The Plight of Children Trafficked in India for Domestic Servitude

By Luis Gay

India

Thousands of children are missing from “remote tribal areas [in India] as human traffickers respond to a surge in demand for domestic child labour in booming urban districts.” More specifically, “more than 10,500 children were registered as missing fromthe central state of Chhattisgarh.” Many believe the children were trafficked out of the state to perform manual labor, in particular, domestic labor. HS Phoolka, “senior advocate at India’s supreme court and a human rights lawyer and activist,” said that human trafficking has always been around, but child trafficking is a fairly new phenomenon. The surge in child trafficking is from the rise in income in urban areas around the country, the “demand for domestic maids…[,]and wide-scale poverty.” This demonstrates the enormous income and social inequality in India. But missing children from Chhattisgarh represent a small fraction of the 135,000 children that are believed to be trafficked every year in India. To alleviate child trafficking, India’s Supreme Court attempted to regulate “the growing number of employment placement agencies.” These agencies are often the source of children being trafficked into domestic service. However, “activists say more needs to be done to tackle the problem.” There are a number of areas all around India that lack law enforcement, have “large-scale poverty,” and illiteracy which, in turn, are breeding grounds for children to be taken.

Former domestic slave, Deepti Minch, 19, described her experience of being trafficked in the Punjab state: “It was only after a few years I realised I had been sold…I was extremely hurt and was in tears. My life was tough. I worked from six in the morning until midnight. I had to cook meals, clean the house, take care of the children and massage the legs of my employers before going to bed. If I didn’t do my job well, they used to scold me.” Deepti was fortunate to escape her prison and find her way back to her family, but the same cannot be said for thousands of other children.

Many children are not reported due to “fear and distrust” among the police and officials. This is because trafficking is considered a “peripheral issue” in many rural areas like Chhattisgarh according to Rishi Kant, “one of India’s leading anti-trafficking activists.” Law enforcement in these types of locations prioritize fighting “Maoist insurgency or civil unrest” over human trafficking. Aradhana Singh, head of the anti-human trafficking unit in the state of Jharkhand, relates to this notion as well, believing that “most [police] don’t see trafficking as a crime. They just see it as poor children migrating for a better livelihood.” Not all police enforcement neglect trafficking due to a disbelief of its importance. Some units simply do not have the funds and resources to handle this situation, such as lack of electricity, telephone usage, and counseling services. Due to the lack of power and influence that law enforcement have in many rural locations in India, “those running trafficking rings” are wielding more power. If families ever press charges, leaders of these operations can “change their statements or threaten them.” Unless trafficking is listed as a higher priority in India, the lives of thousands of children will continue to be living nightmare.

Luis Gay is an undergraduate attending the University of San Francisco, pursuing a Biology degree and Chemistry Minor. He is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.

Reference:

Sahariah, Sutirtha. 2015Apr28. Child trafficking in India: ‘It was only after a few years I realised I had been sold’. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/apr/28/child-trafficking-india-domestic-labour-chhattisgarh [Accessed 4 May 2015]

Photo Credit:

This photo can be found in an article at http://shaktivahini.org http://shaktivahini.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/DSC07499.jpg [Accessed 4 May 2015]

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