Human trafficking refers to the recruitment, transportation, receipt, and harbouring of individuals in exchange for money. It involves exploiting vulnerable people, particularly women and children, who are subjected to forced labour, slavery, servitude, and prostitution. Those involved in this illicit business are known as human traffickers. Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights, as the traffickers exploit their wealth and power to deceive and coerce individuals who are less privileged, ignorant, and vulnerable, thereby infringing upon their fundamental human rights.
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Human trafficking can occur domestically within a country or at an international level. International trafficking often focuses on illegally transporting young women abroad for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. Domestic trafficking, on the other hand, aims to bring young boys and girls into cities as forced labourers, such as house helpers. It’s important to recognize that human trafficking is both a domestic and international crime.
The causes of human trafficking can be attributed to several factors:
- Poverty: Individuals living in poverty, lacking basic necessities, are vulnerable to human trafficking and child labour. Parents may feel compelled to give up their children to work as house helps in cities, or they may even sell their children into slavery. Some individuals may engage in prostitution in urban areas or travel abroad to earn money, further perpetuating the cycle.
- Greed: Those who are not content with their current circumstances and desire fast wealth may become involved in human trafficking as a means to accumulate riches quickly.
- Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem or a diminished sense of worth and self-confidence can fall prey to human traffickers who manipulate them by offering help, but ultimately exploit them.
- Corruption: Human traffickers bribe government officials with money and gifts to avoid detection or obstruction by law enforcement agencies.
- Ignorance: Vulnerable individuals in society can be easily deceived by human traffickers who promise them a better life in cities or abroad. Desiring improved living conditions, these individuals innocently follow the traffickers, only to discover that they have been deceived and exploited. Traffickers may even force victims to take oaths of secrecy or prevent them from escaping.
- War: During times of prolonged conflict, children can be coerced into joining armed forces and trained to handle weapons. Although not driven by monetary motives, this form of exploitation also falls under the category of human trafficking. For instance, during World War II, Africans were trafficked to Europe to participate in the war.
The effects and consequences of human trafficking are severe and far-reaching:
- Physical or psychological abuse: Trafficked individuals endure various forms of physical abuse, including rape, beatings, and torture. Children forced into labour may experience frequent beatings, while female victims are often subjected to sexual assault. Additionally, they may suffer from starvation and lack access to basic necessities, leading to stunted psychological growth.
- Abuse of fundamental human rights: Human trafficking results in the violation of fundamental human rights, as victims are denied their right to free thought, conscience, and decision-making.
- Delayed education and human capacity development: Children subjected to trafficking and forced labor are often deprived of their right to education, hindering their personal growth and potential for future success.
- Vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases: Girls involved in prostitution are at a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS. These diseases can have severe health consequences, shorten their lives, reduce their productivity, and increase medical expenses.
- Unwanted pregnancies: Victims of human trafficking frequently engage in unprotected sex, leading to unwanted pregnancies. Some girls may abandon their children or leave them with their parents without providing adequate care.
- Stigmatization: Trafficked individuals, particularly those deported back to their home countries, often face social stigma and discrimination from society.
- Death: Some children forced into labour as house helps are subjected to violent beatings that can result in fatal injuries. Others may suffer from poor health conditions due to neglect and lack of proper care, ultimately leading to premature death.
Efforts by the Government and Individuals to Combat Human Trafficking
1) Raising Public Awareness: It is essential to conduct public awareness campaigns to ensure that the general population becomes informed about the malevolent nature of human trafficking.
2) Enhancing Education: The government should strive to provide accessible, affordable, and mandatory education for all school-aged children.
3) Legislative Measures: Legal frameworks have been enacted to prescribe varying degrees of penalties, ranging from 12 months (for attempted offenses) to life imprisonment for severe crimes like slavery and exploitation.
4) Supportive Advocacy: Advocacy involves garnering public backing for particular ideas, actions, or beliefs. The presence of advocacy groups dedicated to safeguarding children and women against traffickers can serve as a deterrent to criminal activities.
5) Vigilance among Parents: Parents should be attentive to their children’s associations and friendships.
6) Comprehensive Counseling: Adequate counseling should be available at different levels, encompassing homes, schools, and public spaces. Victims require counseling to ensure proper rehabilitation.
7) Youth Employment Opportunities: The government should create job prospects for young people, particularly to prevent the vulnerability of women and children to victimization.
8) Improved Quality of Life: An enhanced standard of living can dissuade individuals from engaging in illicit enterprises.
9) Agency Establishment: Government-initiated agencies like the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Related Matters (NAPTIP) play a crucial role in combating child trafficking.
10) Propagating Public Awareness: Disseminating information among the public is imperative to foster a deep understanding of the malevolent aspects of human trafficking.
11) Advancing Education: The government should take measures to make education universally accessible, affordable, and compulsory for children of school-going age.
12) Legal Frameworks: Legislation has been enacted to establish a range of penalties, spanning from 12 months (for attempted offences) to lifelong imprisonment for grave crimes such as enslavement and exploitation.
13) Advocacy Initiatives: Advocacy involves rallying support for specific ideas, actions, or convictions. The presence of advocacy groups devoted to shielding children and women from traffickers can serve as a deterrent against criminal endeavours.
14) Parental Vigilance: Parents should exercise careful vigilance over the company their children keep.
15) Holistic Counseling: Adequate counselling services should be available across various settings, encompassing homes, schools, and public spaces. Victims require counselling to facilitate their complete recovery.
16) Empowering Youth through Employment: The government should create avenues for employment, particularly for young individuals, in order to mitigate the susceptibility of women and children to victimization.
17) Elevated Quality of Life: An improved standard of living can dissuade individuals from participating in unlawful enterprises.
18) Institutional Establishment: Government-initiated agencies like the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Related Matters (NAPTIP) play a pivotal role in curbing child trafficking. These agencies contribute significantly to efforts aimed at prevention and intervention.