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Key Takeaways

  • The article provides us with the meaning and causes of the heinous criminal activities like slavery, trafficking and prostitution.
  • The impacts that the survivors of such crimes have upon their minds and body and the challenges they have to face in society.
  • Few statutory provisions and landmark judgements in India along with certain International Treaties deal with these social evils persisting in our society.

Introduction

Slavery is bonded or forced labour that involves the physical exploitation of humans. It also includes child labour, forced marriage, forced begging, debt bondage, etc. People today are the victims of modern slavery, where they cannot refuse or oppose their exploitation due to various threats, deception, and abuse of power against them. Human trafficking is one of the rapidly growing criminal activities of trans-national criminal organisations. It is a deleterious crime that exists in our society and violates its fundamental principles. The concept of trafficking means to trade in something that should not be traded. Hence we have got terms like drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking. Human trafficking today is a modern form of slavery. The use of force, coercion or fraud by a trafficker to compel a person into, an employment situation in which he or she can be criminally exploited is what happens in human trafficking. In trafficking, victims are transported across borders or different States or cities within the same country, or; may not involve transportation at all. Victims, especially women, are most frequently lured by promises of well-paying jobs. Once deprived of the opportunity to return home or communicate with their families, victims are generally held through force or threats in situations of sexual exploitation or forced labour. In India, the trafficking of persons for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages and domestic servitude is considered an organised crime.

Prostitution on the other hand is a practice in which sexual activities are being carried out in exchange for money. People from all over the world perceive prostitution differently. Some consider it morally wrong, some say it should be legally banned as it incites different other heinous crimes like rapes and human trafficking, whereas; some find it a legal and fundamental right of the persons engaged with this business to earn a livelihood through this profession. Different countries have got their laws deciding the legal status of prostitution. In India, it is not explicitly legal but is also not completely prohibited by the statutes.

What leads to Slavery, Human Trafficking and Prostitution?

Prostitution is a sector in which majorly women are engaged and the major reason behind the same is poverty and unemployment. The underprivileged women of remote areas fall prey to the intermediaries who initially promise to offer them decent jobs and later sell them as sex workers. Once pushed into the commercial sex industry, it becomes next to impossible for them to escape due to the coercion, physical and mental abuse, social stigma and also poverty.

Poverty and unemployment are not only responsible for human trafficking but also slavery and prostitution. Additionally, lack of education is also an important factor that leads to the prevalence of these social evils. If children will not get proper education, that will later result in their unemployment. Then unemployment will further cause poverty which will pave the way for their exploitation through slavery, prostitution and trafficking. This cycle will keep on repeating and therefore, educating children becomes extremely important.

Impact of Trafficking on Individuals

Trafficked persons are traumatized by their excruciating experiences. As a result, depression and suicidal thoughts are common among them. The mental state of the survivors includes helplessness, withdrawal and disassociation. They undergo psychiatric, depressive and psychotic disorders. Apart from their traumatising experiences, they are stigmatised and outcasted and face moral and legal isolation from society. Their sufferings, however, do not end here as most of the time they also become vulnerable to HIV /AIDS infections, drug addiction and high-risk abortions. This indicates how badly such inhumane activities destroy the mental, physical and social wellness of an individual.

Some of the Indian Provisions Against Slavery, Prostitution and Trafficking

1. Slavery

  • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976brought an end to the system of individuals working on bonds and set them free. It also provided that the properties of such workers shall be liberated from mortgage, lien, etc. It, therefore, upheld the dignity of the bonded labourers.
  • The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 prohibited the engagement of children in all occupations and the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations.
  • Section 371 IPC provides for punishment to those who carry out trafficking and slavery, and Section 374 for forced labour.
  • Article 23 of the Indian Constitution provides for the prohibition of trafficking and forced labour and Article 24 provides for the protection of children till the age of fourteen from hazardous employment.

2. Prostitution

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (1956) – In May 1950, India signed the United Nations International Convention for the “Suppression of Women in Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation in Others” and as a result, the Act was made applicable to the whole of India.
  • Section 366Aof IPCmakes it punishable to kidnap or abduct a woman with intent to compel her to marry against her will or to seduce or compel her to have illicit intercourse.Section 366B provides punishment for the importation of a girl from a foreign country and Section 370A provides punishment for slavery in India.

3. Human Trafficking

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (1956)
  • Section 372 of IPC says thatselling a person below the age of eighteen for prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person is a punishable offenceand Section 373 provides thathiring, buying or obtaining the possession of a female under the age of eighteen years by a person who manages a brothel is supposed to have obtained such possession for prostitution.Other relevant sections are Section 366A, 366B, 370A of IPC.
  • Article 23(1) Article 23(2) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012is an Act that protects children from sexual offences, sexual harassment and pornography and also provides for the establishment of the special courts for trial of such kinds of offences.

International Treaties

  • Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery came into force in 1957.
  • Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Person, especially Women and Children.
  • Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
  • Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
  • ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No.105).
  • ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138).
  • ILO Worst Form of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No.182).
  • United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC).
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC).

Landmark Judgements

MC MEHTA v. STATE OF TAMIL NADU [1996 6(SCC) 756]

In this case, a Public Interest Litigation was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in which the Hon’ble Court laid down various measures which need to be taken to provide support to child labourers and their families. The Court said that the premises of every offending person employing child labour, need to be sealed and they must be asked to provide a fine of Rs.20, 000 which could be deposited in the Child Labour Rehabilitation cum Welfare Fund and be used for the Rehabilitation of the child victim. The Hon’ble Court also asked to conduct a national-level survey on child labour.

STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH v. BODEM SUNDARA RAO [2011 SCC (5) 1]

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, while dealing with a case of reduction of the sentence from 10 years’ Rigorous Imprisonment to 4 years’ Rigorous Imprisonment by the High Court in the case of rape of a girl aged between 13 and 14 years, observed that since the crimes against women are on the rise, these are an affront to the human dignity. The Hon’ble Court opined that the imposition of a grossly inadequate sentence, against the mandate of the legislature,is not only an injustice to both the victim of a crime and the society as a whole butalso encourages the morale of a criminal. The courts while awarding punishment to the culprits must impose the appropriate punishment to respond to society’s demand for justice against such criminals. It further provided that not only the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of crime and the society at large must be kept in view while considering the imposition of the appropriate punishments. The sentence was then accordingly enhanced to 7 years of Rigorous Imprisonment in the said case.

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS V. UNION OF INDIA [(1982) 3 SCC 235]

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case defined forced labour while discussing the scope of Article 23 of the Indian Constitution. It ruled that the word “force” must be construed to include not only the physical or legal force but also the force that arises from the economic circumstances that leave a person in need with no other choices and hence compels him to provide labour and service even at the least wage.

BUDDHADEV KARMASKAR v. STATE OF WEST BENGAL [2011]

The Hon’ble Court in this case held that prostitutes or sex workers are also human beings and hence, should be treated with dignity and humanity. The Court opined that the women who get indulged in the commercial sex industry do not do it out of their choice or for pleasure, but due to the economic crisis and social causes. Therefore, the Hon’ble Court directed the Central and State Government to provide rehabilitation centres for the sex workers and enrol them in vocational and technical courses so that they can have better employment opportunities.

Conclusion

Human trafficking, slavery and prostitution are worldwide issues that affect millions of people mentally, physically and emotionally. Poverty and unemployment are often used by the traffickers to convince their victims to migrate to another country or another place within the same country for a better chance of living. Today, all these crimes have become the worldwide “Epidemic” and have affected millions of lives. The involvement of the United Nations and the coordination of developed countries is an important tool that can make us win in this war against criminal organizations. While, several agreements have been signed among the nations at the beginning of the 20th century, to try to suppress traffic of women and children,other countries in the Far East have tried to create their preventive measures but failed miserably. Proper steps need to be taken with an assurance of their optimum implementation across the individual nations, to be able to dismantle all organized crime organizations around the globe.


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