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No humanity towards trafficking victims

July 24, 2008

I read this story about kidnapped young girls being kept in a Gujarat village:

When Kishan reached Bavla with the Mumbai Police to rescue his daughter in June he found her in a house at Meni village. But a village mob stopped the vehicle. “A huge mob surrounded us and snatched the girl away from us,” said Mumbai Police Inspector P R Wagh.
“Pachason aisee ladkiyan hamarey gaon mein hain, lekin hum unhe nahin denge (numerous such girls are there in our village and we will not return them) the villagers told the police.

I was shocked that villagers were not cooperating with the police. I know that this sort of thing must be happening elsewhere too, but these kind of stories need to be highlighted. More than just a heinous crime has taken place here…there has been public apathy and collusion. This story and similar stories should appear on news channels day after day until all of us feel ashamed. How else will trafficking ever decline? If people perpetuate these inhuman crimes just because those girls are from “outside” their region and community (which they invariably are) what is the future for humanity?

Trafficking movement
These two maps will illustrate where the girls are brought from and where they go (watch the arrows). For a bigger picture, click on the image.

Delhi and Mumbai are hubs, and that’s because they are “the main transit zones for international movement” but it’s not as if victims are not picked up from these cities. They are, from the poorer areas. At times even middle class girls become victims (more on that below).

Victims are moved from poorer areas to richer areas (for sale) and moved from poorer countries to the richer countries.

There was a recent report about as many as 100 children disappearing from camps for displaced Reang tribes in India’s north-eastern state of Tripura. Such camps are regularly targeted by trafficking networks. In fact thousands of women and children have gone missing from camps for displaced people in western Assam since the late 1990s. Another report [June 08] report stated that trafficking in Assam has reached dangerous proportions. But statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. Real figures are hidden as no one wants to admit that a family member has been trafficked. It’s a matter of great shame in India as the girls themselves are blamed.

Sex tourism fueling demand
This is another lucrative market for traffickers. Laws in developed countries are far too strict for pedophiles to operate in their own countries with the kind of impunity they enjoy here. Both boys and girls are at risk. Unfortunately our investigating agencies cannot successfully prosecute even if plenty of evidence is available! Just today there was the case of two Britishers (Duncan Grant, a charity worker, and Allan Waters) who were acquitted because prosecutors could not make the testimony of the victims stick. I won’t be surprised if some sort of money has exchanged hands here.

The information below is from an NHRC report.

How victims are subdued and silenced
Plain and simple violence does the trick. The victims are starved, locked up in a dark rooms, beaten, burnt with cigarette butts, bound, forced to drink, drugged, strangled, stabbed or killed (if all else fails). Attempts are made to create dependency on drugs and alcohol.
Children break within 7 to 10 days.

How they are targeted
Place: Recruited from public places like cinema halls, bus stops, railway stations, airports, cafes, restaurants, beauty contests and beauty parlours, state and national highways, quarry and construction work sites, and areas where people are displaced without proper homes. Impoverished areas or those which have suffered climatic, economic or political disasters are targeted.

Methods: Tactics used are drugging, kidnapping, as well as persuasion, material inducements, befriending and deception. Offers of fake jobs or false marriages are common. As offers of marriage without dowries are welcomed, parents are tempted. Marriage bureaus, job placement and tutorial agencies are often a front for luring people. Middle class girls are often approached at home with promises of job offers, at times in foreign countries. Needless to say once the girls are taken, their families don’t get any money and the girls don’t either. They are simply given food and shelter.

Who approaches the victims? They can be neighbours, family friends, relatives of friends, acquaintances returned from abroad, women who have been trafficked themselves, husbands, fathers, boyfriends or lovers. Just about anyone! At times gay men are used because they are trusted by women because of their sexual orientation.

Profile of the traffickers: Young men and middle-aged women who are former prostitutes or victims of forced prostitution are most likely offenders. Many of them are drug addicts or gamblers and often are fluent in several languages. Traffickers may operate alone, or in small gangs.

Everyone helps
From the police, visa/passport officials, railway/bus authorities and employees, taxi/autorickshaw drivers or rickshaw pullers, corrupt public officials, brothel operators, guides or even the local people…all are in cahoots!!

We have the laws, but most often it’s the victims who get the short end of the stick, not the traffickers. A law was enacted recently which targets clients and pimps instead of the girls but I wonder if it’s working. Without sensitisation of the police these laws are of no use.

Difficult for victims to get back to a normal life
India also does not have adequate infrastructure for rescue and rehabilitation. Families rarely take them back and therefore even if victims are rescued, they see no other choice but to go back to their old life. These people cannot be considered “willing” prostitutes. If a girl who has been trafficked at the age of 12 or 14 is rescued a few years later, and her family refuses to accept her back, what will she do? Is she even in the right mental state to start a new life on her own after the horrors of her existence? And will any man marry her?

Update, July 25th: The two Britishers may have walked free due to shoddy investiagation/poor legal system/bribes taken in India but back home they are going to be investigated, according to this report:

A leading British agency working for children’s rights, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children (ECPAT), has written to the Home Office asking that the British government specifically ask for Grant and Waters’ deportation to ensure that the two men do not leave India for any other country. Once there, they should be restricted from leaving Britain till Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre which is led by the British Police investigates Grant and Waters and gives them a clean chit, says ECPAT in its letter to Parliamentary under-secretary of the state.

Related Reading: Bar girls evicted from their homes!
A new law to prevent prostitutes from becoming victims of the police and the courts
Sex Tourism growing in India
India doesn’t want to admit that its children go missing!
About 45000 kids go missing in India every year
What is the root cause of child labour?
No long-term rehabilitation for street kids
The abuse of domestics, particularly children

37 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2008 3:39 pm

    Worse. this is international…happens everywhere.

    i need to get this off my mind.

  2. July 24, 2008 4:26 pm

    it is just sad,what are we human beings? Here i am sitting in front of a computer and writing about my idenity and other things…but there are ppl of my age who suffer…and why? because all they did wrong was being born…for all we talk about karma and so and so but what is the reason for such action,where is the heart which we all so woderously talk about,why are we all just cold hard hypocrites…i seriously hate being a part of humanity …

  3. wishtobeanon permalink
    July 24, 2008 4:38 pm

    Sad and scary…

  4. July 24, 2008 5:00 pm

    I read about this in the papers recently, and just reading it was traumatising. Cannot even imagine what the victims go through.

    What shocked me was the large-scale organization – how so many people seemed to be aiding it. Very, very sad.

  5. July 24, 2008 6:31 pm

    The police says “nothing can be done about it unless the Government takes action against the culprits.” So our politicians do nothing abt it as usual….

  6. July 24, 2008 7:07 pm

    I was particularly horrified and saddened by your last paragraph Nita. Aren’t there some social organizations who work at rehabilitating and integrating these kids back into society? After the trauma they have faced, I think these girls need education/vocational training to help them support themselves.

  7. Ravi permalink
    July 24, 2008 8:36 pm

    Human trafficking has nothing to do with the Govt or Police. It is our people who are the culprits. It would be naive to advocate morals to these people but its evident we “indians” seriously lack moral values considering the atrocities carried every day on our men, women and children. We can not blame pakistan or US but it is our own people who devised these means of earnin money. I pretend not to read this post cause it is so scary and I just cant imagine the degree of coldness of these people. I seriously doubt our morality! Even education and proper law and order can’t avoid these sort of things to happen unless we “indians” pity our fellow citizens and stop living on them.

  8. July 24, 2008 9:39 pm

    eh, wishtobeanon, disturbing isn’t it!

    Vishesh, that’s what I feel many times too. How lucky I am to be born in the right family.

    Apu, it’s a huge machinery, a multi-billion dollar business. Everyone is involved and those who aren’t look the other way.

    Chhatrapati Shivaji, politicians, that’s the word. They are in the thick of it.

    Devaki, I didn’t mean it that way because there are organisations which help…but they are a drop in the ocean, that’s what I meant. And often these girls don’t get properly rehabilitated or rather, accepted in society.

    Ravi, even I can’t imagine how people look the other way. As you said, it’s a coldness….and sometimes fear of upsetting the system. However, I don’t think it’s Indians, it’s our law enforcement machinery. All humans are the same Ravi, they have their greed, fears, cowardice and a few are really evil…it’s only the law that can give strength to good people to fight the system. We need a better law enforcement machinary, law enforcement which is not in the control of politicians as it is now. Today police officers who arrest the wrong people lose their jobs.

  9. July 24, 2008 10:17 pm

    Awesome story! You must search it from so much resource. Much food for thought… It really made my day. Thank you.

  10. July 24, 2008 10:33 pm

    Made me sad and wanting to shoot all of them out of rage!

    Anyway…here are some things that came to my mind:

    (1) All possible laws are made in India. The pity is that it is not ‘implemented’ at all !! if we look into our Constitution, we will surely have all those laws and more that we appreciate developed countries for. unfortunately, what differentiates them from us is that they’re strictly followed and offenders pay a price!

    (2) Our “Judiciary” should be made independent ! Of whatever it is bound by now. Here in the US, you will see that the Court has A-L-L the powers it wants – to prosecute even the richest, wealthiest and powerful person. Nobody is spared!

    (3) There is no ‘fear’ amongst our people.
    When I spot a cop on the freeway here and I doubt I’m speeding, I will immediately slow down. Similarly, all others on the damn freeway will slow down! That is his power of his mere presence. You see the blue and red flashlight somewhere in the far corner, you change lanes and slow down a bit ! Why? because there is the Fear of being caught. Not just that, being caught results in getting a speeding ticket (if you indeed were) and a hefty fine. Sometimes, a ticket can cost you 6points at once which brings you close r to getting your licence suspended if you speed again and get another 6points on your license (12 points to lose license in most states). So there is an ‘effect’ that my speeding will ’cause’. So I’ll be careful when I’m driving anywhere in the country.

    Do we have this ‘fear’ in India? more often than not, people are making ‘adjustments’ and ‘circumventing laws’ ! Which is why we see these things happening often. This is just one of the things that has come to light. We are not aware of many other thngs that may be happening. As you said, they have to keep coming out until we are ashamed of!

    And I dont know if I should be surprised or not with the police being unable to overpower a mob! Dont they equip themselves with something as simple as a teargas or something to scatter them? That talks of, as you again mentioned, infrastructure to deal with these things/issues.

    My day is made – I was getting rather bored reading the same news over and over. Now I will sit and brood on this one today like I do everyday with one news item or the other.

  11. July 24, 2008 10:34 pm

    On a side note – Nita, you have readers from all over the world !!! WOW !!

  12. July 24, 2008 11:01 pm

    Nita, as your post yesterday was talking about commenting and why people comment, this is a perfect example. Of all the evils in the world, trafficking children and adults for any reason, but especially for sexual exploitation is the worst example of mankind’s depravity. This is not new by any means. As long as humans have existed there have been rapes, slavery and crimes against children. This is also not an Indian problem, nor an Asian problem, but a worldwide problem.

    These sites below are two of many that work to bring an end to the sex slavery trade.

    The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International (CATW)

    “If there were no demand, there would be no supply”

  13. uNbReAkAbLe permalink
    July 24, 2008 11:11 pm

    this is one of the biggest problems in india ….and i have read and heard that it was always here….this just tells the story….and about the govt and police…i dont think they can work to there limits until the PEOPLE help them….its sad but its clear that the PEOPLE want it …and may be we ,the PEOPLE are the only one responsible for the problems we r facing…
    sad 😦

  14. July 25, 2008 12:24 am

    well written//..was an eye opener.. i knew that traffking thing was prevelant but never read anythign so much in detail like this..
    villagers not co-operating is quite shocking… and the inspector dint give an responsible answer..
    the fact that all big depts are in this thing is even more shocking .

  15. July 25, 2008 12:27 am


    these are the horrow-stories, but as some your readers ahve already mentioned it happens everywhere 😦
    Every now and then I read on the Austiran news how the police saved some girls form the sex-slavery (but only because one managed to escape).
    It is a very complex problem and the root of it is in the lust: there is the demand and there are people willing to earn money on satisfying the demand.

    I only pray that this crime againgt the innocence will stop one day.

  16. Vikram permalink
    July 25, 2008 12:48 am

    Nita, this again goes back to a fundamental problem in India, the inability of the law-enforcement agencies to enforce the law. The reasons for this are varied, ranging from low transparency, corruption to low pay and lack of appropriate technology. Unitil our police force is made more professional and competent, these things will just keep on happening.

  17. Ravi permalink
    July 25, 2008 1:24 am

    I wish the death penalty must be introduced (assuming death sentences not implemented in India ) so that the govt shouldn’t have to deal with traffickers again and again. Once they get used to this business its hard for them to find a new ways for living like old habits die hard. I don’t even let others to say a word against the decisions I make I m glad that my parents always supported whatever I did. But these traffickers did exactly the opposite like they take the freedom and what is life once you lost your freedom. PHEW!!! It sucks big time. Whoever commit these atrocities must be penalized to death. You all might wonder death sentence is too big a punishment but I think it is in proportion to what they did knowingly or unknowingly.

  18. Ravi permalink
    July 25, 2008 1:38 am

    Traffickers chose sex-slavery as their potential business among many. What about the kids and men who are also trafficked to different parts of India. These days its common to get a boy/girl from a village and make them work more than 16 hours 7 days a week but only give them a fraction of what they deserve. Since most of these kids being tribal they don’t know the worth of their labor. They are seriously under paid. I saw so many kids like that grow in my friends home or in some of our teachers. They dress bad and no personal hygiene. Once I saw this kid (around 12 years) and he was hurting a 7 or 8 year tribal girl who works in their home just for fun. I was 18 (i guess) at that time.

    Govt tryin to bring awareness on child labor as an atrocity but how many of us take that serious. I hope the recent murders in Delhi by domestic help could make something to stop getting village kids to work. I know its crude to think this way but we don’t follow rules unless we get punished severely like whoever spits in public places must be imprisoned for 2 or 3 years and has to work in jail to meet his living needs sort of.

  19. July 25, 2008 3:44 am

    Two years back I watched an English movie on this subject and it was quite dreadful. I almost puked on certain scenes but I kept watching as I wanted to understand and see the reality. Your article covers all of what that movie did. The movie kind of highlights a lot of incidents around “Sex tourism”. I am of the thought that all of this happens because there is a demand, so to kill this problem the demand needs to be killed. I cannot even imagine what sort of monsters those people are who are interested getting themselves into this. They need to be deprived off their private parts and let loose to suffer humiliation. US has stricter laws for crime against Minors but unfortunately it is developing countries like India that needs more of these laws.

    There was also a Tamil movie about more than a decade back named “Mahanadhi” by Kamal Hassan. It was my first eye opener movie to this issue and I have to say the screenplay that Kamal worked to portray this was extremely realistic and painful.

  20. July 25, 2008 7:47 am

    great post
    unfortunately we have become a callous, uncaring people.
    and the fact that a woman means so little, is very apparent here.

  21. July 25, 2008 7:51 am


    snippetsnscribbles, that is really the crux of it, no fear of the law amongst wrong-doers!

    Brian, yes it’s a world-wide problem and unfortunately poor countries become the suppliers. thanks for those links btw.

    uNbReAkAbLe, it’s the apalling poverty which is the main problem. why, just the other day i read in the paper about a woman who sold her newborn baby for a few hundred rupees so that she could feed her other children!!

    arvind, that was what shocked me the most. the apathy! i think these things are so common that 1) the police don’t bother to follow up the case 2) the media doesn’t highlight it.
    also many a time the parents themselves sell their children.

    axinia, true it’s a world-wide problem but as I mentioned to Brian, poor people are the victims! and it is because of poverty also that many others get into this business, the petty operators I mean. I have heard of guides in goa who ignore the pedophiles as if they complain it could mean that they are shunted out of the area.

    Vikram, in addition our police force needs to become free from the clutches of the politicians.

    Ravi, actually I agree with you. I have not mentioned it in any of my posts but I am all for very strict punishment. Although I am against the death penalty in theory, in practice I think it should be applies to cases where the traffickers are the big fish. And yes bonded labour is a huge problem in India. A lot of missing kids go there too, although the sex trade is most lucrative for traffickers.

    Dineshbabu, it’s all the stuff of horror and I can imagine what the movie must have shown! I would find it difficult to watch a movie like that. About laws, I wish we start implementing the laws we have first. Also our police do shoddy investigation. I am appalled at the way they let these two british pedophiles walk free.

    Harini, I was going to mention that in the post, the little we value women in our society but I restrained myself. I am glad you brought it out in the comment. I have also read that a shortage of women in India (skewed sex ratio) is fueling demand for sex workers and bought “wives.”

  22. July 25, 2008 9:14 am

    Nita, sometimes I feel that amost all of the social problems can be attributed to one reason – “ILLITERACY”. I somehow feel that education, especially for children, will solve almost all the social problems we have today. The logic is quite simple! We can’t change the grown-ups. But if we make sure that children today get proper education, dont you think that India would prosper in the next 10 to 15 years atleast? I couldn’t find any other solution for these kinds of problems. Even if the laws are changed, people do find loopholes to escape. The rudimentary solution for most of the problems will be to educate children. But thi is not quite easy in a nation with diversified people. The poor can’t afford to educate their children. So their condition becomes so intractable that they have to send their children for work at a very tender age.And that’s the reason child labour is so rampant. Getting lured into all this muck (read as trafficking) happens ONLY because of lack of education (and eventually lack of PRUDENCE). And coming to the case of educated middle class women who become victims.

    “Middle class girls are often approached at home with promises of job offers, at times in foreign countries.”

    I just have one question. How many of us feel that India opens opportunities to people from diverse academic backgrounds? If, at the first place, the education system is revamped, and next, opportunities are CREATED, how many of this middle class women feel so desperate to go to a foreign country and get cheated there? When we work for clients like AT&T, General Motors..why can’t we also work for BSNL, Maruti? I do not know if you feel I am digressng from the issue by now, but don’t you think all these problems are interlinked? The main cause being “LACK OF EDUCATION”. How much percentage of the contingency fund are we spending each time there is a cyclone? If proper care is taken, we can alleviate the after-effects of natural calamity to some extent. And imagine, if we do so, how much money the government saves! All that can be used in crating proper education opportunites. EDUCATION solves ALL the problems. Let us think of law reforms after that. You know what, it is education that changes the society. I completely accept the below lines from your post:

    “India also does not have adequate infrastructure for rescue and rehabilitation. Families rarely take them back and therefore even if victims are rescued, they see no other choice but to go back to their old life.”

    Now don’t you think education changes the society? I am sorry if you felt I have digressed from your original post. But somehow I feel that all the problems are interlinked. Don’t you?

  23. July 25, 2008 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the article.

    You mentioned that showing such things on news channel continuously might help in reducing thye Human Trafficking.

    But if our news channel get over showing one hour epsiode of a man nailing himself(News 24 today one hour and yesterday night one hour.) Showing whether Ram actually exists, or UFO taking up out holy cow for research, or what Rakhi Sawant wore yesterday, the Saas Bahu and Saajish, they do not have any time to air such important issues.

    India lacks positive journalism.

  24. July 25, 2008 3:59 pm

    Hope you are ok there in bangalore …………

  25. July 25, 2008 6:09 pm

    @Dinu I think Nita lives in Mumbai.

    @Nita I was going to comment about this 2 British guys but found u have added an update 🙂 Your post reminded me of the trafficking shown in Page 3. In case of victims I believe its often the people they know are the ones who kidnap them or sell them.

  26. July 25, 2008 11:06 pm

    A lot more awareness of the crime and the new laws is required. The new law is good for prostitutes (victims), although I heard and read protests from men saying now innocent customers will be penalised, and the prostitutes will go jobless because men will be afraid to approach them!
    Do you think if Prostitution was legalised and Pimping and trafficking made a serious offence punishable by death or life sentence
    1.) Whatever they earned stays with them,
    2.) They choose whether they work as sex workers or not.
    3.) They have legal rights, Police can’t harass them.
    ….then there will be less trafficking?
    Child abuse is something most people are blind towards. Many schools have only male peons, teachers and staff (like in Patan case) and they know the victim will not dare to complain. ..this makes me very, very sad. Wish there was some way to stop, or at least control this terrible nightmare for so many women and children.

  27. July 25, 2008 11:07 pm

    And I strongly believe that awareness campaigns help.

  28. July 25, 2008 11:51 pm

    Death penalty seems to be an answer. Believe me, even if death penalty is applied in Rape cases, no one would dare to commit the crime.
    And even if a law is applied, we need strict implementations, which again is a problem in India.
    Sometimes I wonder that the place where you are born makes such a huge difference.

  29. Ravi permalink
    July 26, 2008 7:21 am

    Prostitution must be legalized, by doing so at least our movie actresses would have some competition and make them run for their money 🙂

    I wonder why only indian women is deprived of using her charm and body to make a living while civilized (western) countries are allowed legally to do so?

  30. Ravi permalink
    July 26, 2008 7:24 am

    OMG!!! I was trippin while writing my comment. I thought of writing something and the stuff I put in my comment is totally different…lol Wish I could re read my comment some day before I post it 🙂

  31. July 26, 2008 7:49 am

    Manoj, I do agree with you about lack of education being the root of the problem, but as you pointed out poverty is what is stopping them from getting educated in the first place. It’s a vicious circle which will take time to sort itself out. And also as you said, the educational opportunities are skewed, as the government infrastructure for primary and secondary education
    is not good enough.

    Sharad, all of us have become quite disgusted at what is shown on tv channels these days. The problem is that the journalism sector is also a protected one and they don’t have global competition.

    Dinu, as Reema said I am in Mumbai. Thanks for you concern.

    Reema, thanks.

    Indian Homemaker, I am all for legalisation of prostitution but severe punishment for pimps and traffickers. However our society has to also change. Laws are no use if lawmakers are heavily prejudiced against prostitutes. And about child abuse I agree with you wholeheartedly. If old people are abused, it makes for sob stories on channels in India as we are society which reveres the old, but child abuse is far more rampant in India than elder abuse. What people fail to understand is that when children are abused, they will grow up and abuse the elders too, but somehow we find that in our society many still don’t! They abuse the kids!! I have written about this problem here.

    Amit, it’s always nice to hear when a man advocates death for rape! My suggestion is castration or some other way to make the person dysfunctional sexually for good.

    Ravi, good you realised that it’s difficult to understand what you mean…because legal or not, women here do become prostitutes. Also I don’t believe that movie stars are prostitutes although the casting couch does exist.

  32. July 26, 2008 11:12 am

    The problem exists and most people know about it but yet there is no will to curb it – poverty, greed and corruption together make sure that this is a thriving industry.
    I feel a stab everytime I see a child woman prostitutes photo. What kind of a man wants to abuse a mere child and what pleasure can they derive out of it? isn’t there a limit to (in)human perversity?

  33. July 26, 2008 4:14 pm

    When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.BayardRustinBayard Rustin

  34. Sakhi permalink
    July 26, 2008 6:04 pm

    Sad, Soooooooo Sad! 😦

  35. Ravi permalink
    July 27, 2008 8:36 am

    I wish there is nothing like woman on this planet and that would sure end all our problems……I was just 🙂

  36. September 5, 2008 10:47 pm

    After having read this post, I feel we all are so blessed. The stark reality of trafficking scares me.


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