TODAY -

Trafficking laws : Sufficient to curb modern slavery ?

John S Shilshi *



Slavery was said to have been abolished when the US Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution in December 1865-four centuries after it took root in Portugal. Though the American declaration came much later in comparison to countries in Europe, it was widely considered as the official end to the practice of slavery in the world.

But eighty three years after that, the United Nations came out with 'Trafficking in Persons Protocol' in 1948, which was an indication that the world was grappling with a new form of slavery through human trafficking. The Protocol was also an indication that this neo-slavery was increasing at a threatening proportion, and the world could no longer remain a silent spectator to it.

Loathsome though it might have been, the sale and purchase of men, women and children in the old or conventional form of slavery was at least an open affair, where the victims knew the perpetrators and what future awaited them. In the modern day, victims of slavery through trafficking rarely know who a perpetrator is and what sinister motive hides behind a friendly face.

They are mostly like 'wolf in sheep's clothing' and have little or no concern about the well-being of the poor and unemployed. On the promise of decent and honorable jobs, they push people to the realm of perpetual damnation forced labour, commercial sex activities, forced marriages, begging, coercive indulgence in criminal acts, the list goes on.

So much so that the UN says human trafficking is a 'crisis' for the international community. In a release "Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020", the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), describes trafficking as 'a hidden crime, with perpetrators operating from dark corners".

As one exam-ines the reports pertaining to different regions-covering as many 148 countries, the hidden-face characteristics of traf-fickers is indeed a common feature. Another aspect common to all regions is that 7 out of every 10 victims are women, including young girls.

Not surprisingly though when it comes to Asia, countries in South Asia, viz. India, Nepal and Sri Lanka top in numbers of trafficking instances, with majority of the victims pushed into commercial sex activities.

India being a massive country, much of South Asian victims are also said to have been absorbed in the Indian sub-continent itself, besides being one of the major source countries for those trafficked to West Asia and East-Asian countries. The reason behind such staggering numbers is not difficult to conclude.

Most South Asian Nations being poverty-ridden, victims with scarce means of livelihood easily fall prey to trafficking hawks, who promise the moon in terms of com-fort and remunerations while recruiting. Also, male traffickers being 74% of the perpetrators, female victims go through mental and physical harassment from early stages of entrapment. The story goes pretty much the same in other poorer regions.

Hence the question arises, has the world responded befittingly to a menace which the UN calls a 'Crisis'? That is, unfortunately, difficult to conclude with certainty. While the seriousness of the problem is well recognized, the efforts on ground appear wanting for various reasons.

Article 9, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children asserts "States Parties shall take or strengthen measures, including through bilateral or multi-lateral cooperation, to alleviate the factors that make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity."

And to be in sync with this declaration, most member countries have adopted their laws to deal with the problem. But has enough been done? In India, traffickers going tech-savvy to take advantage of 700-million-plus Indians spending 4 hours/day on an average on the internet, out which 65% are for chats on social media, have made the task of law enforcement and monitoring agencies even more challenging.

Different so-cial media platforms are being used to advertise recruit anc exploit victims, while the real culprits remain hidden. The use free-standing WebPages to promote sexual services anc connect with potential consumers; particularly in tourist. bound destinations and big cities.

With profiles vulnerable groups easily accessible on different social media platforms, traffickers have it easy to hunt and exploit They are also now able to connect with large number oi people from the comfort of their homes. Tracking all these pages/chats/services is undoubtedly a herculean task for agencies, unless they too match up, if not outsmart the perpetrators.

Laws, rules and regulations spelling out stringent punishments against people in the business of human trafficking may be enacted from time to time by the International bodies and member countries. However, as evident from the experience of last few decades, this new form of slavery cannot be eradicated unless there is change in attitude towards trafficking crimes.

People at large need to approach it as a personal problem rather than considering it as the problems of other people since it does not affect them directly. The best way to understand the tragedy in right perspective though is to try and put ourselves in the shoe of the victims imagine how we would feel if she/he was a member of our own family, therefore, learn to empathize with them.

We need to speak out against people, Government officials and organizations, who we feel are complicit to the commission of these despicable crimes. We need to educate and enlighten people we suspect may be falling into the hands of the unscrupulous. Above all, we should not hesitate to speak against people in power lending tacit suppor to human trafficking and the exploitation of the hapless.

Needless to elaborate, laws are certainly important as they provide legal sanctions to actions taken. However, it implementation has to be by people who may or may no take provisions of law seriously.

The world therefore, must invest more to ensure that attitudes change, rather thar waste time, energy and resources in other aspect of combating trafficking. The mind must change to appreciate understand and respect the law.


* John S Shilshi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a retired IPS officer, and can be reached at johnshilshi(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 01 2022 .



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