Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The human trafficking trade along the North East Indian border

The border along North East India is largely open and unmanned, so a human trafficking trade exists there without much enforcement against it. Young women are taken across the border to work in brothels for forced sex labor. While boys can be taken to work in coal mines for slave labor. Sex labor victims can be sold for as much as 600 US dollars.

Hasina Kharbhih works for Impulse NGO Network and has done some study into the human trafficking along the border. An summary of an interview with Kharbhih was printed in The Mouring Express. In our snippet, we read an explanation from Kharbhih on why the border is a popular place for taking children.

On the reason the North East remains a hot-spot for human trafficking, Hasina points out that the region shared many international borders, most of which are open and unmanned and these points provided an easy passage in and out of India for organized human trafficking syndicates to operate undetected. She also informed that Nepalese girls have long been in demand, owing to their fair complexion and oriental features. However, greater awareness and networking among Nepalese communities has forced traffickers to turn to alternative sources. Hasina disclosed that the solution has been to target north-eastern girls as there are close physical similarities and the greater socio-political climates are conducive.

Hasina also pointed out that the situation for each of the eight north-eastern states varies. For example, she states that Meghalaya is a major destination due to its coal industry. Estimates suggest that 40,000 children from Nepal and Bangladesh have been trafficked into the coal mines by landowners and exporters for the purpose of slave labor. Furthermore, the highway networks in the north east connect many national and international destinations. In the state of Assam, truckers have used the highway routes to transport drugs and traffic girls. “We have seen truck drivers from all over India deceiving young north eastern children into fake marriages, child labor and sex work”, Hasina says. Another contributing factor is the female sex ratio-decline in northern India.

Resulting from the cultural male child preference, this imbalance has sadly led to many girls being trafficked for marriage.
On the main source, transit and destination points for these victims, Hasina states that from her experience the destinations are usually New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Kolkata and extend as far as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. “There are likely to be many more locations throughout India and across the globe, we just haven’t learned of them yet”, she maintains. According to her, Siliguri is the main transit point as it connects many train lines and bus services. It has long been a convenient way to smuggle women and children across the Indo-Nepali border without detection, Hasina discloses in her interview.

While it was generally accepted that people below the poverty line with limited employment opportunities are the most vulnerable to being targeted by human traffickers, Hasina gave an interesting insight into the recent trend whereby young, educated girls seeking employment outside their local area have also been caught up in trafficking. These girls are generally duped / coerced into the commercial sex trade by ill-intentioned employers, she points out. Women and children are also commonly deceived by offers of fake marriages. There have been cases where non-Indian residents (NRIs) have married women as a cheaper alternative to paying domestic staff. Highly educated girls have been exploited and abused in these marriages.

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