180M Children in India “very vulnerable” to Trafficking

Source: BusinessEconomics.in

Nishit Kumar | Childline IndiaGuest Interview with Nishit Kumar Head of Communication and Strategic Initiatives CHILDLINE India Foundation, Mumbai

Q) In your opinion, what are the reasons behind the increasing child trafficking in India?

A) Nearly 43% of the country’s population is children below 18. Of these, about 40% are marginalised by poverty, illiteracy, exploitation, abuse, disability, disease and various other problems. This means around 180 million children are extremely vulnerable. The country’s uneven economic development has led to growing trafficking within India from socio-economically deprived pockets to more developed parts where demand exists for child labour and commercial sexual exploitation. There is also trafficking from neighbouring poor countries. Further, no state government has the political will to take on child labour in agriculture head on. Agriculture remains the single biggest employer of child labour.

Child Trafficking IndiaThe trafficking law- Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1986 – requires amendment and even though a Parliamentary Standing Committee was appointed, the stalemate over its amendment continues. The Juvenile Justice Act has specified the age of children as 18, but in spite of the government’s commitment to UNCRC, there has been no attempt to bring the definition of children’s age in various laws in line with the JJ Act definition. As a result, most traffickers for child labour go unpunished. State governments do not co-operate with each other on porn child labour rehabilitation. Several critical areas such as Child Sexual Abuse do not have any law to bring offenders to justice. Amidst all these issues, insensitivity to street children and impoverished children continues to be the norm in society across the country with clichéd views that these children are better off working.

Q) Why is it that most of the children trafficked are from West Bengal?

A) West Bengal is surrounded by very poor states in India and by a very poor country-Bangladesh- with whom we share a porous border. In the north, West Bengal has a direct access to Nepal. Hence, it provides a relatively easy access to traffickers.

Q) It is found that families and close relatives/friends are the ones who sell children. How can this be prevented?

A) Unless families in abject poverty are linked to poverty elimination programmes (such as NREGA) and the non-trafficking of their children is made a complying requirement there will always be family members involved in trafficking. There must be a uniform law on organ donation so as to prevent child trafficking for organs.

Q) What is the role-played by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to detect and prevent trafficking of children?

A) CSOs generally have three critical roles: Advocacy (for laws and policies), Communi-cation (to community) and Intervention (for those who fall between the gaps of rights and laws). They also act as pressure groups on governments to ensure effective implemen-tation of laws and policies. In a country as large as India, the primary responsibility for prevention is that of the state. No CSO is large enough or has adequate resources to ensure prevention.

Q) What kind of co-ordination needs to exist between the government, media and police so that the victims are not further victimised?

A) The government is the primary stakeholder in child protection. It has to provide laws, policies and resources. It has to provide the infrastructure necessary for child protection. The police have a role in crime prevention, detection and law enforcement. However, police in every state of India have no social services wing to tackle social issues- for instance, social investigation in the case of missing children. While the JJ Act provides for trained police, for juvenile issues, in every police station – in reality this is complied with a superficial level. Mostly police have neither the resources nor the people who can effectively take on the mantle of child protection. With police being a state subject, Child Protection is implemented with vastly varying levels in all states. Hence, NGO come into the equation to effectively pressurise both police and government. In the case of media, the growth of multi-vehicle media is largely a phenomenon of the last 20 years. However, we see that while a miniscule segment of media is willing to adopt child-sensitive reporting; most media show a frightening lack of child sensitivity. For example, they brazenly report the most private and intimate details of Aarushi, the teenage girl who was murdered. Similarly FIRs in teenage rape cases are published in complete detail. Media that have online websites presenting semi-pornography such as “hot pics” do not have any child warning nor provide any facility for parental controls. Socially active media reporting – a necessary accompaniment for rapidly developing economics are almost absent. Media comes into play a part only when it senses a TRP generating scam. We have to recognise that media education in India does not provide for social activism support or training for child sensitive reporting.

Q) To what extent is the punishment of offenders severe enough to act as a diterrent?

A) Any offender against children must receive the most severe punishment in order to achieve a deterrent effect. Particularly, those offenders who are in positions of trust and authority make offenders repeat their misdeeds. Unfortunately, India still lags behind in recognising the seriousness of offences against children.

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  1. Each year by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of girls and boys are trafficked globally. Child trafficking is a global issue. Very few people are actually aware of how large the problem is. Even if people are aware, they generally turn a blind eye towards the entire situation.

    For this reason, the level of awareness needs to be increased drastically.
    “Sold: An MTV EXIT Special”, a gripping documentary presented by Indian actress and UNFPA Ambassador, Lara Dutta. The Program introduces the tragedy of trafficking in South Asia where thousand of young girls and boys are sold into modern-day slavery and shows how each one of us can help to prevent modern-day slavery.

    To watch this documentary online visit http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/479

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