Theydo not come with guns, nor are there any midnight knocks. They come armed with smiles, lies and promises of course, money; robbing people, of what a thousand armed wo/men would fail to do.

India is considered to be the origin, transit and destination for human trafficking. Human trafficking is apparently the 3rd largest illegal trade in the world after drugs and arms. Trafficking is an unorganized sector in the market. Traffickers use coercion, deceit, fraud, debt bondage to force the victims in forced sex, domestic bondage, begging, organ donation, unsafe agricultural labour, sweat shop labour, construction or restaurant work and other forms of modern day slavery. Being away from home can be a reason for exploitation. The poor accept it because the rich want it. Traffickers take advantage of the shortage of women due to the skewed sex ratio.

These jobs involve long work hours and immense exploitation. It affects the freedom and dignity of women and girls. They are thus deprived of their fundamental human rights such as right to liberty and security; right to home and family; right to freedom from torture, violence. Cruelty; right to education and employment, right to health care and right to live with dignity and respect.

When the victims are displaced from their cultural background, they develop a sense of anonymity and moral deformity. When they are thrust into a different cultural ethos and when language becomes a barrier, they feel lonely and alienated. They feel different from others. “I he traffickers take undue advantage of their vulnerability. Their personal safety is in danger. This is because women and children are considered as submissive polite, obedient, unresisting and ones us ho can be controlled.

Girls are sometimes sold to Arabs as slaves. Some of them also end up being mistresses. They are sexually exploited as they have their firstsexual encounter at an early age. They arc highly susceptible to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). They cannot free themselves as they have no voice and nowhere to go.

When girls are sold to brothels, they are immediately forced into commercial sex work. The brothel environment is very oppressive. If they decline or refuse, they are subjected to extortion, physical beating or assault with hot iron rods, torture, gang rape, sexual assault isolation in dark rooms, injuries, starvation and the like. They are even forced to consume drugs and alcohol. They are subjected to sadistic inhumanity accompanied by sexual harassment. Trafficking is resulting in gradual and complete destruction of a woman’s identity and the right to live as free human beings. The victims are left with life-long effects of mental and physical trauma. They are not given any kind of protection or job security. When a trafficking racket is busted, and girls from other countries are rescued, they are deported immediately as they are considered to be a liability to the country. Thus, they do not even enjoy any legal protection. Traffickers know that a source of earning is their daily bread. It is more important than the daily injustice meted out to them. They are treated as objects, commodities and non­persons. They are left without rights, no legal protection, no bargaining power, no provision for leave and no time for leisure. Trafficking disempowers women and makes them vulnerable.

Trafficked victims are further traumatized by their experiences. They suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts. The mental and emotional state of the survivors involves hostility, defenselessness, withdrawal, detachment and self-criticism. They are highly distracted and their span of attention decreases.

Poverty and malnutrition make them anaemic. When victims are trafficked for organ donations, their treatment is often left incomplete as are not provided sufficient post-operative care. In case of victims trafficked for commercial sex work, most of the clients do not adopt precautionary measures. They fail to use contraceptives, so there is high risk of multiple pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. They undergo forced abortions. This creates complications in conception and affects their reproductive health. They are denied access to information related to reproductive health and STDs.

Children are mostly trafficked as jockeys in Arab countries to participate in camel races. There they are subjected to high-risk physical injuries. They are also trafficked for organ donations and beggary. The latest trend in trafficking in children is for pornographic films. They are highly exposed to sexually explicit materials at a very early age, which is why they cannot understand their sexuality. Sometimes they are also exploited by paedophiles. In this globalised world, there is a demand for cheap goods and commodities. Child labour comes cheap and hence they are exploited with long working hours, insufficient pay and dental of basic education. In some red-light areas, the children of commercial sex workers see their mothers having their time with different men daily. Hence, they do not respect sex, as they cannot understand its beauty. Therefore, it becomes difficult for them to differentiate between love and lust. In this way, they become exploiters and can even turn into rapists.

The victims are the best witnesses to the crime committed on them. If they are tried in court, their cases are pending for many years. They have to relive the same trauma during every appearance in court, as they have to repeat their ordeal every time. Generally, the authorities consider the victims as criminals as the actual traffickers manage to escape and defend themselves.

Mostly, the trafficked victims go home only to deliver money. That is the only contact they have with their families. When the trafficked women are rescued, they are rehabilitated first. The remand homes are not permanent shelters but just rescue homes. There they meet people who have experienced the same ordeal. Thus, they are able to form support groups among themselves. However, this does not happen always. Most remand homes are not equipped with adequate facilities. Sometimes, the nature of the rehabilitation does not reduce their trauma. In most rehabilitation processes, the impact on the mind of the individual tends to be overlooked. Their personal tragedy is buried under innumerable `feel good’ activities like workshops, seminars, visitors, short-term financial aid or celebrations.

When the victims return home, they face new obstacles and insecurities. They face material deprivation, social stigma and rejection from their own families and communities. They are victims of a heartless society. Their families and communities blame them for their misfortune that led to them having such traumatic experiences. The victims are considered the vamp. The victims die many times before their real death. Women have to bear the responsibility of upholding their family honor through sexual purity and innocence. They face additional stress because they are labeled as immoral, characterless, outcaste and so on. The outside world sees only the trafficked victims and blames them. If they are trafficked at an early age, they do not have sufficient education to find alternate employment. Victims are declined marriage proposals because the whole issue of morality and virginity crops in. They are seen as commodities and not as human beings with dignity, rights and duties. They have to make a conscious effort to reestablish their lost identity. Therefore, most of them return to commercial sex work. The `growth’ and `promotion’ from victim to exploiter usually takes place due to lack of alternative livelihood options. It is not easy for the victims to undo the damage. If they have a distorted view of their experience, they will find it difficult to feel empowered.

The road to prevent trafficking is difficult but not impossible. The victims are exploited, not defeated. They are human persons just like any one of us. Help them to live with dignity and respect.


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  1. Tom

    Hey anjali, your article was good. You have good insights in it, seemed like you interviewed one of the victims and hope that you will be able to spread this to others through the power of press.

  2. Anjali, why don’t you write more often?

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