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Educate And Liberate To End Trafficking

A significant instrument for combatting this crime is the free and compulsory education for children

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Trafficking networks still thrive in the country despite many efforts by the authorities. There is an unending trail of tales and exploitation stories of young girls emanating from tribal belts of West Bengal, Jharkhand and other regions of the country. The limited success in checking such incidents calls for developing a new simultaneous panacea in the form of compulsory education for the children till Class 12 along with robust policing and their tracking.

Rani (name changed) was trafficked from West Bengal at the tender age of 12 and sold to multiple people who raped her. Her ordeal was unending, as she ended up at a brothel in Punjab, being repeatedly raped daily by five to 10 people. She was rescued after five years of sexual slavery.

Sixteen-year-old Soni Kumari, (name changed) did not have the fortune of seeing freedom. Employed as a domestic help in New Delhi, Rani was trafficked from her home in Jharkhand, taken to Delhi where she was exploited for three years and then murdered in May 2018. Her body was chopped into a dozen pieces and thrown into a gutter. Why? Because she asked for her wages.

These are just two reported examples amongst thousands such in India, where children have lost their childhood and lives to the greed of traffickers. Trafficking is one of the fastest growing organised crimes in India. Enslaved, bonded, exploited and violated against, people who are trafficked suffer the crushing impact of this very grave crime, with the impact often being lifelong.

A significant instrument for combatting this crime is the free and compulsory education for children. It is only by the power of the pen that children can be protected from the vicious cycle of trafficking. When you keep a child in school, you are minimizing the potential of the child being trafficked.

Let us take a look at the chain of trafficking and how keeping a child in school is of paramount importance. There are multiple ways in which victims of trafficking are targeted and exploited -- recruited as factory and agricultural workers, bonded and forced labour, or those being victims of organ trade, commercial sexual exploitation…the list is endless. It is often also observed that women and children are especially trafficked to be engaged as domestic help in households or in various small-scale establishments in urban areas. Girls, especially minors, are vulnerable to trafficking for the purpose of forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation. In the absence of the safety of school and education, children, especially girls become more vulnerable to be trafficked into various forms of exploitation such as forced labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation.

As per a report from the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), 39.4 percent of all adolescent girls and 35 percent boys in the age group of 15-18 years are not attending any educational institution in India. In addition to this, around 25 million children are not even involved in any skill-training scheme run by the government. The report also highlighted that this is because these children, especially girls, are among the most economically vulnerable groups who typically lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain the education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement. Lack of education in this age group makes them all the more vulnerable to different forms of exploitation, especially, trafficking and forced labour.

The need of the hour is to make education compulsory and free for every child up to Class 12. According to the 2011 census data, 100 million children are out of school. Today, 90 percent enrolment is being reported. If this is indeed the case, why has trafficking increased by a staggering 131 percent in just one year, from 2015 to 2016? It means there is exploitation happening post enrolment. It means that there is a glaring gap between enrolment and remaining in school after enrolment.

It is not enough to merely provide free and compulsory education. It is not enough to build schools and appoint teachers. We must go beyond free, compulsory, quality education and make it meaningful. Are children being taught of the evils of sexual abuse, trafficking, child marriage, child labour? It is essential to give this education to boys and girls to inculcate a sense of responsibility towards society and country.  

There are multiple reasons for the unabated rise in trafficking. It is not because of the absence of stringent legislation. India has some of the best laws in place to protect children. The trafficking challenge is monumental primarily because of complete lack of ownership and accountability. It is only when every person acknowledges responsibility for every child who has been trafficked, can we hope to move towards ending this crime. The tendency is to pin the blame on agencies. However, if we take ownership and report, and then nothing happens, we can question other agencies. The need is to ask ourselves, what are we doing? Our apathy is responsible.

Another significant concern is the continued tussle between state and centre. There must be a clear demarcation coupled with decentralization to ensure that children do not suffer because of centre-state ambiguity. Along with this, institutional mechanisms for child protection should be strengthened. Immediate steps must be taken to increase budgetary allocation and optimise its utilization. Prevention of trafficking will only come from education and sensitisation of all stakeholders, namely, law enforcement agencies, lawyers, academicians, citizens and politicians among others.

When a child is trafficked, every fundamental right of that child is snatched. It is time to stop our children from being fodder for the avaricious appetites of traffickers.  It is time to ensure that every child is free and empowered to contribute as an equal citizen to the growth of our country.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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child Trafficking educate trafficking education

Aparna Banerjee

The author is a social activist with around 25 years of experience in the social sector. Currently, she is working with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.

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