Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - India

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. Internal forced labor may constitute India's largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children are held in debt bondage and face forced labor working in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. While no comprehensive study of forced and bonded labor has been completed, NGOs estimate this problem affects 20 to 65 million Indians. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage. Children are subjected to forced labor as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers, and have been used as armed combatants by some terrorist and insurgent groups. India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Nepali children are also trafficked to India for forced labor in circus shows. Indian women are trafficked to the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation. There are also victims of labor trafficking among the thousands of Indians who migrate willingly every year to the Middle East, Europe, and the United States for work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers. In some cases, such workers are the victims of fraudulent recruitment practices that lead them directly into situations of forced labor, including debt bondage; in other cases, high debts incurred to pay recruitment fees leave them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers in the destination countries, where some are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude, including non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement, unlawful withholding of passports, and physical or sexual abuse. Men and women from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked through India for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in the Middle East. Indian nationals travel to Nepal and within the country for child sex tourism.

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 fifth consecutive year for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the last year. Despite the reported extent of the trafficking crisis in India, government authorities made uneven efforts to prosecute traffickers and protect trafficking victims. During the reporting period, government authorities continued to rescue victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced child labor and child armed combatants, and began to show progress in law enforcement against these forms of trafficking. Overall, the lack of significant federal government action to address bonded labor, the reported complicity of some law enforcement officials in trafficking and related criminal activity, and the critical need for an effective national-level law enforcement authority impeded India's ability to effectively combat its trafficking in persons problem. A critical challenge overall is the lack of punishment of traffickers, effectively resulting in impunity for acts of human trafficking.

Recommendations for India: Expand central and state government law enforcement capacity to conduct intrastate law enforcement activities against trafficking; consider expanding the central Ministry of Home Affairs "nodal cell" on trafficking to coordinate law enforcement efforts to investigate and arrest traffickers who cross state and national lines; significantly increase law enforcement efforts to punish labor trafficking offenders; significantly increase efforts to eliminate official complicity in trafficking, including prosecuting, convicting, and punishing complicit officials with imprisonment; continue to increase law enforcement efforts against sex traffickers, including prosecuting, convicting, and punishing traffickers with imprisonment; improve central and state government implementation of protection programs and compensation schemes to ensure that certified trafficking victims actually receive benefits, including compensation for victims of forced child labor and bonded labor, to which they are entitled under national and state law; increase the quantity and breadth of public awareness and related programs to prevent both trafficking for labor and commercial sex.


Government authorities made no progress in addressing one of India's largest human trafficking problems – bonded labor – during the year, but made some improvements in law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking and forced child labor. The government prohibits some forms of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA). Prescribed penalties under the ITPA – ranging from seven years' to life imprisonment – are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. 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, however, and their prescribed penalties – a maximum of three years in prison – are not sufficiently stringent. Indian authorities also use Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, prohibiting kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively, to arrest traffickers. Penalties under these provisions are a maximum of ten years' imprisonment and a fine.

During the reporting period, the government did not make significant efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence labor trafficking offenders. Despite the estimated millions of bonded laborers in India, only 19 suspects were arrested for trafficking for bonded labor during the reporting period. In the past several years, the State of Tamil Nadu reported convicting 803 employers, but those convicted did not receive significant punishments. In addition, despite widespread reports of fraudulent recruitment practices, the Indian government did not report any arrests, investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of labor recruiters who participate in or facilitate the trafficking of Indian workers into situations of forced labor abroad.

In addition, the government largely continued to ignore the pervasive problem of government complicity in trafficking. Corrupt officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect brothels that exploit victims, and protect traffickers and brothel keepers from arrest and other threats of enforcement. There were no efforts to tackle the problem of government officials' complicity in trafficking workers for overseas employment. Despite the extent of the problem, authorities only made five arrests for complicity. India reported no prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of public officials for complicity in trafficking during the reporting period.

State governments continued to make efforts to address forced child labor, but failed to punish traffickers. In January, the government sponsored 22 state and federal officials to attend an ILO training program on child migration and trafficking. Since 2005, the Government of Maharashtra, through its task force against child labor, rescued 2,058 children and arrested 358 suspects. The State of Andhra Pradesh also reported rescuing over 9,000 children in a door-to-door campaign and prosecuting 17 suspected traffickers in the same time period. During the reporting period, raids throughout the country yielded 333 children rescued and five individuals arrested. Nonetheless, government authorities did not report convicting or sentencing any individual for trafficking children for forced labor. In addition, although the government enacted a ban on children working as domestic servants and in hotels or tea stalls, the government did not demonstrate efforts to enforce this law.

State governments sustained efforts in combating trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, but convictions and punishments of traffickers were extremely infrequent, especially given the extent of the problem. During the reporting period, state governments arrested 1,289 suspects for sex trafficking. Nonetheless, only four traffickers were convicted and received prison sentences. In June, the State Government of West Bengal established a police Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, specializing in fighting sex trafficking, in Kolkata. The State Government of Bihar established three similar units in November. India's Central Bureau of Investigation incorporated anti-trafficking training into its standard curriculum. In November, the State of Maharashtra developed an action plan to combat trafficking; it did not, however, allocate appropriate funding to accomplish the objectives of this plan.

During the reporting period, the Ministry of Home Affairs developed a system to track ITPA arrests, prosecutions, and convictions at the national level in order to develop a baseline from which the government could measure progress. The government does not break down these statistics by sections of the law, meaning that law enforcement data regarding trafficking offenses may be conflated with data regarding arrests of women in prostitution pursuant to Section 8 of the ITPA.


India's efforts to protect victims of trafficking varied from state to state, but remained inadequate in many places during the year. 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. Government authorities do not proactively identify and rescue bonded laborers, so few victims receive this assistance. Although 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 does not provide protection services to Indian victims trafficked abroad for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Indian diplomatic missions in destination countries may offer temporary shelter to nationals who have been trafficked; once repatriated, however, neither the central government nor most state governments offer any medical, psychological, legal, or reintegration assistance for these victims.

Section 8 of the ITPA permits the arrest of women in prostitution. Although statistics on arrests under Section 8 are not kept, the government and some NGOs report that, through sensitization and training, police officers no longer use this provision of the law; it is unclear whether arrests of women in prostitution under Section 8 have actually decreased. Because most law enforcement authorities lack formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among women arrested for prostitution; some victims may be arrested and punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Despite instructions that law enforcement authorities should protect minors who are exploited in prostitution, in at least two instances during the reporting period, police officers released minors into the custody of their traffickers. Some foreign victims trafficked to India are not subject to removal. Those who are subject to removal are not offered legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution. NGOs report that some Bangladeshi victims of commercial sexual exploitation are pushed back across the border without protection services. The government also does not repatriate Nepali victims; NGOs primarily perform this function. Many victims decline to testify against their traffickers due to the length of proceedings and fear of retribution by traffickers. The government does not actively encourage victims to participate in investigations of their traffickers.

The central government continued to give grants to NGOs for the provision of services to sex trafficking victims with funding available through its Swadhar Scheme and the recently developed Ujjawala Scheme. No such efforts were made to assist victims of labor trafficking. Government shelters for sex trafficking victims are found in all major cities, but the quality of care varies widely. In Maharashtra, state authorities operated a home exclusively for minor victims of sex trafficking this year. The Governments of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh also operated 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.


India made inadequate efforts this year aimed at the prevention of trafficking in persons. Several times during the year, the Ministry of Labor and Employment displayed full-page advertisements against child labor in national newspapers. The government also instituted pre-departure information sessions for domestic workers migrating abroad on the risks of exploitation. Nonetheless, the government did not report new or significant prevention efforts addressing the prominent domestic problems of trafficking of adults for purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The government also did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Similarly, the government failed to take any steps to raise awareness of trafficking for nationals traveling to known child sex tourism destinations within the country. India has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

India tier ranking by year


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