Thursday, November 22, 2007

Human Trafficking Conference in India Reveals a Work in Progress

India's bonded child laborers (Source: Corbis)

From the Telegraph:

“Trafficking is about completely reducing accidents,” the smug, paunchy constable on the screen was saying, causing much amusement among the audience. Only seven per cent of Indian police personnel are known to have received any training in the subject

Anti-human trafficking efforts have netted only three convictions so far in India. Three is also the number of states — Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Goa — where anti-human trafficking units have been formed within the police force.

It will be unfair to say, however, that any of the three states mentioned has a weak officer handling human trafficking, and the success of decoy-based raid-cum-rescue operations proves that law-enforcement agencies are waking up to the seriousness of the crime. But the problem here is that the anti-human trafficking units are located in the police headquarters in the state capitals, while the thanas in the districts and villages — from where most trafficked persons are sourced — are still largely oblivious to the threat.

More important, in the balance of power, the beneficiaries of trafficking — from the local dalals to the higher criminals who have the money both to buy human beings and to hush up investigations — have far too much advantage over those they buy, sell or exploit. In south Asian countries, where corruption is endemic to the system, how realistic is it to expect that the victims — raped, battered and psychologically wrecked — will be able to fight the unequal battle?

Rehabilitation and repatriation continue to be a sticky area in the discourse on trafficking in developing countries. For the State is unable to offer viable livelihoods to the rescued individuals, who often go back to sex work simply to ensure a steady income. If the State and the NGOs were better equipped with an infrastructure of shelter homes and self-employment schemes, most stories of trafficking could have had happy endings.

The Union minister for women and child development was heard promising changes in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, so that trafficked girls are not doubly victimized by being charged with soliciting customers for sexual services. Bureaucrats and ministers from the labour and home affairs ministries seemed equally committed, but the NGO workers seemed to know better. They preferred taking a break for tea while the ministers waxed eloquent on the many challenges ahead.

Read the full article

From reading the article, here is the sense I get of what India needs to address to improve its anti-trafficking efforts:
  • Lack of coordinated government efforts and resources
  • Lack of police training to understand and recognize trafficking
  • Low public awareness of trafficking
  • Corruption in the government, law enforcement and criminal justice system
  • Lack of collaboration between non-governmental organizations and the government to provide livelihood opportunities for trafficking survivors
  • Cultural values
  • Widespread poverty
If only to identify problem areas; however, this conference is a good first step towards shoring up the main weaknesses amongst the efforts of anti-trafficking stakeholders.

Let's see if their findings translate to meaningful action.

Stay tuned...

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