This column discusses the causes and cure for modern day slavery. The specific focus is on the plight of sexual slavery throughout India. The Indian government needs to focus on freeing as well as rehabilitating the scores of people that are trafficked in it’s nation every year.
They are kidnapped, beaten, raped and forced to work for masters that neither care about their liberty, nor their safety. The images of slavery invariably conjure up images of past brutalities and injustices. However, the world seems to take comfort at the end of slavery, and moves on to a brighter future. Unfortunately for millions throughout the world, slavery is not the past, but the present.
Anti-Slavery International, the oldest human rights organization in the world, defines modern slavery through four specific violations of human rights . The victims are forced to work “through physical or mental threats.” They are “controlled” through physical or mental attacks. Furthermore, they are treated as “property.” That is, they are assigned a value, and bought or sold just like any commodity in the marketplace. Victims are also “physically constrained” or have “restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement .” Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves.
As human trafficking is an undeniably large topic, one particular issue of notable interest is the plight of sexual slaves in India. Sexual exploitation is the most commonly identified form of human trafficking followed by forced labor .
A lively area
Most days, the Indian-Nepalese border has a bustling crowd. Lively chattering fills the street as citizens conduct their daily business. It might be hard to imagine that somewhere around this area, children as young as 11 years old, have been locked up and are being physically and sexually abused. According to a New York Times columnist Nicholas D.Kristof, this is the reality a woman named Meena Khatun faced. Kidnapped from her home, she was forced to have “sex with 10 to 25 customers daily.”She was eventually “bred” which is a practice “common in brothels”. She gave birth to a girl and a boy, who were to be used as a prostitute and laborer respectively .
India is one of the largest growing economies of the world, and has become the primary player in the geopolitics of South Asia. Analysts marvel at the astronomical growth of the diverse nation and envision a day when the nation will join the rank of economic superpowers. India, with its massive population, naturally has difficulty regulating slavery from its crowded urban areas to its remote frontiers. Although the US State Department ranks India as a tier 2 offender in human trafficking, reports suggest that the move was heavily politicized. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, allegedly refused to give India the tier 3(the worst possible) rating in fears of alienating a major ally in an unstable region of the world .
Recently, Ashwani Kumar, who heads the Central Bureau of Investigation in India (CBI) stated that his nation holds a unique “position as a source, transit nation and destination” for human trafficking .
The time has come for India to seriously battle the epidemic of modern day slavery plaguing the very fiber of its society. Although India happily spends billions of dollars on their military, the focus on domestic slavery seems like a far and distant concept. India needs to create an infrastructure of special organizations dedicated to child trafficking at local levels of the state governments. Furthermore, the nation also needs to proclaim tough sentencing for human trafficking. The rhetoric of law must be met with the tough hand of justice. Otherwise, traffickers, fearing little repercussion, will continue to move boldly against innocent women and children. The growing, lucrative prostitution crisis in India, in which 300,000 women and children are trafficked from Bangladesh alone, also plays into the hands of criminals.
Without tougher laws and regulation, we could very well be seeing a crisis in sexual slavery, as well as child prostitution unheard of in the modern era. India, like Nepal, is quickly becoming a hub for international sexual offenders and child molesters to seek new, vulnerable and accessible victims. Besides the obvious moral issue of freedom and liberty at stake, there are numerous other reasons the Indian government should quickly regulate the trade and enslavement of human beings.
A Smart Financial Decision
By no means, should the prevention of sexual slavery be boiled down to purely economic terms. However, if showing a financial incentive does provide a faster response from the government of India, then it must be seriously considered. The most obvious financial benefit to prevent sexual slavery is the human immunodeficiency virus epidemic sweeping throughout India. According to UNAIDS, India has “approximately 2.5 million” people living with HIV. This number has decreased over the years due to diligent and smart decisions made by non-governmental organizations as well as the government itself.
The disastrous disease can be greatly curtailed by stopping women from being forced into prostitution . Even modest decreases in the number of forced prostitutes can save hundreds of millions of dollars. Prevention of the slave trade will also aid India as it rises to prominence in the global stage. Although the possibility of sanction is a very remote possibility, such punishments have been handed down to nations in the third tier by the United States.
The purpose of freeing the oppressed from the terrible burden of being sexual slaves is thus clearly beneficial in the long run of India. It has the moral imperative, the financial return and the pressures of preserving global image to end the miserable conditions upon which millions of children and adults are forced to live in a rapidly changing nation.
The only question that remains to be answered is the method the Indian government should use to address the cancerous problem. In analyzing effective solution, one must then turn to private organizations, which have worked over the past decade with the police force to free thousands of enslaved women and children.
According to Stop Trafficking and Oppression of children and women(STOP) , an organization working to end sexual exploitation in India, states that sex trafficking should be stopped through a four step process. STOP calls this the four R’s.
The Rescue/Recovery stage is the emancipation stage. Girls who have been taken as sex slaves are freed from their captivity.
The restoration/repatriation stage is the process of sending women back to their homes. This can only be done if their residence is considered safe and habitable. If further risk of trafficking or abuse exists at their previous homes, they do not return. Each of the girls receive money to start their own businesses.
The rehabilitation stage covers counseling, treatment etc. Each girl is taught to become self reliant so that further risks of being abused are diminished.
The final stage builds up the confidence and skill level of rescued women through training. This in turn helps them cope with their freedom. Furthermore, reintegration allows them to return to their lives as productive citizens. Women that do not return to their homes are given further training in various fields .
The Indian police forces already aid in some of these activities. However, a modernized, well funded task force is needed to fully implement these steps in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations such as STOP. The government organizations should also be able to act with independent diligence.
If effort is taken by the government of India to enlist this process throughout the country, the level of sex trafficking would be reduced immensely. The primary cause of sex trafficking, according to STOP is, simply put, “poverty.” As India emerges as a powerful economic engine, more of their citizens will get out of extreme poverty. The percentage of women being enslaved would thus generally decrease. However, due to enduring financial hardships in many parts of the nation, and among India’s neighbor’s(Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal to name a few), sex trafficking will remain an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately in order to begin the long process of rebuilding the lives of the exploited.
STOP’s approach, combined with financial support and manpower of the Indian government and law enforcement, can destroy the ability of money-hungry criminals from exploiting women and children.
The preamble of the Indian constitution eloquently states:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a [SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the _2[unity and integrity of the Nation];
Until the day all the Meena Khatun’s of India receive these rights, India has not fulfilled her constitutional promise to her citizens. The work to free sexual slaves must begin now, so that we may truly allow human beings to be, (in the words of President John F. Kennedy) what they were meant to be, “free and independent.”
 Elise Labott and Zane Verjee . “India escapes U.S. list of worst human traffickers.” CNN. 13 June 2009. Web. 23 September 2009. <http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/06/12/human.trafficking/index.html>
 “HIV Epidemic in India.” UNAIDS. http://unaids.org/en/ 2009.United Nations Aids 24 September 2009.
  “Human Trafficking FAQs”, UNODC 2009, United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes, October 3rd 2009, <http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/faqs.html>
 Kristof, Nicholas. “The 21st-Century Slave Trade.” The New York Times. 22 April.2007.Web.20 September 2009, http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/opinion/22kristof.html?_r=1
 Martin Dawes, Keele “Children in South Asia deserve better protection from sex abusers and traffickers.” UNICEF. 2004 United Nations. October 11th 2009. <http://www.unicef.org/media/media_23464.html>.
 Official: More than 1M child prostitutes in India.” CNN. 11 May 2009. Web. 23 September 2009. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/11/india.prostitution.children/index.html>
 Robert I. Freidman, “India’s Shame: Sexual Slavery and Political Corruption Are Leading to An AIDS Catastrophe,” The Nation, 8 April 1996
Sen, Pritha , “Combating Human Trafficking Through Social Policing” (December 31, 2006). Available at SSRN: <http://ssrn.com/abstract=981487>
  What is Modern Slavery?”, 2009, Anti Slavery International, September 28th 2009,<http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/what_is_modern_slavery.aspx>
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