Child trafficking in India

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Preity Zinta at ACT
(Against Child Trafficking)

India has a high volume of Child trafficking. There have been many cases where children just disappear overnight, as many as one every eight minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.[1] In some cases, children are taken from their homes to be bought and sold in the market. In other cases, children are tricked into the hands of traffickers by being presented an opportunity for a job, when in reality, upon arrival they become enslaved. In India, there are many children trafficked for various reasons such as labour, begging, and sexual exploitation. Because of the nature of this crime; it is hard to track; and due to the poor enforcement of laws, it is difficult to prevent.[2] Because of this, it is impossible to have exact figures regarding this issue. India is a prime area for child trafficking to occur, as many of those trafficked are from, travel through or destined to go to India. Though most of the trafficking occurs within the country, there is also a significant number of children trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh.[3] There are many different causes that lead to child trafficking, with the primary reason being poverty and weak law enforcement. The traffickers that take advantage of children can be from another area in India, or could even know the child personally. Children who return home after being trafficked often face shame from their communities, rather than being welcomed home.[4]


A root cause of commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking in India is due to poverty, lack of education, and the need to support their family.[5] The unemployment rate in India is very high and there are not many financial opportunities. When children are offered work they are likely to be taken advantage of, or children in poverty have to trade sex for a place to live or food. In order to get out of poverty or debt, some parents have even sold their children to traffickers. Children are often trafficked by gangs and forced to beg on the streets.[5]

In some parts of India, young girls are forced into the system of Devadasi where they're "forced into a lifetime of ritual sex slavery" and given to an elder of the village to be their concubine.[5] A lot of children have also been trafficked due to the demand by tourists. People will travel from countries where there are strict enforcement's around child trafficking, as well as it being heavily frowned upon and socially unaccepted, to India to find child prostitutes.[6]


Some types of Child trafficking include, but are not limited to, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, illegal activities, child soldiers, and children exploited for commercial sex.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude[edit]

Children are very vulnerable when it comes to Domestic servitude. Often children are told that they will be offered excellent wages to work as a maid in middle-class homes, but they usually end up being severely underpaid, abused, and sometimes sexually assaulted.[6] This particular type of trafficking is hard to detect because it takes place inside private homes where there is no public enforcement. Every year hundreds of thousands of girls are trafficked from rural India to work as maids in the urban areas.[7]

Forced Child Labor[edit]

Legally, children in India are allowed to do light work, but they are often trafficked for bonded labour, and domestic work, and are worked far beyond what is allowed in the country. Children are also forced to work as bonded laborers in brick randi and stone quarries to pay off family debts owed to moneylenders and employers. They are often forced to work, in the use of contraptions that bound them to be unable to escape and then forced to submit to control. Others may be bound by abuse whether physical, emotional, or sexual.[8] Children from India's rural areas migrate or are trafficked for employment in industries, such as spinning mills, cottonseed production, manual work,domestic work in family homes, stone quarrying, brick kilns and tea gardens amongst others, where they are forced to work in hazardous environments for little or no pay.[9] Those forced into labor lose all freedom, being thrown into the workforce, essentially becoming slaves, and losing their childhood.

Illegal activities[edit]

Children, over adults are often chosen to be trafficked for illegal activities such as begging and organ trade, as they are seen as more vulnerable. Not only are these children being forced to beg for money, but a significant number of those on the streets have had limbs forcibly amputated, or even acid poured into their eyes to blind them by gang masters. Those who are injured tend to make more money, which is why they are often abused in this way.[10] Organ trade is also common, when traffickers trick or force children to give up an organ.

UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 children under 18 are currently being exploited in more than 30 armed conflicts worldwide. While the majority of child soldiers are between the ages of 15 and 18, some are as young as 7 or 8 years of age.[11] A large number of children are abducted to use as soldiers. Others are used to serve as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies.[12] Many of these young soldiers are sexually abused which often ends with unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Some children have been forced to commit atrocities against their families and communities. Child soldiers are often killed or wounded, with survivors often suffering multiple traumas and psychological scarring. Their personal development is usually irreparably damaged. Their home communities reject returning child soldiers. Reports indicate that children were coerced by anti government naxalites to join children's units (“Bal Dasta”), where they were trained and used as couriers and informants, to plant improvised explosive devices and in front-line operations against national security forces.[13]

Children Exploited for Commercial Sex[edit]

Sexual exploitation is an issue that is faced among many developing countries and in the United States of America which has the largest trade in child porn in the world, and is defined as “the sexual abuse of children and youth through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, and/or money”.[14] Children that are exploited for commercial sex are subject to transactions for child pornography and child prostitution. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) of women and children generates approximately 400 million US Dollars annually in the city of Mumbai alone.[15] Although it is hard to find accurate numbers for exactly how many children are trafficked, studies and surveys sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) estimates that there are about three million prostitutes in the country, of which an estimated 40 percent are children, as there is a growing demand for very young girls to be inducted into prostitution on account of customer preferences.[16][17] There are many severe consequences these children face from being sexually exploited. Including but not limited to, STD's, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, and even death. Often Tourist will travel to impoverished or developing countries looking to partake in sexual acts with children and for available child prostitutes.[6]


Child trafficking is an issue that is extremely prevalent in India, and is continuing to grow rapidly. The trafficking of young girls (under the age of 18) has grown 14 times over the last decade and has grown by 65% just in the year 2014 according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).[18] There have been numerous reports from many areas about the increase of trafficking taking place in India. According to the US State Department, there are approximately 600,000 to 820,000 people trafficked a year across international borders, and up to 50% of those are children.[19] This is definitely seen as a growing issue in Asia, with the many children that are and continue to be trafficked for many reasons as well as being exploited. In India specifically, it is estimated that there are around 135,000 children trafficked each year.[20]

In 2005, a study was conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) after they received an alarming number of reports from the press, police, and non-government organisations (NGOs) about the rise of human trafficking within India. They found that India was fast becoming a source, transit point and destination for traffickers of women and children for sexual and non-sexual purposes. This finding has only increased since being recognized in 2005, and is becoming a very large problem. Almost 20,000 children and women were subjected to human trafficking in 2016. This is a nearly a 25% rise from 2015, which is a large increase for one year to another.[21] The areas of the greatest concern were poverty stricken areas such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal.[22] The state within India which has the most child trafficking is Assam, holding 38% of the nation's cases.[23] While the issue of child trafficking is higher in some specific parts of India, it is a very widespread problem all over the nation. It is difficult to find exact numbers on the issue of child trafficking due to the fact that it is illegal, so the process is very secretive. From the information that is known, there is a very clear increase, not only over the past decade, but also from year to year. This is extremely concerning and the data seems to point to the assumption that it will continue to rise.

Figures in India[edit]

  • In 1998, between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls, some barely 9–10 years old were trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities, and 200,000 to over 250,000 Nepalese women and girls were already in Indian brothels.[24]
  • According to UNICEF, 12.6 million children are engaged in hazardous occupations.[25]
  • In 2009, it was estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for sexual exploitation, including for prostitution or the production of sexually abusive images.[22]
  • Only 10% of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90% is interstate.[26]
  • According to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted each year, leaving 11,000 untraced.[26]
  • NGO's estimate that 12,000-50,000 women and children are trafficked into the country annually from neighboring states for the sex trade.[3]
  • There is an estimated 300,000 child beggars in India.[10]
  • Every year, 44,000 children fall into the clutches of the gangs.[10]
  • In 2015, in India only 4,203 human trafficking cases were investigated.[27]
  • In 2014, 76% of people trafficked in India were women and girls.[28]
  • Children make up roughly 40% of prostitutes.[3]
  • It is estimated that over 2 million women and children are trafficked for sex into the red-light districts in India.[29]
  • The Indian Government estimates that girls make up the majority of children in sex trafficking.[29]
  • According to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) reports of 2009, there are an estimated 1.2 million children involved in prostitution in India.[30]

Action against trafficking[edit]

India is viewed as a hub for human trafficking, while the issue is a low priority for Indian Government.[31] The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act was first amended in 1956; the act was created to prevent trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children[32] but does the Act provide clear definition of "'trafficking'"[26] In 2003, India enforced the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which includes three protocols, specifically the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. The protocol "provides an agreed upon definition of trafficking in persons. It aims at comprehensively addressing trafficking in persons through the so-called three P's - Prosecution of perpetrators, Protection of victims and Prevention of trafficking."[33] The protocol defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practice similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organ."[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shah, Shreya (16 October 2012). "India's Missing Children, By the Numbers".
  2. ^ Harlan, Emily K. "It Happens in the Dark: Examining Current Obstacles to Identifying and Rehabilitating Child Sex-Trafficking Victims in India and the United States." University of Colorado Law Review, vol. 83, 01 July 2012, p. 1113.
  3. ^ a b c "Vulnerable Children - Child Trafficking India".
  4. ^ Chopra, Geeta. Child Rights in India. [Electronic Resource] : Challenges and Social Action. Springer eBooks., New Delhi : Springer India : Imprint: Springer, 2015., 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Sarkar, Siddhartha (3 September 2014). "Rethinking Human Trafficking in India: Nature, Extent and Identification of Survivors". The Round Table. 103 (5): 483–495. doi:10.1080/00358533.2014.966499.
  6. ^ a b c "Major Forms of Trafficking in Persons".
  7. ^ Denyer, Simon (19 January 2013). "India turns blind eye to trafficking, rape of child maids" – via
  8. ^ "UNGIFT.ORG". Archived from the original on 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Child beggars in India Archived June 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^
  12. ^ "What Is Trafficking in Persons?".
  13. ^ "India - United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict".
  14. ^ "What is sexual exploitation?".
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Mumbai - International Justice Mission - India".
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Human Trafficking: Definition, Prevalence, and Causes - City Vision University".
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Almost 20,000 women and children trafficked in India in 2016". 9 March 2017 – via Reuters.
  22. ^ a b IANS. India hub of child trafficking in South Asia. (19-08-2009)
  23. ^ "Poverty Drives Rampant Child Trafficking in India's Northeast".
  24. ^ "India: Facts on Trafficking and Prostituion". Archived from the original on 2012-06-24. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  25. ^ "Unicef India - UNICEF".
  26. ^ a b c "Child Trafficking".
  27. ^ "India". Archived from the original on 2017-07-03.
  28. ^, Prachi Salve. "Six counts on which the draft anti-trafficking bill falls short".
  29. ^ a b Sarkar, Siddhartha. "Rethinking Human Trafficking in India: Nature, Extent and Identification of Survivors." Round Table, vol. 103, no. 5, Oct. 2014, p. 483. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00358533.2014.966499.
  30. ^ "Official: More than 1M child prostitutes in India -". Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  31. ^ a b Ghosh, Biswajit (1 December 2009). "Trafficking in women and children in India: nature, dimensions and strategies for prevention". The International Journal of Human Rights. 13 (5): 716–738. doi:10.1080/13642980802533109.
  32. ^ Administrator, HRLN. "The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956".
  33. ^ "India: Government ratifies two UN Conventions related to transnational organized crime and corruption". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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