Breaking the Chain : Human trafficking as the modern form of slavery

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FXB India Suraksha conducts capacity building workshops in Ukhrul district, Manipur to combat Human Trafficking.

“Not everybody gets a chance to be a survivor, and there are girls out there right now that don’t even know that they’re victims…But maybe, just maybe, they’ll see one of us and they’ll hear one of us and they’ll know that there is help, there is hope, and there is a way out.” Angela’s (name changed) words of hope featured prominently in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

TIP Report,  an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department’s Office, which monitors trafficking efforts around the globe and ranks governments based on perceived efforts to combat human trafficking. India is ranked as a Tier 2 country in this report, indicating that while the national government is not fully meeting the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, it is making significant efforts to meet them. Despite the optimistic recognition of anti-trafficking efforts in India, Angela’s words may never reach the hundreds of young adolescent girls who are vulnerable to being trafficked via the porous borders of the states of Northeast India every year.

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The problem is particularly acute in Manipur. As a small, landlocked and mountainous state in the geographically isolated Northeast region of India, Manipur is one of the poorest and most undeveloped states with respect to both economy and governance. An October 2016 report in Northeast Today highlighted an alarming increase in human trafficking cases, particularly those involving child victims: 62 reported cases of child trafficking were recorded between 2013 and 2016; yet, in the first six months of 2016 alone, there have been 58 reported cases. While this could be an indication of improved monitoring efforts rather than an actual increase in cases, there is no doubt that trafficking in Manipur is a grave concern. Armed conflict, rampant unemployment, and political violence have plagued the region for decades, which has created a vulnerable environment, ripe for human traffickers. Young boys have been forcefully conscripted as child soldiers and trafficked from child care centres for domestic labour, while young girls have been taken from remote districts like Ukhrul for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or domestic servitude.

Many young people are trafficked internally to placement agencies in metropolitan hubs like Delhi and Mumbai with the false promise of high paying jobs, while others are trafficked abroad to Thailand or Malaysia. An individual can be considered to be enslaved if they are: a) forced to work through coercion or mental and physical threats, b) owned or controlled by an employer, through abuse or threats of abuse, c) dehumanized and treated as commodities, or d) physically constrained and have restrictions placed on freedom of movement.[1] In most of these cases, traffickers are known to the victims and operate by exploiting their trust and economic hardships. Increasing demand for cheap labour in big cities further compound the problem and traps vulnerable children in a vicious cycle of violence and dependency that is akin to modern slavery. Most victims of trafficking meet all four criteria and are hence considered to be victims of modern slavery, which not only differentiates this heinous crime from other criminal acts, but also necessitates urgent action.

Ukhrul, one of Manipur’s 9 districts, is especially vulnerable to illicit trafficking networks, which have unfettered access across vast unmanned sections of the border with Myanmar. In order to address this vulnerability, FXB India Suraksha (FXBIS) joined hands with ECPAT Luxembourg to help reduce the incidence of trafficking of women and girls for commercial sexual exploitation in India through a comprehensive community-driven intervention. As part of the initiative, FXBIS identifies potential victims and provides early assistance to them, raises awareness among key stakeholders in government and civil society, and strengthens the capacity of service providers to both prevent trafficking and assist victims when it does. Over the course of three years, the project aims to reach more than 30,000 adolescent boys and girls, community members, service providers and official stakeholders in Manipur, effectively employing an integrated strategy to tackle a growing, global phenomenon.

Since its launch in 2015, the project has produced a baseline study as well as a map of available resources on child rights in the state. As part of the initial rapport building between stakeholders, FXBIS was approached with a case involving the rape of Tanya (name changed), an 8 year old girl in Ukhrul. The case was not reported earlier due to the lack of resources available to the victim’s family. After a thorough discussion with the family however, FXBIS assisted the victim in filing an FIR, obtaining medical assistance and evidence within one day. As a result, the perpetrator was eventually arrested by the police, and a meeting was conducted with community leaders to sensitize them on laws and resources regarding child rights. The project continues to reach the most marginalized segments of the population, as FXBIS envisions a society where families embrace child rights and feel empowered to break the shackles of modern slavery.

[1] What is modern slavery? https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/

To know more about Mukti project please write to us at

Mr. Satya Prakash,

Programme Manager, FXB India Suraksha

sprakash@fxbsuraksha.org

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Author: Fxb India Suraksha

FXB India Suraksha (FXBIS) is an Indian non-governmental, non-profit organization providing developmental assistance to disadvantaged women and children, families and communities in rural and urban India. The well-being and protection of children is at the heart of all FXBIS interventions. In order to ensure a child-friendly environment FXBIS committed to redress social vulnerabilities by empowering marginalized families and strengthening communities. As the country chapter of the Geneva-based NGO François-Xavier Bagnoud International (FXBI), FXB’s activities in India date back to 1991. In 2007 FXB India Suraksha was established as an autonomous Indian entity registered under section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. FXBIS’ area of intervention expanded over the years from its original focus on working with families affect by HIV/Aids to a community-based, multi-sectoral programme approach along its four ‘Domains for Change' – Access to Quality Education, Poverty and Livelihood, Improved Health Status, and Child Rights and Protection. Currently FXBIS is directly implementing projects covering issues related to the areas of children rights and protection, gender equality, improved health and nutrition, sanitation and water, care and support to HIV/Aids infected and affected people, better education, enhanced livelihoods options as well as human trafficking prevention. Today, FXBIS works in different pockets across 15 Indian states and union territories reaching out to over 200,000 people through its community-based integrated interventions.

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