Human trafficking, according to the law, refers to recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by use of threat, force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.

Sadly, law enforcement agencies look at trafficking only in the context of sex workers and blindly go about the ‘raid and rescue’ protocol. There is hardly any case where persons involved in actually exploiting women and children (male and female) or bigwigs behind the scene were brought, regrets Charu Wali Khanna, Member, National Commission for Women.

In the city to participate in a training programme for Indian Police Service trainee officers, she told The Hindu that the meaning of the word ‘trafficking’ had to be explained clearly to law enforcement officers. After raids and rescue of women and children, what was required was a great deal of counselling and support for their livelihood, especially in the case of women forced into prostitution for a variety of reasons.

Interestingly, she recalls a study that said Assam, Tripura, Karnataka and West Bengal were the four top States from where the percentage of women married to men at least 10 years and more, older to them – 34.7, 29.5, 28.1 and 27.3 per cent.

“When we studied the problem in these States, we found that males often lost their attraction to the first wife and went for another, much younger to them, again,” she rued.

Once thrown out of the in-laws’ home, the young women are frequently disowned by their families, too, forcing them to catch the first bus/train to the nearest big city. They usually start with working as domestic helps somewhere down the line and end up as sex workers, Ms. Charu said, adding that they found that the so-called rehabilitation by the authorities did not work for them.

“We have no business to impose morality on them because they are adults. But, we need to catch the persons involved in trafficking. Anti-Trafficking Cells in the States should be strengthened. It is imperative that we review all our laws,” she said, without mincing words.

According to the 2012 statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, the percentage of the total of 2,44,270 crimes against women out of the total crimes (23,87,188) under the Indian Penal Code was 10.2. Of this, 1,06,527 were crimes under Section 498 (A) of the IPC, pertaining to dowry harassment, while 38,262 were kidnapping and abduction cases.

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