Human Trafficking in India and legal protection against it

Human trafficking in India and around the world is the trade (sell and purchase) of human beings for the purpose of sexual slavery, bonded and forced labour or for any commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution.


Human Trafficking in India and legal protection against it

Men, women or children under human trafficking are made believe that the concerned person will provide them with a good job in a different country or place. They blindly believe the traffickers and are then sold by them to other people. Trafficking is the third largest organized crime in the world.

Child Trafficking

Child trafficking can be defined as the process of illegally transporting, transferring, or harboring a person below the age of 18 years, for the purpose of exploitation. This problem is prevalent in most developing countries due to porous borders and weak domestic laws to counter the issue. There are various causes of child trafficking like lack of employment, poverty, low level of education, a breakdown of social structure, etc. child trafficking is a violation of the mental and physical integrity of a child. Child trafficking is very dynamic, with the traffickers employing new methods every day to lure a child away from his home and then sell him in the market. Child trafficking includes physical and sexual violence, and it violates the right of a child to grow up in a healthy environment. In India too, the number of such incidents have gone up, although the exact figures are not known.

Child Trafficking in India

India is often considered as a destination, source, and transit country for trafficking of human beings. Still it is very difficult to get the exact statistics and comprehensive of the numbers and the extent to which the issue has grown. According to a study, it has been found that almost 400 districts in India are affected by the issue of child trafficking. It is also estimated that 90% of the trafficking is done internally, and the victims are used for forced labor. The children who are a victim of trafficking are exploited in various ways like forced to work as agricultural and industrial workers, beggars and domestic servants. The girl child is more vulnerable to trafficking. Girls are mainly trafficked for the purpose of prostitution and forced marriage. Over 90% of trafficked people in India are underage girls. The porous borders of are considered to be one of the prime reasons for an increase in the rate of trafficking. In such situation, cross-border trafficking becomes easy, and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are often trafficked into India. ECPAT International has estimated that, every year around 1, 50, 000 children and women are trafficked into (or through) India from South Africa. It has also been estimated that around 2, 00, 000 girls have been trafficked into India from Bangladesh and Nepal in the last seven years. Even though the incidents of trafficking is very rampant, there still does not exist a law which regulates the return of the trafficked victims from India to Nepal or Bangladesh. Only a few concerned organization and NGOs have helped the victims of trafficking to return to their own country by working in collaboration with the partner organization in that country.

Crossing the border between India and Nepal, and India and Bangladesh has become an easy and routine affair for many. The bribe system at the borders is also very well structured, in which the authorities are involved, they help a lot of people to cross the terrain. Further, a multiple passport system makes it easier for the traffickers to push Bangladeshi girls into the brothels of Kolkata. These girls are then further sorted and branded and then sent to Mumbai, Delhi, and Agra.

Causes of Human Trafficking in India:

> Men for work generally migrate to major commercial cities.

> To fulfill the supply all sorts of efforts are made by the suppliers like abduction etc.

> The economic injustice and poverty.

> Debt labour is not known much but it is illegal but prevalent in our society.

> Social inequality, regional gender preference, imbalance and corruption are the other leading causes of human trafficking in India.

> Parents in tribal areas send kids for better life in terms of education and safety.

> Girls and women are not only trafficked for prostitution but also bought and sold like commodity in many regions of India where female ratio is less as compared to male due to female infanticide. They are then forced to marry.

Human Trafficking Of Women And Children:

According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, 19,223 women and children were trafficked in 2016 against 15,448, the previous year.

The highest number of victims recorded in the eastern state of West Bengal.
9,104 children were trafficked last year, a 27% increase from the previous year.

The National Crime Records Bureau showed that almost equal numbers of children and women were trafficked.

Thousands of people, largely poor, rural women and children are lured to India’s towns and cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs, but sell them into modern day slavery.

Some end up as bonded labour or domestic workers, or forced to work in small industries such as textile workshops, farming or are even pushed into brothels where they are sexually exploited.

Statistics in India and World

Around 80% of the human trafficking across the world is done for sexual exploitation and the rest is for bonded labor.

India is considered as the hub of this crime in Asia.

As per the statistics of the government, in every 8 minutes a child goes missing in our country.

In 2011 about 35,000 children were reported missing.

International Instruments ratified by India

India is a signatory to the Anti-Trafficking Protocol. The protocol was signed by India on 12th of December, 2012. This is a huge step forward towards eliminating the trafficking of human beings. This protocol not only seeks to prevent trafficking and protecting the victims, but it also has provisions to punish the traffickers. India has also ratified the Suppression of Traffic of Person and Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 1949, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. India is also a party to the two protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

• Convention on the involvement of a child in armed conflicts.

• On the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution.

India has also ratified the Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution, which has been introduced by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 2002.

Anti-trafficking Law in India

Though there is no one law dedicated to dealing with the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Indian Constitution has prohibited trafficking in human beings and force labor expressively, and both these activities are punishable. Article 23 (1) states that human trafficking and forced labor is punishable and if anyone who violates this Article will be punished according to the law. The Directive Principles of State policies are also important in this regard. Article 39 (2) of the Constitution states that health and strength of men and women and tender age of children is not to be exploited, and citizen should not be forced into activities which are not suitable according to their age and strength due to any economic and financial necessity. Article 39 (f) also places an obligation upon the state to direct its policies in such a manner that children get the facilities and opportunities to grow up in a healthy environment, and their childhood is protected against material and moral abandonment and exploitation.

Human Trafficking in India


Other Legislative provisions which prohibit trafficking are:

> Through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), the Indian Government penalizes trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, with prescribed penalty of 7 years’ to life imprisonment.

> India also prohibits bonded and forced labour through:
Bonded Labour Abolition Act,
Child Labour Act, and
Juvenile Justice Act.

> Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, prohibits kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively. Penalties under these provisions are a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine.

> Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, which has come into effect from 14th November, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

> Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human.

> There are other specific legislations enacted relating to trafficking in women and children:

1.Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006,
2.Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976,
3.Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986,
4.Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994,
5.apart from specific Sections in the IPC

> State Governments have also enacted specific legislations to deal with the issue. (e.g. The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012)

The main legal instrument to prevent trafficking in human beings in India is the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956. This statue is supplemented by various other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code. The ITPA is focused on the issue of trafficking especially for the purpose of prostitution. The Act states that running of brothels is restricted. Detaining a person for the sake of prostitution, living on the earnings of a prostitute, etc. is also outlawed through this Act. The Act also provides for rescue and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking. But the main focus of the Act is for girls and women but it does not especially focus on child victims of trafficking. The statute criminalizes the act of trafficking, but the definition of trafficking has been provided nowhere in the Act. The Indian Penal Code also supplements the Act. It has various provisions which impose a penalty on the criminal who kidnaps, abducts or sell or buy minors for the purpose of prostitution, forced labor, slavery, etc. moreover, sexual activities with a child, who is under the age of sixteen, even with the child’s consent amounts to rape.

India also has the Juvenile Justice (care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which outlaws employing a child for the purpose of begging, cruelty towards a child, forcing a child into dangerous work or hazardous employment, etc. The Act also provides a framework for providing education, vocational training, care, protection, treatment, etc. to vulnerable children who may get exploited if not provided with legal support.

Law Enforcement in India

The government has undertaken various initiatives to combat the issue of trafficking in children. These initiatives have been undertaken on the basis of the recommendation of the National Commission for Women, Central Advisory Committee on Child Prostitution, the Supreme Court and various other non-governmental organization who have been battling the issue for years. One of the nodal Ministry of Government of India, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which deals with various issues relating to women and children, also came up with the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women in the year 1998 to tackle the issue of trafficking. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has also directed the Secretaries of Department of Women and Child. Development at the state level to hold regular meetings of the state Advisory Committee constituted under the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women. The meetings should be regarding governing of the initiatives undertaken by the Ministry to rescue, prevent, rehabilitate and repatriation those people who are victims of human trafficking. The Ministry has also undertaken a study in collaboration with UNICEF on the rescue of child victims of trafficking. They also formulated and introduced a protocol pre-rescue, rescue and post-rescue operations of children who are entangled in the dark world of trafficking.

The Indian government also enacted a central nodal cell to combat the issue of trafficking. This nodal cell enforces the anti-trafficking law in India. A protocol was also issued in 2008 by the Ministry of Labor and Employment to prevent, rescue, repatriate and rehabilitate victims of trafficking. The very ironic fact is that in the year 2006, around 1600 child labor violations were reported and around 700 people were arrested in connection to child trafficking, but no one was convicted.

Measures taken by the Indian government to combat Human Trafficking:

With a view to tackle the menace of human trafficking, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has undertaken a number of measures such as:

Administrative measures and interventions

 Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC):

It was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2006 to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking.


To improve the effectiveness in tackling the crime of human trafficking and to increase the responsiveness of the law enforcement machinery, MHA has issued comprehensive advisories to all States/UTs:

Ministry of Home Affairs’ scheme :

Ministry of Home Affairs under a Comprehensive Scheme srengthening law enforcement response in India against Trafficking in Persons through Training and Capacity Building has released fund for establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units for 270 districts of the country.

Strengthening the capacity building:

To enhance the capacity building of law enforcement agencies and generate awareness among them, various Training of Trainers (TOT) workshops on combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Police officers and for Prosecutors at Regional level, State level and District level were held throughout the country.

Judicial Colloquium:

In order to train and sensitize the trial court judicial officers, Judicial Colloquium on human trafficking are held at the High court level with an aim to sensitize the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure speedy court process. So far, 11 Judicial Colloquiums have been held.

The Reality

1. Under POCSO, a rescued girl isn’t expected to testify in court upfront so she can avoid facing her attacker or trafficker. She can instead Video-Conference the proceedings and give her statement. While this may sound very progressive almost always the girl in question lives in a remote village that has no access to Internet. This forces her to travel and attend court proceedings, which can add to her trauma.

Human Trafficking in India
2. When it comes to traffickers, the men in question have found loopholes in the law, that help them get minimum sentences.
3. Crime syndicates often hire boys under the age of 18 to traffick young girls. These boys are meant to do the “dirty work” of breaking in the girls, transporting them, beating them. If they get caught, as juveniles they are only liable to serve jail time until they turn 18.
4. That would mean a 17 year old trafficker will only serve a sentence of one year or less.
5. What’s worse? When a juvenile becomes an adult, his record is expunged, which means if he goes back to trafficking and gets caught again a prosecuting lawyer cannot use his past convictions as a trafficker to build a case against him making it all the more difficult to obtain a guilty sentence.
6. In most of these cases the perpetrators is the relatives of the victim. In some cases the girl’s father, uncle or brother are involved in her trafficking. In such dire case, very rarely do the girls seek legal action, because they fear sending their own family members to jail.
7. The approach to dealing with rescued girls is also flawed. Often rescued girls are sent to remand homes, without investigating how they were trafficked.
8. Child Trafficking is a grossly under-reported offence in our country. Because much like any sexual offence, families are not forthcoming with reporting of these crimes mainly because of the fear of re-victimisation during medical examinations and court cases.
9. And dealing with a largely unsympathetic society, that often blames victim. The truth of the matter is, society and law do not provide holistic and comprehensive care to victims of trafficking.

How and where to lodge a complaint against human trafficking in India?

1.Central bureau of Investigation

2.Human Rights Law Network

To lodge a complaint, call on 24×7 Helpline No. 011 – 24368638 for reporting “Illegal Human Trafficking especially Trafficking of Children & Women”.


Human trafficking is a very sensitive issue and to address the issue a comprehensive strategy is needed. The aim of the government should be towards social reintegration and rehabilitation of the victims. The need of the hour is to enact more stringent laws. At present, the sanctions against the issue of trafficking are very lenient. Human Right Activist and NGOs fight a very tough battle against the problem without much support from the government. The crisis is too big for the Human Rights Activists and NGOs to tackle alone. The government should also address the issue in a much more dynamic manner. There is also an urgent need to unify the procedures and the laws to tackle the problem. Cooperation at the regional and the national level will also help the legislature to introduce laws which are at par with international standards.