Human trafficking traps approximately 40 million people across 164 countries where both genders are harboured, treated as human slaves or exploited sexually. In this industry though, it’s the women and children that pay the cost of Sex trafficking in particular, where the once $8 billion business is now worth a booming $150 billion. As you can see, an industry which is just on the up and up where many of the victims are just completely under the radar or just never found…

Despite the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act that prevents commercial sexual exploitation, The Bonded Abolition Act, The Child Labour Act, and the Juvenile Justice Acts in force, India still has a huge problem of violence and trafficking. How can any law fight a toxic patriarchal culture that breeds violence against women and children. In fact, India has been recognised as the most dangerous place for women/children, even more so than Afghanistan, and Syria. (Thomas Reuters Foundation). With reference to human trafficking, Would you believe that India comes out at the top of the list with a figure of 10 million cases with China coming in 2,nd with 3.2 victims.

WHO’S INVOLVED

In some countries, only 0.04% of cases actually come to light and you wonder why. Maybe it’s because people are too scared, maybe it’s because there are just too many people involved or maybe it’s simply because, the people that should be protecting us are the ones at the top of the food chain, from politicians to the ordinary man on the ground. With well known business men and multi millionaires in between, this business really has no hope of being eradicated….

THE PROBLEM

As usual, my curiosity got the better of me and I just couldn’t leave it as I had to find out for my self, how this horrific industry had grown, and is still growing, at a rate that any company would envy. Well on my travels I went and found somebody who had been in law enforcement for 22 years and then branched out to go it on her own thereafter, for the next 16. Quite simply, Investigator Chandra Cleveland has made it her mission to rescue women and children who have been coerced into prostitution.

Talking to her, made me realise how complex and convoluted this whole problem was and how careful one needed to be in order to successfully extract a victim because, not only were you rescuing her from the perpetrator, but also from herself. Stockholm syndrome is a condition where the perpetrator coerces then convinces his victim that he can’t live without her resulting in the fact that the victim would end up going back, after having escaped, or worse didn’t want to leave. Investigator Cleveland informed me that the time from extraction to re wiring the victim’s mind, was a process that took at least 2 years.

THE GROOMER’S STRATEGY

The Perfect catch
After hearing the obstacles that the investigator and her team faced, I wanted to know how the ‘Groomer’ worked, his ‘Modus Operandi.’ So he / they are looking for girls that are quite young for at least two reasons. Firstly, because they are easy to manipulate and convince and secondly because they are most likely to be virgins who sell for a lot more. What was quite shocking to hear from my source, was that in India, the preferred age was around 6 years old and in America, 10 where their vulnerabilities were easily exploited. Being a product of domestic violence, emotional or psychological abuse, and neglect, the victim was easy prey.

The Perpetrator’s technique
They woo them for around 30 days and convince them to not tell anybody about their relationship. This way they can keep it all secret and take the victim away without anyone finding out. By this time the child is so emotionally involved, that she will believe all the perpetrator’s compliments and promises, eventually going with him willingly. Investigator Cleveland says that the secrecy is the biggest red flag you can get which differentiates a genuine relationship from a fake one, so crucial to be aware. Unfortunately, the advent of technology has made the situation worse because now it becomes easy to directly message victims without people being aware, making it even harder for the police to investigate.

WHAT CAN ANYBODY DO?

SOCIETY
First, It’s important for people, could be anybody, to report any signs of odd behaviour, possibly where there is a bit of an age difference, or a reserve about being in public and the officers can assess the rest. It pretty much is our role as society to protect our own and report any thing they see as suspicious.

PARENTS
Investigator Cleveland categorically states that a father plays a crucial role in trying to protect his child. He needs to enforce how special his daughter is so she doesn’t grow up to be overwhelmed or bowled over by a stranger saying the same thing making her vulnerable. Ultimately, she needs to create some self worth so she can see the wood from the trees.

ORGANIZATIONS
Institutions offer help around the clock to assist you if you are in need and the Minister of Home affairs has made shelters for women and children a lot more accessible. The number to call straight away for any help is +91 9582909025 and there is also The National Child line 1098.

STATE
It seems that the pandemic has meant the traffickers have been working on overtime as frustrations increase and the Ministry of Home Affairs, has set up more anti human trafficking units where the Nirbhaya fund released 100 crores for this very cause. He has also encouraged the involvement of village panchayats, leaders and village wards by getting them to monitor people living in villages and their movements. The police departments have also been asked to share information across states real time in any situation that is untoward and will be made responsible.

INTROSPECTION

Why has the business of human trafficking and more specifically, sex trafficking been allowed to bloom so much that its almost unmanageable. Maybe the pandemic has been more ‘positive’ than we thought if it means that our top leaders are now taking notice and actively throwing money in the right direction. But hang on, didn’t we say that the people involved are all at the top? so how much can we really trust the system?….

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