Trafficking women is a booming industry in India. Varied estimates tend to show that there more than 1.5 million trafficked victims in the commercial sex industry in India. Another trap awaiting young girls is prostitution, forced prostitution or literally, sexual slavery. Particularly if the family is poor, they may be more easily deceived by promises of a good-paying job or marriage proposal. As of 2002, eighty-percent of all India’s prostitutes were sold, like slaves, between the ages of 14 and 16, for prices ranging from 40 cents to a thousand dollars. Id. From more recent reports, the age of girls involved in forced prostitution is drastically dropping due to myths or superstitions, including the false belief that younger girls cannot spread AIDS.
The Deputy Director of UNICEF stated that “An estimated 1.2 million children are traded by smuggling and prostitution rings each year…More than 30 million women and children throughout Asia and the Pacific have been trafficked over the past 30 years – the ‘largest slave trade in history.’ The number of victims is on the rise and the Internet has helped foster the multibillion-dollar trade,” at a two-day child trafficking symposium in Tokyo on February 20, 2003. The State Department’s Trafficking Report, Released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, June 11, 2003, states that “India is a country of origin, transit, and destination for thousands of trafficked persons. Internal trafficking of women, men, and children for purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, bonded labor, and indentured servitude is widespread.”
While there are many prosecutions and convictions taking place, “India has numerous federal laws criminalizing trafficking for sexual exploitation and labor. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) prohibits trafficking in persons, criminalizes sexual exploitation, and provides enhanced penalties for offences involving minors.” Id. However, “[d]uring investigations, police frequently do not utilize all provisions of the ITPA and, as a result, may minimize potential criminal penalties against traffickers and brothel owners for exploiting minors.” Id.
Among the difficulties in fighting trafficking is the fact that low-level border guards and other law enforcement officials have taken bribes, tipped off brothels to raids, or simply turned a blind eye to trafficking across borders. Id. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is charged with investigating allegations of corruption, bribe taking, or collusion of public officials and law enforcement trafficking. In a case involving successful prosecution of foreign exploitation, the CBI, in cooperation with law enforcement in Goa, investigated a trafficker, a citizen of New Zealand, who - under the guise of running an orphanage for destitute children - sexually abused the children and supplied them to foreign tourists for sexual abuse and pornography. Id. The ringleader was sentenced to life imprisonment. Id. CBI has requested extradition of six other foreign nationals (of Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Thailand/UK, and France). Id.
It is almost imp0ossible to imagine the circumstances in which individuals end up in the Red Light District, the abusive treatment of them within the Red Light District, problems with sexually transmitted diseases - particularly AIDS, and the difficulty in getting out of the Red Light District.
The life of a female in Asia generally is meager. “Each year thousands of baby girls are murdered by their own mothers, simply because they are female.” Beauty for Ashes, GFA publication, September/October 2002. Out of 1,250 women recently polled in the state of Tamil Nadu, more than half had killed baby daughters. Id. “This sort of infanticide has gone on for hundreds of years.” Id. Demographic studies done in 18 th century India revealed that some villages had six times as many boys as girls, while others had no girl babies at all. “Since 1900, the national ratio of women to men in India has continued to drop.” Id.
Girls also have difficulty getting adequate nutrition, which contributes to their difficulty in surviving to adulthood. In Nepal and Bangladesh, one out of every four girls dies before the age of five; and 25 percent of the girls born in India every year die by the age of 15. Id. Some girls work an eight-hour workday.
In many ways, Dalit women are treated as the lowest of the low. Therefore, it is important to recognize and remind the international community that the Indian Constitution guarantees women equal rights. See e.g. Article 14 – Equality before law, Article 15 – prohibition of discrimination, Article 16 – Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Meanwhile, Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also states that the parties to the Covenant undertake “to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.”
Yet, the State is not prohibited from making a special provision for women and children. See India Constitution, Article 15 (3). However, an increase in penalties for women under the anti-conversion laws does not constitute a special provision. The law provides no rationale or basis for requiring the harsher penalties. Thus, a the woman’s free and equal dignity and right to choose and practice her religion freely, to which she is entitled under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Indian Constitution, and endowed by her Creator, are violated.