Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 September 2014, 13:52 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - India

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - India, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc1c.html [accessed 2 September 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)

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The forced labor of millions of its citizens constitutes India's largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. A common characteristic of bonded labor is the use of physical and sexual violence as coercive tools. Ninety percent of trafficking in India is internal, and those from India's most disadvantaged social strata, including the lowest castes, are most vulnerable. Children are also subjected to forced labor as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, agricultural workers, and to a lesser extent, in some areas of rural Uttar Pradesh as carpet weavers. There were new reports about the continued forced labor of children in hybrid cottonseed plots in Gujarat, and reports that forced labor may be present in the Sumangali scheme in Tamil Nadu, in which employers pay young women a lump sum to be used for a dowry at the end of a three-year term. An increasing number of job placement agencies lure adults and children for forced labor or sex trafficking under false promises of employment. Indian boys from Bihar were increasingly subjected to forced labor in embroidery factories in Nepal.

Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of forced prostitution. Religious pilgrimage centers and cities popular for tourism continue to be vulnerable to child sex tourism. Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh, and an increasing number of females from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Russia, are also subjected to sex trafficking in India. There were increasing reports of females from northeastern states and Odisha subjected to servile marriages in states with low female-to-male child sex ratios, including Haryana and Punjab, and also reports of girls subjected to transactional sexual exploitation in the Middle East under the guise of temporary marriages. Maoist armed groups known as the Naxalites forcibly recruited children into their ranks. Establishments of sex trafficking are moving from more traditional locations – such as brothels – to locations that are harder to find, and are also shifting from urban areas to rural areas, where there is less detection.

Some Indians who migrate willingly every year for work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers find themselves in forced labor in the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia, the United States, Europe, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, and other countries. In some cases, such workers are lured from their communities through fraudulent recruitment, leading them directly to situations of forced labor, including debt bondage; in other cases, high debts incurred to pay recruitment fees leave them vulnerable to labor trafficking. Nationals from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked through India for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in the Middle East.

In March 2012, a U.S. court entered a default judgment of $1.5 million in favor of an Indian domestic worker who sued a former Indian consular officer who had employed her while assigned to duty in the United States; no appeal was filed. The domestic worker accused the Indian diplomat of forcing her to work without adequate compensation for three years and subjecting her to physical and mental abuse.

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. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) continued to establish Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs), which were responsible for combining law enforcement and rehabilitation efforts. The Central Bureau of Investigation launched an anti-trafficking unit in the reporting period and gave investigation authority under trafficking-related laws to all its police officers. Challenges remain regarding overall law enforcement efforts against bonded labor and the alleged complicity of public officials in human trafficking.

Recommendations for India: Develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking law or amend anti-trafficking legislation to be in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, with adequate penalties prescribed by the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention; increase prosecutions and convictions on all forms of trafficking, including bonded labor; prosecute officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and convict and punish officials complicit in trafficking; encourage states to establish special anti-trafficking courts; improve distribution of state and central government rehabilitation funds to victims under the Bonded Labor (System) Abolition Act (BLSA); improve protections for trafficking victims who testify against their traffickers; encourage AHTUs to address both sex and labor trafficking of adults and children; encourage state and district governments to file bonded labor cases under appropriate criminal statutes; improve central and state government implementation of protection programs and compensation schemes to ensure that certified trafficking victims receive benefits; and increase the quantity and breadth of public awareness and related programs on bonded labor.

Prosecution

The government continued to make progress in its law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking in 2011, but concerns remain over the uneven enforcement of trafficking laws and alleged official complicity. India prohibits most forms of forced labor through the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the BLSA, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act. These laws were unevenly enforced, and their prescribed penalties are not sufficiently stringent. India prohibits most forms of sex trafficking. Prescribed penalties for sex trafficking under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) and the IPC, ranging from three years' to life imprisonment, are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The ITPA also criminalizes other offenses, including prostitution, and has some sections that are sometimes used to criminalize sex trafficking victims.

The government did not report comprehensive law enforcement data, and the challenges of gathering accurate, comprehensive, and timely data make it difficult to assess law enforcement efforts. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs established scorecards for its AHTUs in June 2011 to improve the availability of real-time data. A variety of sources noted that there were many investigations, including inter-state investigations. In Mumbai, in 2011, there were 242 sex trafficking cases prosecuted in the special ITPA court; 125 sex trafficking offenders were convicted with sentences of up to three years' imprisonment. Two NGOs reported that six trafficking offenders were convicted for forced and bonded labor. Four offenders were sentenced to one year in prison – these sentences are being appealed – and two offenders were charged with fines. Most government prosecutions were supported in partnership with NGOs. A senior government official noted that while trafficking rescues and registration of cases have increased, convictions remain low. However, conviction rates were low across the penal system. Some NGOs continued to criticize the categorization of trafficking crimes as bailable offenses, which in some cases resulted in the accused absconding after receiving bail. Enforcement of trafficking laws, particularly labor trafficking laws such as the BLSA, remained a challenge.

NGOs continued to report that official complicity in trafficking remained a problem. Corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect suspected traffickers and brothel keepers from enforcement of the law, and receive bribes from sex trafficking establishments and sexual services from victims. Some police allegedly continued to tip-off sex and labor traffickers to impede rescue efforts. Some owners of brothels, rice mills, brick kilns, and stone quarries are reportedly politically connected. The Indian government reported no prosecutions or convictions of government officials for trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period; NGOs said this was due to a lack of sufficient evidence. In September 2011, the police arrested a member of the border security force for trafficking. He was released on bail as of December 2011, but there is no further information on that case. There was no information on the status of an arrest of a former member of parliament or an investigation on an Indian Administrative Services officer – as noted in the 2011 TIP Report – for his involvement in human trafficking.

The Central Bureau of Investigation established a dedicated federal anti-trafficking unit in January 2012 whose police officers have nationwide investigative authority. The government continued to implement its three-year nationwide anti-trafficking effort by disbursing funds to state governments to establish at least 107 new Anti-Human Trafficking Units in police departments during the reporting period, for a total of at least 194 AHTUs. Some NGOs believed that some units were more focused on sex trafficking than labor trafficking, including bonded labor. Some units appeared to focus on child trafficking rather than on the trafficking of both children and adults. Some units continued to be understaffed, which hampered efforts. The government funded more than 500 police officers to participate in a six-month anti-trafficking course at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. The government reported that it covered transportation and lodging expenses for over 5,000 government officials who participated in NGO-organized anti-trafficking trainings.

Protection

India made efforts to protect and assist trafficked victims. The MHA, through a 2009 directive, advised state government officials to use standard operating procedures developed in partnership with UNODC to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services; however, the implementation of these procedures is unknown. The government continued to fund over 100 NGO-run hotlines that help assist vulnerable people, including trafficking victims. The Ministry of Labor and Employment reported 865 bonded laborers rescued and the equivalent of almost $170,000 distributed in government-mandated rehabilitation funds in 2010-11, the latest data available. This represents a small fraction of the millions of Indian citizens subject to bonded labor. There were some NGO reports of delays in obtaining release certificates, and distribution of rehabilitation funds was uneven across states. There were numerous reports that sex trafficking victims were rescued, most often in partnership between police and NGOs. There were increased reports of inter-state coordination among the AHTUs resulting in rescues. In one case, the Manipur, Rajasthan, and Kerala AHTUs collaborated in the rescue of 33 trafficked children.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) allocated the equivalent of $118 million for 2011-12 to fund 153 projects in 17 states under the Ujjawala program – which seeks to protect and rehabilitate female sex trafficking victims – and 58 new Swadhar projects – which help female victims of violence, including sex trafficking. Some NGOs have cited difficulty in receiving timely disbursements of national government funding of their shelters under these programs. India does not provide care for adult male trafficking victims. Conditions of government shelter homes under the MWCD varied from state to state. NGOs reported that a number of shelters were overcrowded and unhygienic, offered poor food, and provided limited, if any, services. There were some NGO reports that some shelters did not permit victims to leave the shelter purportedly for security reasons; this violates international principles on the protection of victims. In some cases, traffickers continued to re-traffic victims by approaching shelter managers and pretending to be family members to get the victims released to them, although this practice is declining. Some Indian diplomatic missions in the Middle East provided services, including temporary shelters, medical care, legal assistance, and 24-hour hotlines, to Indian migrant laborers, some of whom were victims of trafficking.

There were some reports of trafficking victims being penalized for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Section 8 of the ITPA (solicitation) and Section 294 of the IPC (obscenity in public places) continued to be used to criminalize sex trafficking victims. Reports indicated that some victims are punished for being undocumented migrants or for document fraud. Foreign trafficking victims were not offered special immigration benefits such as temporary or permanent residency status, although some NGOs reported that foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic victims. Foreign victims are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. In most cases, NGOs assisted rescued victims in providing evidence to prosecute suspected traffickers. Many victims declined to testify against their traffickers due to the fear of retribution by traffickers, who were sometimes acquaintances. Some NGOs continued to report the government was increasingly sensitized against not treating victims as perpetrators, and law enforcement activities against victims decreased. There were some reports of police treating victims as perpetrators, not using victim-centric policies, and not improving victim-witness security, which hindered victim testimony and prosecutions.

Prevention

The Government of India continued to make progress in its efforts to prevent human trafficking. The MHA's Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell continued bimonthly inter-ministerial meetings on trafficking, which also included participation of anti-trafficking officers from state governments. The Ministry of Home Affairs raised public awareness on trafficking though radio talk shows and press conferences; the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs continued to work with state governments to conduct safe emigration awareness campaigns; and the Bureau of Police Research and Development organized a workshop on the linkages between missing children and human trafficking and encouraged all police officers to track cases of missing persons.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment continued its preventative convergence-based project against bonded labor in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha, but not in Haryana. The government reduced the demand for commercial sex acts in the reporting period by convicting clients of prostitution. The government continued its multi-year project to issue unique identification numbers to citizens; more than 100 million identify cards were issued in the reporting period. Training for Indian soldiers and police officers deployed in peacekeeping missions reportedly included awareness about trafficking.

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