand, and the Trafficking of the Rohingyas

China-Vietnam: The Oil Rig Non-diplomacy

India-China: A Water War over the Brahmaputra?

India-Bangladesh Relations: Significance of the Teesta Water-Sharing Agreement

TAPI Pipeline: Expected by 2017?

South Asia’s 2013: A Time for Elections

India & Bangladesh: A Breakthrough in Water Relations?

Indian News Media: Does it have an Impact on Policy-Making?

Contemporary Nepal: Elections, Constitution-Making and Internal Politics

Addressing the Heat Wave over Brahmaputra River

Bhutan Elections 2013

Myanmar: Unveiling ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’

Cauvery and the Monsoon Surge

India, China and the Brahmaputra River: Beyond the Flood Data Agreement

India, China and the Brahmaputra: Understanding the Hydro-politics

Brahmaputra River Valley Authority: India and China Redefining their 'Global Commons’

India, China & the Brahmaputra: Riparian Rivalry

Review: India, Pakistan - Propelling Indus Water ‘Terrorism’ (IWT)

India, China, and Bangladesh: The Contentious Politics of the Brahmaputra River

Teesta Water Accord: Expectations for Indo-Bangladesh Water Diplomacy

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.