The 2012 report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) by the US Department of State has declared that ‘the Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.’ Conceding that the latter is making significant efforts to do so, the report observes that ‘challenges remain regarding overall law enforcement efforts against bonded labour and the alleged complicity of public officials in human trafficking.’
The TIP report places each country onto one of four tiers based more on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the ‘minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking’, than on the size of the problem. While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem. On the contrary, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking and made efforts to address the problem. For the record, India in placed in Tier 2 – a category for countries where governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards identified in Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, has continued to establish anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs), which were responsible for combining law enforcement and rehabilitation efforts. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched an anti-trafficking unit in January 2012 and gave investigation authority under trafficking-related laws to all its police officers.
The TIP report, which annually tracks governmental anti-human trafficking efforts across the world, has noted that 90 per cent of trafficking in India is internal, and that those from India’s most disadvantaged social strata, including the lowest castes, are most vulnerable. Men, women and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. A common characteristic of bonded labour is the use of physical and sexual violence as coercive tools. The report further informs that an increasing number of job placement agencies lure adults and children into forced labour or sex trafficking under false promises of employment. The TIP report cites new findings about the continued forced labour of children in hybrid cottonseed plots in Gujarat.
It emerges that establishments of sex trafficking are moving from the more traditional locations – such as brothels – to locations that are harder to find, and are also shifting from urban areas to rural areas, where there is less detection. There are increasing reports of females from northeastern states and Odisha subjected to servile marriages in states with low female-to-male child sex ratios, including Haryana and Punjab, and also reports of girls subjected to transactional sexual exploitation in the Middle East under the guise of temporary marriages.
Religious pilgrimage centres continue to be vulnerable to child sex tourism. Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh, and an increasing number of females from Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Russia are also subjected to sex trafficking in India. According to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), South Asia is the second largest venue for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia.
While the Indian government has continued to make progress in its law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking in 2011, concerns remain over the uneven enforcement of trafficking laws and alleged official complicity. India prohibits most forms of forced labour through the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the BLSA, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act. Conviction rates have also been found to be low across the penal system.
The report indicates that corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect suspected traffickers and brothel keepers from enforcement of the law, and receive bribes from sex trafficking establishments and sexual services from victims. The report observes that, ‘the Indian government reported no prosecutions or convictions of government officials for trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period; NGOs said this was due to a lack of sufficient evidence.’