Human Trafficking in India | Guest Blog for Human Trafficking Awareness Day

11 January 2016

Kashi Syal Human Trafficking in India Infographic

‘According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, trafficking of minor girls and women constituted about 76% of human trafficking cases in India over the past decade.’ Nearly 200,000 women and children are currently missing in India. In 2015 alone, some 73,242 women have gone missing (until September) of which only 33,825 have been traced so far…. That translates to roughly 270 women going missing every day. After adding the backlog from last year, the number of women who are still untraced in India as of 2015 stood at 135,356.’


Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that manifests itself in the form of sex exploitation, debt bondage, and organ trafficking. It is especially prominent in economically deprived areas. Poverty lies at the heart of human trafficking which is why it is abundant in India. Due to India’s caste system, there is unequal and unfair distribution of wealth resulting in the ‘lowest’ tier of of the caste system being described as the ‘untouchables’. These people are therefore forced into a system in which many become homeless and are illiterate which makes them more vulnerable to traffickers.


Sex trafficking is when women, men and children are reduced to the status of a gratifying sexual commodity. The market of forced prostitution in India is worth approximately $400 million, with 100,000 prostitutes who have been kidnapped and trafficked from India’s rural areas.’


One form of sex trafficking is the commercial exploitation of children. Traffickers enforce the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure people of their sexually transmitted diseases.1 Young girls are raped and tortured to such an extent that their reproductive system is permanently damaged depriving them of their natural right to motherhood. Sexual exploitation among young boys is rarely heard of because of the gender-biased assumption that there can never be male victims. For instance, there is a practice called laundanach in India; ‘where boys are forced to dress up as girls and entertain men. Also, the Devadasi system is still ubiquitous in India, and this results in young girls being trafficked and married off to a ‘temple deity’ where they have to provide sexual services to priests and higher caste ‘devotees’.


Debt bondage is also known as bonded labour or debt slavery. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is then coerced into working as a labourer. It the most common form of slavery – yet the least well-known. In India, bonded labour is justified on the grounds of caste system and India’s government is reluctant to acknowledge the large-scale existence of this practice.

Many, including public officials, hold the view that this is a social occurrence exclusive to villages, and can be overlooked despite a legislation that abolishes this system. For instance, the fabric mills in the southern areas of India, conceal a modern kind of slavery in the form of Sumangali scheme. Here daughters of low caste families unknowingly fall prey to bondage in return for a wedding advance. Forced child labour is another form of bonded labour. It occurs in the mining, silk, and carpet industries of India. These children are required to fulfil their parent’s debt, and because of their ‘bond’ to their trafficker, they are denied an education.


Sheri Glaser in her article, ‘Formula to Stop the Illegal Organ Trade: Presumed Consent Laws and Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Doctors, outlines two main methods of organ trafficking. She notes that organ trafficking often occurs when traffickers ‘force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ.’ There are also scenarios where victims ‘agree to sell an organ and are cheated because they are not paid for the organ or are paid less than the promised price’. Organ trafficking can also occur when a person is treated for an ailment, which may not even exist, and the trafficker removes and sells the organs without the victim’s knowledge. The most commonly traded organs are the kidneys and liver.


Trafficking is a global problem and it is likely that it will always be a prevalent issue. However, by continuing to educate and inform both developed and developing nations of such examples of twenty-first century slavery, there can be hope of fighting human trafficking thereby saving countless lives. The importance of educating developing countries is that positive change can occur from within. In relation to developed countries, the UK, alongside other MEDCs, are helping prevent hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, providing homes for refugees and increasing trade between LEDCs and themselves. If the governments of these countries were more knowledgeable regarding human trafficking, then they could invest a portion of their resources into preventing its growth and work together to influence change.


Knowledge and compassion are vital; not only do we need to continue to raise awareness in the West, but we also need to ensure that women around the world, especially in countries like India, are being informed and educated regarding human trafficking. It has been suggested that investing in the education and financial power of girls creates an environment where human trafficking is minimised. Better educated women have higher incomes and raise healthier children as women are more likely to use their earnings to support the health and education of their children. It has been shown that women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.’ When we invest in young women, we will not only reduce the number of victims who are subjected to human trafficking, but we will also empower them to help transform the world.


1. Pages 14 and 15 of ‘Repair Your Life’ by Marjorie Mckinnon

Disclaimer: This blog is a space for discussion and personal reflection. Any opinions expressed within the blog are those of the author and are not necessarily held by HART. Individual authors are responsible for the accuracy of statements made within the blog.

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