Human Trafficking: Paradigmatic Understanding
By Vijaylakshmi Brara
Everybody knows that human trafficking is induced through poverty of the extreme kind. This poverty can be the result of growing globalisation and marginalisation of weak group of people or countries. It’s been going on from time immemorial with a different nomenclature, such as slave trade. Going by the same terminology, we are estimated to have more than 30 million slaves in the world today.
I happened to be in communication with a Pilipino woman. She told me that people ask her as to what is wrong with your society, your country your families. Why does it allow its girls to be trafficked? She gave them an answer with a counter question.”Why don’t you go and ask your men, your families and your country.
This piece is an attempt to understand the need to change the paradigms of human trafficking so that we move from symptomatic to more foundational reasoning.
In 2011 Manipur Police requested Udyog Vihar Police in Gurgaon to rescue a 15 year old girl from the state who was trafficked to Delhi. The 15 year old girl hailing from Kanglatongbi under Sekmai PS was trafficked by Biku Rampal of Tispara village of Kanglatongbi on January 24 last on the pretext of providing job in New Delhi.
The father of the girl lodged a complaint with Sekmai PS who registered a case under sections related with human trafficking. The father complained that his daughter is reportedly kept confined in a room of a rented house at Doom Dera Ramchawk behind Hanuman Mandir near a meat selling centre under Udyog Vihar PS of Gurgoan, Haryana.Based on this information, Sekmai police asked the Station House Officer of Udyog Vihar PS for verification and to arrest the culprits.
They also informed the state Social Welfare Department to take up action to rescue the girl, the source added. Some years back as many as 139 children, trafficked from Manipur, were rescued from various illegal children’s homes in Chennai and Bangalore.
In 2009, 97 children were rescued from various other states. It is learnt that 62 reported case of child trafficking has been recorded since 2013 till June 2016. In the month of February 2016 alone there has been report of 29 children from Churchandpur, Ukhrul, and Imphal being rescued from Meghalaya (https://www.ifp.co.in/page/items/33519/human-trafficking-on-the-rise-in-state).
Recently, this year, Social welfare department of Manipur government with the help of Manipur police and with their day and night tireless work rescued 40 Nepali women from crossing the international border at Moreh. They not only rescued but also saw to it that they go back safely to their homes. It was a tremendous feat and needs to be appreciated. One does need to applaud their mission.
The state government has taken up steps to set up anti-trafficking police units to check the rise in trafficking of children outside Manipur on the pretext of free education. It had initiated steps to set up anti-human trafficking cells in Churachandpur, Senapati, Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur which had seen the largest number of child trafficking. The cells were to be set up as per a directive of the Union home ministry to the state government to take steps to check trafficking of children from Manipur to other states. Government had sanctioned Rs.15.60 lakh for opening two cells in the first phase, one in Imphal West which will also cover Imphal East district, and Churachandpur.
But the question what I am trying to raise is that in spite of such efforts, can it be guaranteed that they will not be trafficked again, probably with more safe guards and trying a different route?
The State Social Welfare Department has restricted sending children below 12 years for education outside the state following a directive of the Supreme Court in September some years ago. Has it helped and has there been any prosecution – nil. In spite of the Court directives we still see small children been trafficked. They now have become more vulnerable since now they need to move more shadily and more liable to be prosecuted rather than been rescued.
According to www.humanityunited.org There are more slaves on the planet now than at any time in history—an estimated 27 million. In South Asia alone, nearly 10 million people languish in debt bondage. As many as 2 million people have been trafficked into prostitution or forced labour. Mass atrocities, meanwhile, have claimed some 20 million lives in more than 25 countries in the past half century. Across Africa, Asia, and the Americas, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and similar violence threaten millions more. Individually, mass atrocities and modern-day slavery represent a challenge to peace and security. Together, they threaten the very foundation of our common humanity. These violent incidents have made a large section extremely vulnerable forcing them into exploitation and force labour and prostitution.
Some years ago the social service branch of Mumbai police raided a bungalow at Oshiwara, where a prostitution racket was being run in the guise of a massage parlour and ten Manipuri girls were rescued. In between, there were cases where Nagaland police rescued five Manipuri girls, who were being lured to Singapore with job offers from Chumukedima check post near Dimapur and another five Manipuri girls being rescued from a Malaysian nightclub after they were taken to Singapore with promise of better job prospects. On their return, these five girls also revealed that there are more than 100 girls from Manipur in Malaysia and Singapore, who too were lured by human traffickers with similar promise of better job.
“Huyen Lanpao” once asked this question in its editorial, as to why young people in Manipur are increasingly becoming soft target for human traffickers and what we are doing to stop this menace. How sincere are we in our efforts to combat the challenges posed by the problem of human trafficking? We need to find answers to these questions, especially in the light of the fact there has been a little apathy from the state as well as the NGOs working in the field. To put it quite bluntly, we need to nail the pigs and catch the snake from its mouth, catching in such a way it is unable to spread venom.
This needs a shift in the existing paradigm. Paradigm, by the way, is from a Greek word Paradigma which means pattern- a mental image of the way things are. It is never an objective process because we see the world as we are. It’s a perception from a certain value system which you don’t question. Now when do we have a paradigm shift? Let me give an example; while sitting in a bus stand a man saw that there are two children with a father. Those children were creating nuisance. The man perceived the father to be an irresponsible parent and told him to control his children. To which the man suddenly was jolted from his thoughts and said oh! Sorry, actually their mom just died! This is where the paradigm shifted.
So what has been the paradigm of human trafficking?
Our newspapers and Google searches are filled with the numbers of children and girls been lured into seemingly better destinations and then put into pitiful conditions. There are two things here; first is the emphasis on statistics and second is the emphasis on women and children. There have been several instances the world over and also in Manipur when young men are also lured into lucrative jobs, especially in Dubai in other places, where they are then kept in inhuman conditions and are not paid salaries. They somehow go out of the ambit of our paradigms of human trafficking. Second is the issue of too much emphasis on statistics. For three days I went through the internet and other references, but could not find any account or experiences of the victims of trafficking in our region. What we have is the portrayals of problematic images, what we need is the spread of lived – in experiences. The narratives, the stories need to be heard. What is it that makes people vulnerable? There can also be accounts of such migrants helping each other out. There is a need to bring in the victims on the dais and listen to them and also learn from their experiences and bring them into the fold of policy initiatives.
When the voices of the enslaved are heard, when the victims & survivors are made visible, amazing things can happen. We bring the perspective and experience only victims, only survivors can bring. Together we can bring real and sustainable long term change
This was stated by Rani Hong, herself the trafficked victim at the age of seven, who fortunately was adopted by one family in Washington. She could finish her high school and married her high school sweetheart who was himself a victim of trafficked child soldier from Vietnam. Together they founded the Tronie Foundation.
“Millions of children right now are walking around in the streets,” she said. “Like the little girl that I was, many of them are imprisoned, silenced and not able to tell their stories. But I demand that we are heard.” She stressed the importance of empowering victims to effect positive social change. “We inspire new ideas, unlock new solutions. We turn a geopolitical and economic issue into a human one,” she said, calling on the international community to work with victims to empower women and girls.
Second paradigm shift needs to in the area of blanket raid and rescue strategy. It dangerously skirts around the moral judgemental issues. The state raids and brings back the victims. But, to what? To be ready to be taken away again. What do we do to hold them back? Their abject poverty or other desperate situations will again lead them to their traffickers who are not some big organised mafia, but their known family members, neighbours, church members etc. Therefore, trafficking needs to come out of the pouch of criminalization framework.
We need to understand that trafficking is through force, fraud or coercion especially in the marginalised regions. In Manipur it is increasing alarmingly. The economy of this state is in shatters, it is riddled with all kinds of conflict and violence and the poor is becoming poorer. In such a situation anybody offering better or free education, better jobs, or some kind of income is held on like a latch. What we need here is not the rescue framework but a total paradigm shift, a structural change in the society itself. We need to design a paradigm of social change. Today various models for assessing of the health of the society are there. We have the long tested but not very fruitful GDPs, then came a more fruitful model of Human Development index, which has more inclusive and wide range of quantifying indicators. The latest in line is the Gross Happiness index, which has been pioneered by the King and the prime minister of Bhutan. It has both quantifiable as well as qualitative indicators to see the wellbeing of its society. Are the people in Manipur happy. No, they are not. It is not an easy decision, especially by the young, vulnerable group to take the risk of going into the unknown lands. They still do, just so that their family is uplifted. We need to think and give a paradigm of accountability and of working governance, which is looking towards an all inclusive development. Interestingly we don’t need to go ahead but in fact go back and seek answers in our past economic structures. Not very long ago we have had what we call self-sufficiency. May not be surplus, but self sufficient. Everybody had access to proteins and carbohydrates. The problem is this; we did not attempt to evolve from our roots; from our economic sustenance models. But instead jumped to a sort of service oriented, service provider or let’s say a consuming society. Today we want to possess the latest. We don’t want to produce the latest or invent the latest. Over a period landlessness has increased manifolds, water resources are drying in an alarming rate, hence paddy and fishes are becoming scarcer. Consumerism has reached its pinnacle, with never ending online shopping. And in all of this there are hardly any policy initiatives, a vision for good governance. Yes women/men are being duped, lured, but what is making them so vulnerable? Why do they get ready to move on the drop of a hat? The attempt to break this chain of human trafficking is not just matter of law and order, but a serious thinking on developing and modelling our economy back to self-sustenance. We need to take two steps back and then one step forward.
It is only then that we will be able to nail the issue on the head, and not just through raids and rescues.
Vijaylakshmi Brara is Associate Professor in Centre for Manipur Studies. She can be reached through [email protected]
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