Human Trafficking is the fastest growing crime and the second largest illegal trade in the world. Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits the trafficking of human beings and forced labour. Various other Indian laws and India’s ratification of several international laws also clarifies India’s stand on trafficking.
In March 2013, India passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013. This Act amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code and includes India’s first definition of human trafficking.
According to this definition, human trafficking occurs when one person (the trafficker) uses force, fraud or coercion to induce, recruit, harbor or transport another person (the victim) for the purpose of exploitation for his/her own commercial gain. It also defines exploitation as “any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.” The Act also clarifies the types of offenses that are criminalized as trafficking violations and institutes heightened sentences for perpetrators.
Bonded Labour is an oppressive form of forced labour where, due to a debt or other obligation (customary, caste-based, economic consideration), the labourer forfeits certain basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Physical violence, verbal insults, brute force and sexual abuse are often common elements in bonded labour making it a serious human rights crime.
The most common form of bonded labour usually entails an advance. Victims accept a petty cash advance from the employer, agreeing to repay the amount through their services. Often, the labourer moves into the worksite with his/her entire family. Once at the worksite, labourers are curtailed from moving around freely, denied the chance to supplement their wages through alternate employment or by selling their goods and also refused the right to be paid the State-recommended wages
They are told that their freedom will be restored only upon repayment of the advance. However, as the labourer soon realises, the entire system has been designed to make repayment impossible. Abysmally low wages, exorbitant interest rates and falsified account-keeping ensure that the illiterate labourer is trapped for years, sometimes generations
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) lists bonded labour as one of the various forms of Human Trafficking in India. Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. Most times, people are exploited for sex, labour or organs. Human trafficking is a serious offence and can be tried under Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
In most cases where people have been trafficked for labour, the conditions are very similar to bonded labour. Most times, bonded labour offenders can be tried both under the Bonded Labour Act as well as under Section 370.
Sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a ‘rape for profit’ trade, in which victims are kidnapped, coerced, deceived, transported or detained for the purpose of being sexually exploited for commercial gains. Although CSE and related forms of human trafficking clearly violate international human rights conventions, the crime brings in significant profits for the offenders and thus continues to be a growing industry.
Sex trafficking is a criminal offence under Article 23 of the Constitution of India, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) regardless of the consent of the victim. If the victims are minor, perpetrators can also be tried under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, 2012.
Once trafficked, the victims face violence on a daily basis. In addition to being raped multiple times a day, both children and forced adults are particularly vulnerable to violent physical abuse from owners, pimps and customers. They are also at a significantly higher risk of contracting HIV or sexually transmitted diseases. Often, they receive a mere fraction of the profits from their exploitation or none at all, making it impossible for them to provide basic amenities for themselves.