I Am Not For Sale!

Although India has robust anti-trafficking and anti-child sexual abuse laws, the lack of proper implementation means it goes on with impunity.

Trigger Warning: This speaks of rape, child sexual abuse, trafficking, and violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” – a quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Her silence is just another form of pain…… a pain of being born a girl child, transforming into a woman who is always taken for granted for everything. Not only the family but also some people with their sick mindset make s it difficult for a girl to live and survive even denying their human rights and dignity.

We often get to read about the trafficking in newspapers and other media. Yes, trafficking; this word does not mean as simple as it sounds. Girl trafficking is a worldwide and grave human rights concern that is characterized by financially viable maltreatment through vigor, swindling, and compulsion.

The global sex trade business is worth 32 billion dollars annually!

Once trafficked, these minor girls are forcefully pushed towards the global sex trade business.

There are roughly 8Lacs populace trafficked across global precincts annually and, out of these, almost 80 percent are women or girls and 50% are under-age. Hence making it as the fastest-increasing form of trade worth $32 billion annually.

Trafficking in India is undoubtedly one of the highest budding areas of well-structured crime, making it the third largest income revenue generator in this category of crime after narcotics and arms illegal business. What makes this organized category of crime business distinctive is that women and girls forced into sex trafficking bring in earnings for their pimps and traffickers over a great number of years, unlike the income or financial benefits from drugs and narcotics that are for single use only once.

According to a report published by the National Crime Record Bureau in 2020, more thousand trafficking cases were reported in India. As per the data availability Maharashtra bags the highest number of trafficking cases in the country with more than 171 cases in 2020; followed by Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan & Assam with 171,140,128,124 cases respectively.

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True Story witnessed by Dr. Niska Sinha MD Psychiatrist, Patna IGIMS

She shares her experience of having come across cases of trafficking. She says “We do see cases of a trafficked girl as a psychiatry practitioner with severe psychiatric problems and most of them are brought by someone distantly known or from shelter homes; as I feel they might be facing agony to reveal everything or share it due to the trauma handled and fear deep down inside.”

“Recently a 19-year-old unmarried female victim was brought to me by her married sister with complaints of panic episodes who had managed to flee away from the custody of traffickers in a metro city. Her story was so gloomy that I just couldn’t help being disturbed myself.” Says Dr. Niska while sharing the story.

She further adds, “She was sold to a center by her friend who had promised to marry her after she ran away with him with dreams of a happy and blissful life with her love. But to her despair he was a cheat. The agony continued in the dismay that the people who sought help from; abused her to bits and pieces.

She hated what she was experiencing, but didn’t know how to escape being trafficked by her boyfriend. Managed to run away from that place after having a death-like experience, she was not even in the mental state to go back to her parents which further led her to the trauma or thought of ending her life as well.  Further, as a medical practitioner, I had to prescribe her medicines along with a few counseling sessions by my psychologist.”

The psychological effect on the victim of being trafficked

Talking about the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of a girl after being rescued from trafficked, Dr. Niska says, “The mental condition frankly speaking would be like someone who got a life after death like experience and unfortunately her existence can never be the same as before. She faces a plethora of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder with flashbacks disturbed nights, arousal, fear, panic episodes, anxiety, restlessness, and depression and to add to the plight she often loses her outlook towards life the way she perceives society, others & even family members friends or for that matter even health or police professionals there as savior she cannot trust or feel free to share her agony.”

“As a psychiatrist, the first-hand treatment we give is to help her ventilate with supportive psychotherapy with subsequent sessions to assist her get her identity & respect back, motivate and empower her; of course with supportive medicines as well. Make her understand that it is not that ‘she’ is guilty of anything and need not fear or feel embarrassed of the wrongdoing of others”, says Dr. Niska.

“These cases need to be dealt with respect; we need to listen to what they have to say and what they want to convey without being judgmental, first take care and help them get back from their psychological emotional as well and even physical trauma, let them heal in a protective environment as these are instances of permanent scar and if at early stage of their life they often cannot understand or express or even learn sexualizing behavior beyond their age, fall prey to severe anxiety depression, STDs or even substance addiction and illegal acts

So I as a psychiatrist just wish that with education assertiveness legal aids shelter we can empower women but that has to be a collective community step with the help of government’, adds Dr. Niska.

Dr. Niska’s stand on it as a woman

As a female and someone powerful and placed well in a secure environment when I come across such cases, it feels that it is of utmost importance for us girls despite so much development and big talks about the basic need for our safety and what to talk if such abuse happens with someone close to us.

Also, there is a need to empower girls by giving them sex education knowledge for legal aid and confidence to seek help without shame even if something goes wrong

These often come under disorders of extreme stress and urgent care and help is required with the help of all to let them get back to life and feel a little better.

Legal aspects of trafficking in India

Although the government of India has diffidently amplified anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, that remained derisory as compared to the range of the issue. Indian penal law criminalizes sex trafficking and other forms of trafficking that exist in the trade.

Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the criminalized trafficking offenses that involve mistreatment like any physical exploitation or any type of sexual abuse, slavery, or practices similar to slavery, and servitude. It involves penalties ranging from seven to 10 years of incarceration and, a fine for offenses relating to an adult victim that is again same for those involving a child victim except for the period of imprisonment to 10 years.

Incongruous to international law, under Section 370 of IPC it is mandatory to showcase the use of force, fraud, or coercion to represent a child sex trafficking misdemeanor and therefore it did not criminalize all forms of adolescent sex trafficking. However, Sections 372 and 373 of the IPC do not need any such means to criminalize the exploitation of any underage child through prostitution, thus addressing this gap helps the victims.

Other than the above-mentioned laws our judiciary has another major act –The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). This act protects any underage child from any kind of sexual assault, harassment, and pornography-related offense with the establishment of Special trial courts for matters related to the crime or offenses and any kind of incidental thereto.

Talking about the efficacy and lackluster of our system, Ms. Ria Yadav, Legal Practitioner at High Court & Supreme Court, says, “Although the existing child trafficking laws are adequate to prosecute persons indulging in these activities, it is the promptness of investigative authorities and statutory bodies that is of the essence.

In Mumbai, for example, more than 30,000 cases are pending before the Child Welfare Committee. The CWC deals with cases of trafficked children as well. If Mumbai has this pendency rate, it’s impossible to imagine what happens in the rest of India.”

Prevention of child trafficking need of the hour

To prevent child trafficking as I quoted Martin Luther King Jr. above we should all raise our voices & support to encourage parents & families to focus on their kids’ edification, and spread awareness among them and communities about the bad effects of child trafficking. We all must join our hands together to form surroundings everywhere every child can have the benefit of a safe childhood.

The above-mentioned things are not enough we need the best possible support from our government as well, and it is a clear fact that there is a steady lack of adequate political will across the country to deal with trafficking which stymied efforts universally.

Lack of answerability for delinquency and bribery existed at various levels of government, contributing to the perception of widespread impunity for trafficking crimes. Shelters run or funded by the government are inadequate in numbers and whatever are available faces serious shortages of space, monetary resources, and a skilled workforce.

Other than that the Non Governmental organizations those were dependent on donor contributions remained helpless and those who received government funds on papers their disbursal many times for numerous years.

We need to ensure the economic security that has led to unemployment due to the pandemic and placed considerable burdens on financially helpless sections of society to meet their daily needs of food and shelter, thus increasing their helplessness to trafficking. This situation therefore led to the re-trafficking of Women and children in some jurisdictions.

Last but not least, I would only like to say that it is a curse to us that not only leaves emotional and physical scars but also from post-traumatic stress disorder, apprehension, dejection, anxiety, nightmares, wakefulness, flashbacks, a tendency to startle easily majorly known as Stockholm syndrome, to struggles with core violence, the survivors face an array of issues that they live with and that calls for appropriate therapeutic and psychosomatic care.

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