Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - India

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - India, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3b8c.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

India (Tier 2 Watch List)

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. India's trafficking in persons problem is estimated to be in the millions. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) estimates that 90 percent of India's sex trafficking is internal. Women and girls are trafficked internally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Children are subject to involuntary servitude as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers. Men, women, and children are held in debt bondage and face involuntary servitude working in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Bangladeshi women reportedly are trafficked through India for sexual exploitation in Pakistan. Although Indians migrate willingly to the Gulf for work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers, some later find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude, including extended working hours, non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement by withholding of passports or confinement to the workplace, and physical or sexual abuse. Bangladeshi and Nepali men and women are trafficked through India for involuntary servitude in the Middle East.

The Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking however; it is making significant efforts to do so. India is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year for its failure to show increasing efforts to tackle India's large and multidimensional problem. India's anti-trafficking laws, policies, and programs focused largely on trafficking for sexual exploitation and the Indian government did not recognize the country's huge population of bonded laborers, which NGOs estimate to range from 20 million to 65 million laborers, as a significant problem. Overall, the lack of any significant federal government action to address bonded labor, the reported complicity of law enforcement officials in trafficking and related criminal activity, and the critical need for an effective national-level law enforcement authority impede India's ability to effectively combat its trafficking in persons problem.

In September 2006, the central government responded to the need for a central anti-trafficking law enforcement effort by establishing a two-person federal "nodal cell," responsible for collecting and analyzing data of state-level law enforcement efforts, identifying problem areas and analyzing the circumstances creating these areas, monitoring action taken by state governments, and organizing meetings with state-level "nodal" anti-trafficking police officers. However, this nodal cell does not have the authority to investigate and initiate prosecutions of trafficking crimes across the country, as recommended by India's Human Rights Commission and Indian NGOs.

This year, three state governments established, with substantial U. S. Government and UNODC assistance, the first state-level anti-trafficking police units in the country, which has led to an increase in rescues of sex trafficking victims and arrests of traffickers. The central government passed a law in October 2006 banning the employment of children in domestic work and the hospitality industry. In a July 2006 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Maharashtra government could proceed with its plan to seal brothels under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

Despite India's huge bonded labor problem, there were no substantial efforts this year to investigate, prosecute, or convict those who exploit bonded labor. Nor did the Indian government take significant measures to prosecute or punish government officials involved in trafficking-related corruption, though it arrested three government officers complicit in trafficking. The government should increase prosecutions and punishments for trafficking offenses, including bonded labor, forced child labor, deceptive recruitment of Indians trafficked abroad, and sex trafficking.

Prosecution

Efforts throughout India to investigate and punish trafficking crimes during the past year were uneven and largely inadequate. The government reported only 27 convictions for trafficking offenses throughout the entire country for 2006. While the government took measures to increase law enforcement against sex trafficking and forced child labor, efforts to combat bonded labor and trafficking-related corruption remained inadequate. The government prohibits some forms of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation through the ITPA. Prescribed penalties under the ITPA – ranging from seven years' to life imprisonment – are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. A parliamentary committee has completed its review of amendments to the ITPA that afford greater protections to sex trafficking victims and provide stricter penalties for their traffickers and for clients of prostitution. While the Indian government has not yet passed and enacted these amendments which were drafted in 2004, some jurisdictions reportedly have stopped using the ITPA to arrest women in prostitution. India also prohibits bonded and forced labor through the Bonded Labor Abolition Act, the Child Labor Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act. These laws are ineffectually enforced and their prescribed penalties – a maximum of three years' in prison – do not meet international standards.

This year, the government did not make significant progress in investigating, prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing those exploiting bonded labor. Despite the millions of bonded laborers in India, the government reported arresting only three offenders and confirmed rescuing only 26 adult victims this year. India similarly did not report any criminal investigations or prosecutions of labor recruiters using deceptive practices and debt bondage to compel Indians into involuntary servitude abroad; the unchecked behavior of these recruiters contributes to the forced labor of some Indians working abroad.

Efforts to combat forced child labor remained uneven throughout the country, varying greatly from state to state. In October 2006, the government enacted a ban on the employment of children in domestic work or in the hospitality industry, with penalties ranging from three months' to two years' imprisonment and fines – penalties that are not sufficiently stringent. As of December 2006, state governments had identified 1,672 violations of this ban, based on the 23,166 inspections they had conducted. However, the government has not yet reported criminal prosecutions or convictions produced from these administrative measures. The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) began public campaigns to raise awareness and prevent child labor, and conducted videoconferences with states to coordinate efforts. Some state and local governments also rescued children from forced labor situations. For example, in New Delhi, police rescued 234 children from embroidery factories and rice mills, although they did not report making any arrests. India did not provide any evidence of convictions for forced child labor, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 14 that have been removed from workplaces.

The government conducted at least 43 rescue operations that released 275 victims of commercial sex trafficking from their exploiters; however, these operations were not accompanied with vigorous prosecution of traffickers. The Government of India provided significant in-kind contributions to a two-year U. S. government-funded UNODC project in Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh states, focused on raising the awareness of police and prosecutors on the problem of trafficking, and building the capacity of these police and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute persons involved with trafficking. In contrast to previous years, the government did not arrest potential trafficking victims on solicitation charges during these raids. During the reporting period, India arrested 685 suspected sex traffickers, but there were no reported prosecutions or convictions. The government succeeded in convicting only 27 traffickers across the major trafficking hubs of Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

According to a study produced by the National Human Rights Commission a majority of traffickers surveyed claimed to rely on corrupt police officers for the protection of their trafficking activities. These officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect brothels that exploit victims, and protect traffickers and brothel keepers from arrest or other threats of enforcement. In Jammu and Kashmir, authorities charged a deputy inspector-general of the Border Security Force, a former advocate general, a deputy superintendent of police, and two former state ministers with trafficking. In January, an official with the Central Bureau of Investigation was also arrested for complicity in trafficking. While those arrested were awaiting trial, there were no reported prosecutions or convictions of public officials for complicity in trafficking during the reporting period.

Due to the intra-state nature of most of India's sex trafficking, the uneven response from state-level governments, and the lack of effective coordination among state police authorities, India should strongly consider expanding the central MHA office to coordinate law enforcement efforts to investigate and arrest traffickers who cross state and national lines. India should also significantly increase prosecutions of those arrested for trafficking, including employers who exploit forced labor, deceptive labor recruiters, and sex traffickers; and impose strict sentences on those convicted. Similarly, the government should significantly increase its efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence public officials who participate in or facilitate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Protection

India's efforts to protect victims of trafficking remained uneven and, in many cases, inadequate. Victims of bonded labor are entitled to 10,000 rupees ($225) from the central government for rehabilitation, but this program is unevenly executed across the country because state governments are responsible for implementing the program. The government does not proactively identify and rescue bonded laborers, so few victims receive this assistance. Though children trafficked for forced labor may be housed in government shelters and are entitled to 20,000 rupees ($450), the quality of many of these homes remains poor and the disbursement of rehabilitation funds is sporadic. Some states provide services to victims of bonded labor, but NGOs provide the majority of protection services to these victims. The central government reported no protection services offered to Indian victims trafficked abroad for involuntary servitude or commercial sexual exploitation, and it does not provide funding to repatriate these victims. The Government of Kerala, however, appointed nodal officers to coordinate with Indian embassies in destination countries to assist victims from Kerala state. Foreign victims are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution. Many victims decline to testify against their traffickers due to the length of proceedings and fear of retribution by traffickers without adequate witness protection from the government.

The Government of India relied heavily on NGOs to assist sex trafficking victims, though it offered funding to these NGOs to build shelters under its Swadhar Scheme. In April 2007, however, India's parliament released a report concluding that the Ministry of Women and Child Development had failed to adequately implement the Swadhar program and another program specifically focused on services for trafficking victims across the country. Government shelters are found in all major cites, but the quality of care they offer varies widely. In Maharashtra, state authorities converted one government shelter into a home exclusively for minor victims of sex trafficking this year, and issued a policy permitting trafficking victims to access any of the 600 government homes throughout the state. The Governments of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh also operate similar homes. Though states have made some improvements to their shelter care, victims sheltered in these facilities still do not receive comprehensive protection services, such as psychological assistance from trained counselors, and many victims are not assisted with long term alternatives to remaining in the shelter. The Government of Andhra Pradesh – the state with the largest number of trafficking victims in the country – now provides 10,000 rupees to sex trafficking victims.

The government should improve its protection efforts by enhancing the quality of rehabilitation services available in government run shelters, increasing protection services for bonded labor victims, and encouraging victims to assist in investigations of their traffickers. India should similarly improve its repatriation procedures to ensure that victims are not re-trafficked or further victimized. To protect Indian nationals trafficked abroad, the government should consider training overseas diplomatic officials in identifying and assisting trafficking victims caught in involuntary servitude, and should extend rehabilitation services to these victims upon their return.

Prevention

India's efforts to prevent trafficking in persons were limited this year. To address the issue of bride trafficking, the government instituted public awareness programs to educate parents on the laws against sex-selective abortions and infanticide, and the negative effect that gender imbalance is causing in parts of India. While the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs instituted a system requiring women under the age of 35 going to the Gulf as domestic workers to obtain authorization to leave India, the government failed to provide those traveling overseas with information on common trafficking perils or resources for assistance in destination countries.

The central government did not effectively guard its long, porous borders with Bangladesh and Nepal through which trafficking victims easily enter the country. India also did not take adequate measures to prevent internal trafficking for sexual exploitation or involuntary servitude despite the prevalence of such trafficking to major cities, and increasingly in smaller cities and suburbs. The lack of effective coordination between source and destination states contributed to this problem, underscoring the necessity for a centralized law enforcement authority with intrastate jurisdiction.

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