India on US human trafficking watch list for fifth year

June 5th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 5 (IANS) The US has placed India on its second worst category of human trafficking watch list for the fifth year in a row for allegedly failing to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat the problem. “India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation,” an annual US State Department report released Wednesday said, placing New Delhi on the Tier-2 Watch List.

“The government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so,” said the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report released by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Despite the reported extent of the trafficking crisis in India, government authorities made uneven efforts to prosecute traffickers and protect trafficking victims,” it said, suggesting: “Internal forced labour may constitute India’s largest trafficking problem.”

Rice said the goal of the report covering 170 countries “is to shine a light on recent accomplishments and encourage governments in their resolve to confront those who prey on the weakest and most vulnerable members of society”.

“Together, we are confident that this modern, growing abolitionist movement will continue to rescue, rehabilitate, and restore the lives of those from whom so much has been taken,” she said.

Denying a reporter’s suggestion that India and China had not been moved to the worst Tier 3 as the US was trying to forge economic ties with them, Mark Lagon, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons said: “With respect to India and China, these are both very serious cases.”

“We’re quite blunt in the report. Frankly, we’re quite blunt in our extensive diplomatic dialogue with these countries,” he said noting: “There are some positive developments in each.”

“India has made efforts on the child labour front, rescuing victims. In fact, Indian Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes joined in a raid.” Lagon said. “But India still doesn’t recognise bonded labour as human trafficking. It has weak anti-corruption efforts and prosecutions are too few.”

Asked if in view of this, he felt comfortable that both India and China are still on Tier-2 Watch List, he said: “Indeed, indeed.”

The report said India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Nepali children are also trafficked to India for forced labour in circus shows.

Indian women are trafficked to the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation, the report said. There are also victims of labour trafficking among the thousands of Indians who migrate willingly every year to the Middle East, Europe, and the US for work as domestic servants and low-skilled labourers.

Men and women from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked through India for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation in the Middle East. Indian nationals travel to Nepal and within the country for child sex tourism.

In India itself, men, women, and children are held in debt bondage and face forced labour working in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories, the report said.

While no comprehensive study of forced and bonded labour has been completed, NGOs estimate this problem affects 20 to 65 million Indians, it said. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

Children are subjected to forced labour as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers, and have been used as armed combatants by some terrorist and insurgent groups, it said.

Describing lack of punishment of traffickers as “a critical challenge”, the report recommended an expansion of central and state government law enforcement capacity to conduct intrastate law enforcement activities against trafficking.

India’s efforts to protect victims of trafficking varied from state to state, but remained inadequate in many places during the year, the report said.

Calling India’s efforts aimed at the prevention of trafficking in persons as “inadequate”, the report said: “The government did not report new or significant prevention efforts addressing the prominent domestic problems of trafficking of adults for purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.”

It also did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, the State Department report said. Similarly, the government failed to take any steps to raise awareness of trafficking for nationals travelling to known child sex tourism destinations within the country. India has not ratified the 2000 UN Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Protocol.

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