West Bengal’s Long Battle With Human Trafficking, Will It End?

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West Bengal’s Long Battle With Human Trafficking, Will It End?

Though Kolkata surfaced to be the second safest city as per the number of crimes per lakh of population, West Bengal registered the highest number of cases of human trafficking in the year 2016. According to a report released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the state lagged behind in several key areas in regards to women’s safety and ranked second in recording crimes against women.

Forty-four percent of the nation’s trafficking victims are from West Bengal.

A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases.

Some Key Reasons:

  1. Over the last decade, 500,000 women, including Rohingya victims have entered Bengal from neighboring country Bangladesh, transforming the state into a hotbed of human trafficking cases. Though the 2217km border in Bengal is adequately fenced and regularly patrolled by BSF yet young women find their way into India through various land and river routes with the help of cocky middlemen using satellite phones.

  2. Asia’s largest red-light area, Sonagachi is seated right in the heart of Bengal, Kolkata. Nearly 17000 prostitutes live in Sonagachi: some of the girls are absorbed as domestic workers, some pushed in to work in small factories, while others are forced into brothels. The rural women from poorer sections of the society are the most vulnerable targets – they are easily lured with false promises of marriage or better jobs in the cities and then sold off to brothels.

  3. Owing to porous international borders and low socio-economic development, Bengal registers high cases of sex trafficking, though most of them go unreported. The state also lacks enough anti-trafficking units and even dedicated phone line service to track Missing girls. The existing laws fail to differentiate between sex work and human trafficking, just like there are no definite guidelines to separate raid situations from rescue operations.

South Asia: The Bigger Picture

At least 2,25,000 women and children in Southeast Asia are trafficked annually.

In this part of the world, human trafficking consists of forced labor and sexual abuse and exploitation. Thailand and Malaysia are regarded as the hub for all forms of sexual exploitation, while Indonesia scores high for forced labor. Estimates say 10000 laborers are forced into labor annually in the region.

While poverty and globalization are key causes of sex trafficking in South Asia, industrialization in the mid 20th century, post-war military bases and growing tourism are additional factors contributing to the already flourishing sex industry. Just like Thailand and Malaysia, India too depicts a similar picture, but with a slight change: prostitution is legal in India, but its related activities, like brothel culture or pimping is not.

India is home to 25 lakh prostitutes from nearly 3 lakh brothels across 1100 red-light areas throughout the country. In West Bengal alone, 42% of minor girls are forced into the flesh trade by traffickers.

However, the law regarding prostitution remains vague – of late, Supreme Court of India has asked the Government to ponder on legalizing prostitution, even if they cannot curb it right from the roots.

So what are your thoughts? Did you know that the problem was this big? Stay tuned for the second installment; it’s coming soon!

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