Child trafficking is a heinous crime for which all the countries worldwide are fighting against. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 71,264 (15,894 male and 55,370 female) children were Kidnapped in 2019. This means that every 8 minutes, a child is being kidnapped or abducted. 4,747 children were kidnapped for prostitution, adoption, begging, domestic servitude, forced labor/slavery, unlawful acts, and theft.1
Among the thousands of crimes of kidnapping that have taken place, these are the cases that have been reported, and there still are many more that haven’t been reported. The causes of trafficking include poverty, lack of education, demand for cheap labor/sex, social factors and cultural practices, conflict, greed to gain profit by trafficking and traffickers. Trafficking of children affects the kids not only physically but also mentally. Children returned home from being trafficked are not accepted in society, which affects their mental growth.
What is Child Trafficking?
According to section 370 of the Indian Penal Code2, any person who transports, buys, or sells a person practicing fraud or for any benefit without the consent of the person who has been transported, sold, or bought is said to have committed the offense of child trafficking.
In simple words, buying or selling kids for any benefit is a crime. A child below the age of 14 cannot be engaged in any activity that is injurious to his/her health and mental growth. Though some children recover from child trafficking, they are never the same like any other kids. They are mentally disturbed and treated badly in society. Thus, child trafficking is considered as a crime that is globally accepted.
Types of Child Trafficking
Child trafficking can be done for various reasons through various means. All the records available worldwide are just a glimpse of crimes reported, and there are still many more that haven’t been reported.
On some occasions, though a child might be forced into slavery or forced labor, there is still no detail of what the child is used for after a sale has been made. Thus, the intention of the sale is not always known.
Forced labor/Domestic Slavery
A UNICEF report states that 150 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 were involved in child labor.3
A child below the age of 14 cannot be employed in any field of work. If done so, it is termed as an offense of child laboring.4Thus, forcing a child to work or slavery is a global offense. yet, 1 in 4 of the total victims of slavery are children.
In the current world, there are 152 million children in child labor and 25 million children and adults in forced labor.5
Children who are trafficked are exploited sexually. According to an estimation given by ILO in 2002, 1.8 million children are sexually exploited, and 1.2 million children are trafficked.6Children are bought and sold into prostitution. Children who are sold into forced labor or slavery are also sexually exploited.
Children in drug trades
Children bought or transferred are used for illegal trading activities such as drug trading. According to an estimation given by the ILO, 115 million children are working in the sex or drug trade.7 As the kids are poor, innocent, and uneducated, they are easily brainwashed and forced to do drug dealings.
Children are innocent and weak in the eyes of the public. Thus, when they see a child begging, no one can refuse to give some money to the child. Thus, children are kidnapped or abducted and forced into begging. Sometimes, they are even purposefully blinded and handicapped by the traffickers for the purpose of begging.
Sales motivated by cash
One of the main reasons for Child trafficking is money. It is the motivation or greed to earn more money that strives a trafficker to commit such a crime. Selling a child is a profitable business.
Main reasons that contribute to the child trafficking
Child trafficking is happening all over the world. The reasons for child trafficking are many such as poverty, humanitarian crisis, lack of education, lack of awareness, voluntary migration, absence of birth registration, unenforced legislation, demand for cheap labor, traffickers and their greed for huge profit. These are some of the main reasons for child trafficking and there still are more.
Poverty plays a vital role when it comes to trafficking. As children are the most vulnerable group, they become an easy target for the traffickers.
Families with low income or no income are left with no option but to give away their children to traffickers or abandon their children in the streets. The abandoned children who are poor, isolated, and weak become an easy target for the traffickers. All that a child left in the streets longs for is food, shelter, and some caring person. When the traffickers pretend or promise to give them all these, they just voluntarily (and forcefully) end up in the hands of the traffickers, who then use them for bonded labor, sex trafficking, begging, illegal adoption, drug trading, and for much more.
Lack of Education
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.
Education is one of the fundamental rights of a child.8 Not getting educated is a violation of their fundamental rights. While lack of education prevents the child from knowing their rights, getting educated gives them a chance to get an awareness of their rights and a good knowledge of all other opportunities lying ahead of them. Education prevents children from being an easy target for trafficking. The only key to prevent a child from being a victim of trafficking is education. Yet, more than 175 million children do not have access to pre-primary education.9
Absence of Birth Registration
According to UNICEF, the birth of 1 in 4 children who are under the age of 5 are not registered.10 Every human being is entitled to certain basic rights as a human being upon birth. These rights are fundamental that no one can deprive it from them. But if their rights are violated, in order to get a remedy, the person has to be a recognized person. A person without birth registration doesn’t exist legally.
Birth registration is one of the basic needs for recognizing a person. If the birth of a child is not registered, then the child’s death or missing can also not be registered. A child who’s birth is not registered can easily be kidnapped or abducted for human trafficking. No one can question the traffickers while kidnapping a child, as these kidnapped children are not in existence (legally).
Humanitarian crises are events that cause a threat to the health, safety, and well-being of a community or large group of people, which prevents the people from accessing their fundamental needs – food, shelter, and clean drinking water.
Conflicts, epidemics, famine, natural disasters result in children being separated from their family or are abandoned due to the parents/guardians’ death in such a disaster. These abandoned kids end up in the hands of traffickers. COVID-19 has worsened these crises in many countries.
“Deep budget cuts to education and rising poverty caused by the pandemic could force at least 9.7 million children out of school forever by the end of this year, with millions more falling behind in learning,” the WHO chief said.11
Demand for cheap labor
Children sold for slavery or labor are in high demand as their wages are very low (or nil). As the children are weak and can’t stand up for their rights, the person buying or selling them is put in an advantageous position to control them. Children sold for such labor or slavery are usually kept in an unhealthy environment and forced to work overtime without proper food and sleep. Several pieces of research state that children are forced to work in homes, farms, factories, restaurants, and much more.12 The demand for cheap labor leads to an increase in child trafficking.
Laws in existence in India to protect the children are:
- The Indian Penal code 1860 – The IPC punishes cheating, fraud, kidnapping, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, procuring minors, shopping for and commerce of minors for immoral functions.
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986
- Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890.
- Child wedding Restraint Act, 1929.
- Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
- Bombay interference of mendicancy Act, 1959.
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
- Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982
- Child Labour Prohibition & Regulation Act, 1986.
- Andhra Pradesh Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1988 or state
- Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic medication and hallucinogenic
- Substances Act, 1988.
- Information Technology Act, 2000.
There are various Indian laws that are there to protect a child from being abused in any manner. There are also various international conventions regarding child trafficking and protection of child rights, for which India is a signatory to it. Yet, the number of children being kidnapped and abducted for the purpose of trafficking are increasing on a daily basis. The law has to be made stricter, and the punishments for a crime of trafficking should be huge. A child who recovered from being trafficked can never lead a normal life. Thus various measures and awareness to prevent child trafficking should be made, and remedies for the trafficked person should be given.
- National Crime Records Bureau (Ministry of Home Affairs) https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/CII%202019%20Volume%201.pdf
- Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sec. 370
- “State of the World’s Children 2011: Adolescence, an Age of Opportunity” (PDF). UNICEF. 2011.
- “Minimum Age Convention”. ILO., 1973 Art. 2.
- https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_575479/lang–en/index.htm ) , Geneva, September 2017
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children “in a nutshell” https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/—ilo-suva/documents/publication/wcms_494314.pdf
- Facts on Child Labour, 2010 – ILO https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_126685.pdf
- The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, Art. 21-A
- UNICEF Data: Monitoring the situation of children and women https://data.unicef.org/topic/education/primary-education/
- UNICEF Data: Monitoring the situation of children and women https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/birth-registration/
- WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 17 July 2020 https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—17-july-2020
This Article is Authored by VELVIZHI V, LL.B(HONS) Student at SOEL.
Also Read – Child Trafficking in India