Current Affairs

Human trafficking in India

Human trafficking in India

Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe.

According to the definition of the United Nations –

“trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability”.

Human Trafficking is a violation of human rights in the worst form, the impacts of which are far-reaching.

  1. 95% of trafficking victims experience physical and sexual violence.
  2. Many victims experience post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, depression and disorientation.
  3. Nearly 2.5 million people in forced labour including sexual exploitation at any point of time.
  4. It is found that majority of trafficking victims lies between the age group from 18 to 24 years.
  5. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.

A report by an Non government organization in India estimated that 45000 children are missing in India each year. It stated that most of these kids end up as prostitutes, bonded labour or among the homeless population in big cities. It has been found that there are 300,000 to 500,000 children working in the prostitution industry in India.

India also has the highest number of child labour in the world with an estimate of estimate of 12.66 million children involved in hazardous work as per Census 2011.

Root causes of trafficking?

Some of the common factors are local conditions that make populations want to migrate in search of better conditions:

Poverty, oppression, lack of human rights, lack of social or economic opportunity, dangers from conflict or instability and similar conditions.

Political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflict and natural disasters may result in an increase in trafficking.

The destabilization and displacement of populations increase their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse through trafficking and forced labour.

War and civil strife may lead to massive displacements of populations, leaving orphans and street children extremely vulnerable to trafficking.

These factors tend to exert pressures on victims that “push” them into migration and hence into the control of traffickers, but other factors that tend to “pull” potential victims can also be significant.

Poverty and wealth are relative concepts which lead to both migration and trafficking patterns in which victims move from conditions of extreme poverty to conditions of less-extreme poverty. In that context, the rapid expansion of broadcast and telecommunication media, including the Internet, across the developing world may have increased the desire to migrate to developed countries and, with it, the vulnerability of would-be migrants to traffickers.

In some States, social or cultural practices also contribute to trafficking. For example, the devaluation of women and girls in a society makes them disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking.

Added to these factors are the issues of porous borders, corrupt Government officials, the involvement of international organized criminal groups or networks and limited capacity of or commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control borders.

Lack of adequate legislation and of political will and commitment to enforce existing legislation or mandates are other factors that facilitate trafficking in persons.

Laws against trafficking

There are several laws and provisions in our country which try to stop trafficking. Some of these are enumerated below.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to live with dignity.

Article 23 of the Constitution guarantees the right against exploitation. It prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour and makes such practise punishable under law.

Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employment.

Under the Indian Penal Code, twenty five provisions relate to trafficking. Significant amongst these are:

  • Section 366A: procurement of a minor girl (below 18 years of age) from one part of the country to another is punishable.
  • Section 366B: importation of a girl below 21 years of age is punishable.
  • Section 374: provides punishment for compelling any person to labour against his will.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed by both houses of Parliament in March, 2013. It provides for amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure on laws related to sexual offences. It adds Section 370A to the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes human trafficking. The definition provided under the new section is not restricted to prostitution but also includes other forms of trafficking.

India enacted the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) in 1956, upon ratification of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic of Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of others (signed at New York on 9th May, 1950). The ITPA provisions provide penalty for immoral trafficking, punish traffickers, punish persons keeping a brothel (Section 3), Punish persons who live off the earnings of a woman (Section 4), and provides welfare measures focussed towards rehabilitation of sex workers.

The provisions of ITPA criminalize the persons who procure, traffic and profit from the trade but fails to provide a clear definition of ‘trafficking’ per se in human beings.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or ITPA is a 1986 amendment of legislation passed in 1956 as a result of the signing by India of the United Nations’ declaration in 1950 in New York on the suppression of trafficking. The act, then called the All India Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act (SITA), was amended to the current law. The laws were intended as a means of limiting and eventually abolishing prostitution in India by gradually criminalising various aspects of sex work.


Issue of human trafficking is age old, but it still is prevalent in our society. Examine the root cause of trafficking and discuss the laws to curb it.

Leave a Reply