Tuesday, March 31, 2009

India: Focus on Women Traffickers

KOLKATA, INDIA - In Bappaditya Bandopadhyay's Kaal, a male actor inducts four helpless young females into the flesh trade. In Hollywood films Human Trafficking and Trade, again, it's men Russians, Mexicans, Poles, Czechs, Filipinos who steal, trick, lure, lock up, brutalize, and repeatedly sell women mothers, daughters, sisters, even wives. Typically, organized crime is a male activity, right? Not really, says United Nation's Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, released to mark International Women's Day.

Men make up over 90% of the prison populations of most countries. They are perpetrators of the most violent crimes, terror acts, drug-related horrors. Surprisingly, data from 46 countries suggest for the first time that women play key roles in human trafficking, a trade where two-thirds of the victims are women, and about 13% are girls.

Estimates suggest that close to 8 million women and children are trafficked around the world, and two-thirds of these are in the sex trade. The term sex worker' hides the fact that few choose it as a career option where legislations regarding minimum standards of wages don't apply.

A woman's price varies with age, and there are no retirement benefits. Instead, they face brutalities, forced penetration, repeated abortion, insomnia, even AIDS. The worst part is that the victims' are apprehended as criminals, while the traffickers and buyers of sex get away scot-free.

Sexual exploitation is by far the most common form 79% of trafficking, the third most lucrative after trade in arms and drugs. It's the most visible in city centres and along highways, be it in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangkok, Berlin, London or New York. But by no means is it the only form of forced labour. We know of slumdogs forced to beg on Indian streets, or of bonded labour. How many know about those used in warfare, or for organ removal?

"We are unable to segment today's slave market'," says Antonio Maria Costa, ED, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Break-ups say little about demand and supply, or about relative prices of children used for begging or for rag-tag armies of killers. What pushes illegal immigrants into American sweatshops? "It is unclear whether the enterprises' are driven by compulsions in source countries or demands in destinations," says Costa.

However, the report as much as the films in the festival, that was hosted by Apne Aap, American Center and ICCR, reveals that in source countries, locals win the trust and acquire victims, then control them by threatening retaliation against kids and aged parents.

In high-income destinations, though, the offenders are more likely to be foreigners.

"Diaspora population from source regions is often the conduit for moving victims," Costa said.

Care for some more revelations? Many African countries have no law against trafficking, or criminalize only child trafficking. In India, while sex with a minor is punished as rape, women victims are penalized for soliciting'. Not all high-income countries have comprehensive legislation, either. So, "the fight against the lucrative exploitation of fellow humans essentially remains an individual national initiative," said Costa.


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