Mita grew up as a quiet and lonely child. She did not have many friends. One day she was alone in her home when her friend came to meet her. Mita’s neighbour Najma invited both the girls for lunch. When they went to Najma’s house, they were drugged and then boarded in a bus. After gaining consciousness, Mita found herself in a room with a man who asked her ‘to make him happy’. Mita said that she was touched everywhere. Next day, Mita was taken to another house by the same man where she found her friend. She told Mita that she had been raped all night. They both were helpless. One day, Mita was sent to a man’s house where the neighbours grew suspicious and informed an NGO. Mita and her friend were rescued fortunately.
But most of the child trafficking victims like Mita and her friend are not fortunate enough and thus lose their childhood.
“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul”- Dave Palzer “A Child Called It”
UNICEF defines Child Trafficking as-
“Any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country.”
Human trafficking is the third largest profitable industry in the world which is prevalent both in developed and developing nations. According to UNICEF, approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked each year worldwide. But child trafficking being a hidden trade, exact figures are not known. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, one in every eight minutes a child disappears overnight in India.
Child prostitution has the highest supply of trafficked children in India from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh as well as from within the country. Another astonishing fact is that around 40% of the prostitutes in India are children which results in the growing demand for girls in this abominable trade. Intra state and inter district trafficking is high in Rajasthan, Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Delhi and Goa are major receiver states. Interestingly, trafficking in North-eastern states is way too high but is usually ignored. In 2008, 529 girls were trafficked from Assam alone.
A rising trend of live-in maids is also a major contributing factor of child trafficking. Children are kept in ‘placement agencies’ where they are subject to mental, physical and sexual tortures and later sent to the employer’s home. Legally, children in India are allowed to do light work, but often they are trafficked to be employed as bonded labourers, commonly known as modern day slavery. They are controlled, trapped etc. and hence cannot escape from the torturous life.
Begging is another type of crime for which children are trafficked in India. We come across numerous child beggars at every traffic stop but choose to ignore them. Around 1,000-1,500 children are smuggled out of the country every year to Saudi Arabia for begging during the Hajj.
Many factors contribute to child trafficking in India. Our country being a developing nation has a large proportion of poor families who are struggling to make both ends meet. Economic deprivation, lack of employment opportunities, social status and political uprisings are contributing factors to child trafficking. Parents, who are unable to afford even the basic needs of their families, sell their children off to earn some money.
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”- Abraham Lincoln
One of luckiest things that can happen to a person is to have a happy childhood. But, in our very own country, thousands of children have lost their childhood because of our ignorance. Childhood is a short season but it is cherished for life. We are the products of our childhood. But sadly, many children have been deprived of it and are treated as a commodity. How would you like your child to be subjected to above mentioned tortures?
The government has laws which help in curbing child trafficking. India has legal provisions to counter trafficking as per the “Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1986”. Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in an attempt to stop women and child trafficking has undertaken a number of initiatives. Right from training police and government officials to providing shelter homes and counselling to the victims, the MWCD has worked vehemently towards the cause.
But we need to address the root cause of the problem. To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it. We need to take a pledge that whenever we see any suspicious activity relating to trafficking, we will not turn a blind eye towards it. Poverty, which is forcing parents to sell their children to traffickers, can be checked only by the government. But we can make sure to not recruit children as domestic helps.
Every parent dreams of a bright future for their child. Childhood once lost will never come back. It is the only stage in our life when we can truly embrace the beauty of nature. Children do not understand the language of politics. They are not diplomatic. All they need is love. Their innocence can melt even a stonehearted person. Why deprive them off this beautiful period of their life?