MILLIONS OF WOMEN and girls have been trafficked across borders and within countries in recent years, making human trafficking a global industry that generates an estimated five to seven billion US dollars each year, said a UN report.
It is estimated that 300,000 to 450,000 people are trafficked within Asia each year, of which more than half take place in South Asia, said the ‘Human Trafficking and HIV: Exploring vulnerabilities and responses in South Asia’ report, prepared by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP).
India faces the greatest challenge in the region in terms of sheer numbers of people living with HIV, the report covering India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, stated.
With approximately 40 per cent of Asia’s population, India has the largest number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the region, or approximately 2.5 million. The country has a high rate of human trafficking, both internal and international. The Indian situation is complex: India is simultaneously a source, transit and destination country for women, men, and children, trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labour exploitation.
The United Nations report also said, that girls and women from West Bengal and Assam are being increasingly trafficked to Punjab and Haryana, where they are sexually exploited until they bear a male child.
“(There is an) emerging pattern of trafficking in girls from West Bengal and Assam to the more prosperous states of Punjab and Haryana, where the gender gap is most acute…The woman is either abandoned or passed onto another man after the birth of the male child,” the study said.
The source of the demand, driving trafficking in young women, arises from the prevailing gender inequalities in densely populated countries like India, namely the perception that a girl child is an “economic liability”, it said.
The report also noted that the extremist outfits in the country have ‘reportedly’ begun recruiting boys aged between eight and 15 years, to provide food and deliver ransom notes without arousing the suspicion of police.
“The People’s War Group (now CPI-Maoist) founded these organisations in an attempt to train children to resist police interrogation more effectively,” it said. It also added, tribal girls are reportedly used as couriers in areas of Adilabad and Dandakaranya.
“Unequal gender relations leave girls and women with little choice or decision-making power regarding education, occupation and marriage. It also means that they have no power to negotiate safer sex practices, which increases their risk of HIV infection,” the study said.
India and Pakistan are the main destinations for children under 16 years, who are trafficked in the region, it said, adding that a large number of women from Bangladesh are forced to enter the sex industry in India, particularly in Mumbai and Kolkata. Women from Nepal are also trafficked to India for sex work, it said.
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