Trafficking which is a form of abusive and irregular migration for commercial sexual exploitation and other illegal purposes2 has reached alarming proportions in the past two decades globally; and more so within the South-Asian Region. Across this Region, human beings, especially women and children are trafficked within their own countries and across international borders against their will in what is essentially a clandestine slave trade.

Trafficking in women and children for commercial sexual exploitation and other abusive purposes is rampant in India and its toll on human suffering is evident in urban and rural pockets throughout the country. The incidence of Intra country trafficking is also very high.

‘According to ILO, IOM and UNIFEM and other such organisations [based on commissioned studies], the known purposes of trafficking are prostitution, entertainment industry, domestic work, work in carpet, garment, fishing and brick industries, forced labour, camel jockeys, illegal adoption of children, organ transplantation, forced marriage, mail order brides, drug trafficking, begging, circus and other exploitative form of work. But to understand trafficking better we have to understand the main features and internal dynamics of these sectors, especially to the use of traffickied victims – knowingly or unknowingly.

The huge transnational industry of trafficking in human beings generates approximately up to $10 billion per year. Exact numbers of trafficked children are hard to pinpoint since child trafficking is mostly hidden, and victims often fearful of coming forward. One estimate is that 50 percent of trafficking victims are children.

The problem of human trafficking concerns by no means only countries of origin; much rather it affects us all equally — in East and West alike— as countries of origin, transit or destination. The push factors which force people to leave their countries are closely connected with the pull factors of the countries of destination. The disintegration of states, civil wars, lack of democracy are particularly powerful, political push factors.

There is equal need for short-term and long-term measures, if we wish to diminish the problem of human trafficking. Short-term measures, such as the immediate and urgent need to assist and protect the victims of trafficking will only have the desired effect, if they are based on serious research into the root causes of trafficking, such as social and economic conditions in the countries of origin, the extent of gender-based discrimination and violence in our societies, and if these causes are systematically addressed. The counter-measures have to be quick-acting measures, on the one hand, but at the same time, it is necessary to raise and address the issue of the structural roots of this traffic – namely, the global inequalities in the distribution of jobs, resources and wealth.

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