Abstract: This article summarizes human trafficking, a severe human rights violation that occurs worldwide focusing on India. Recruitment, transportation, and exploitation of people for financial gain through coercion, fraud, or deception constitute human trafficking. Sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage, child trafficking, and organ harvesting are some of the types of trafficking that are covered. The article emphasizes the difficulties of stopping trafficking despite current regulations and government initiatives. It emphasizes the significance of increasing awareness, bolstering legal protections, aiding victims, and tackling underlying issues including poverty and gender inequality. Effective prevention, prosecution of traffickers, and victim protection depend on cooperation among numerous stakeholders. The article’s conclusion emphasizes the importance of ongoing initiatives to end human trafficking and build a society where everyone, especially children, can live without exploitation and exercise their fundamental rights.

Keywords: Human Trafficking, Exploitation, Forced Labor, Sexual Exploitation, Child Trafficking, India

Introduction: Let us first understand what trafficking refers to.


According to the UN, “Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, which occurs in every region of the world. The traffickers often use violence or fraudulent employment agencies and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.”[1]

The issue of human trafficking has been in society for a very long time. A national plague weakens mental and physical well-being while causing suffering. The concepts of growth and growth are alien to their way of life. They experience extreme discrimination and cruel treatment. It is a crucial social justice and human rights issue in the contemporary world. According to a recent assessment by the US government, human trafficking may affect up to 27 million individuals globally. It is essential to safeguard children’s fundamental human rights, provide them with an environment that supports ongoing development, and protect them from the horrors of the world.

There are currently several laws and government programs to better these people’s lives, but there are also many obstacles. It is vital to increase awareness of a situation like this to offer all the victims of human trafficking in the country status and to support their growth and development. The study looks at the multiple difficulties experienced by trafficking victims in India, many of whom encounter intimidation, shame, difficulty in prosecution, and a sizable chance of being victimized once more in their own country.

Research Methodology: The researcher has utilized a doctrinal approach and relied on secondary sources for conducting their research. The research was primarily conducted by gathering information from various secondary sources, including online websites, research papers, educational books, case laws, and articles.

Review Of Literature

Humans are traded for various reasons. These reasons may include:

  • Sexual exploitation: It is the act of using someone’s sexuality or sexual services against that person’s will or without that person’s knowledge and consent in order to benefit personally or financially. Pornography, sex trafficking, or forced prostitution are just a few examples of the many forms it can take.
  • Bonded labor: It is forced employment in which an individual must work to repay a debt. It is sometimes referred to as debt bondage or debt slavery. The person is frequently compelled to labor in exploitative conditions for little to no compensation while subjected to physical and mental abuse. They are also commonly caught in a cycle of debt.
  • Domestic servitude: Refers to circumstances in which people are coerced or forced to labor in private families, performing various domestic activities, without compensation, freedom, or the option to escape. They might experience control, exploitation, and abuse from their employers.
  • Begging: Asking someone for money, food, or other necessities to survive. Begging can relate to circumstances when people, especially children, are persuaded or forced to beg by others who profit from their begging actions regarding exploitation.
  • Drug peddling/smuggling: The illegal trading, transportation, or distribution of controlled substances, such as narcotics or illicit drugs, is referred to as drug peddling or smuggling. It involves people or organized criminal groups creating, moving, or selling drugs for money.
  • Forced marriage: In a forced marriage, a person is frequently forced to marry a partner against their choice and without their consent. Instead of being motivated by an individual’s free will, it is commonly influenced by cultural or customary practices, family pressure, or economic reasons.
  • Forced crime: When people, frequently weak or marginalized, are pressured or forced to engage in criminal activity against their will. This is called forced crime. This can involve deeds like theft, robbery, drug trafficking, or human trafficking to take advantage of their vulnerabilities for another person’s gain.
  • Child soldiers: Children who are enlisted or forced into fighting in armed situations are often younger than 18. Armed groups may employ them as fighters, spies, messengers, or other auxiliary capacities. The rights to an education, a healthy life, and a typical childhood are denied to child soldiers, who also face severe bodily and psychological risks.
  • Organ harvesting: Refers to the unlawful or unethical practice of taking organs from people, often without their knowledge or consent, for transplantation or financial gain. This severe human rights violation may involve the forced removal of organs from people still alive or who have passed away.

Analysis of Trafficking of Women and Children in India

It is vital to relate numerous theories that can and have been utilized to comprehend the Indian trafficking industry and the complex condition of trafficking of women and children as vulnerable groups in India. Theorists have argued the issue of women and children being trafficked for the CSE, and a thorough investigation has been done to determine the causes of the widespread trafficking of women and children. Human rights advocates and feminist Theorists have found that trafficking is a hotly contested topic. The contemporary Indian Context, which deals with opposing viewpoints, the nature of politics, the effects of inequality, the causes of sexual difference in Indian society, and the potential for social and economic change in women and children, can be used to describe the deep-rooted theoretical framework.

The Indian government is making significant efforts to eradicate trafficking, yet it falls short of the bare requirements. India remained in Tier 2 due to the government’s overall increased efforts compared to the last reporting period, taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on its capacity to combat trafficking. These efforts included finding additional victims of trafficking, mainly those who were bonded or forced to work. Existing Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) received financing from states like Maharashtra and Odisha, while Andhra Pradesh issued directives to create more AHTUs. On trafficking investigations, Indian law enforcement worked with foreign government representatives from Bangladesh, the Gulf states, and Nigeria.

Due to the hazards of trafficking brought on by the pandemic, the federal government helped state governments fight trafficking by offering support and advice. States like Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu also offered online training sessions on human trafficking for officials. The government, however, fell short in several crucial areas. Law enforcement looked into additional bound labor-related offenses, although measures to combat bonded labor trafficking remained insufficient. Of India’s 36 states and union territories, twenty-two did not disclose identifying any victims of bonded labor or bringing a claim under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. The government carried out fewer investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. Eighty-nine percent of traffickers continue to be exonerated from charges.

The government maintained overall victim identification and protection efforts. In 2020, the government identified 6,622 trafficking victims and 694 potential trafficking victims, compared with 5,145 trafficking victims and 2,505 potential victims in 2019. In 2020, authorities identified 5,156 victims in labor trafficking, including 2,837 in bonded labor and 1,466 in sex trafficking; authorities did not report the type of trafficking for the 694 potential victims. Nearly 99 percent of trafficking victims identified were Indian; approximately 53 percent were adults, 47 percent were children, 59 percent were female, and 41 percent were male. Despite some estimates of eight million Indians in bonded labor, the Ministry of Labor and Employment’s annual report stated that the government had identified and released 313,962 since 1976. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh states accounted for the majority of bonded labor victims identified in 2020, with 1,291, 289, and 1,026 victims identified, respectively, overall accounting for 92 percent of the country’s total identification of bonded labor victims.[2]

According to the 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, there is an increase of 10.9%  in human trafficking reported incidence (3,940 cases in 2013 compared to 3,554 cases in 2012). There is a trend of increasing reported cases of human trafficking. From 2,848 cases relating to human trafficking reported in 2009, it rose to 3,422 cases in 2010. It rose to 3,517 cases in 2011, 3,554 cases in 2012, and 3,940 cases in 2013 (Table 1).

Table 1: Incidence of human trafficking during the 2009-2013

YearNumber of reported cases

Source, NCRB, 2013[3]

Human trafficking crimes surged 38.3% more in 2013 than in 2009. Just the reported cases are being discussed, not the unreported ones. Most cases of human trafficking never make it into the public eye because of its highly covert method of operation.

Human trafficking affects men as well as women and children. Numerous people are trafficked in India for various forms of slavery and the sex trade.

Various forms of child sexual exploitation

In particular, sexual abuse by an adult and payment in cash or kind to a kid or third party(s) are examples of illegal practices that denigrate, degrade, and harm children’s physical and psychological integrity. This is referred to as the sexual exploitation of children.

The following categories of commercial sexual exploitation of children exist in addition to crimes against women:

  • Child prostitution: When children participate in sexual acts in exchange for cash, products, or other types of payment, this is called child prostitution. It involves the sexual exploitation of minors for profit and constitutes a severe violation of their rights and welfare.
  • Child pornography generally: Any material that features children and is sexually explicit is often referred to as child pornography. It comprises visual representations of minors engaging in overtly sexual activities, such as pictures, videos, or digital media. Due to the exploitation and harm that child pornography brings to children, it is unlawful to produce, distribute, possess, or consume it in most nations.
  • Child trafficking for sexual exploitation: Child pornography is a general term for any sexually explicit media that includes minors. It consists of visible depictions of minors engaged in openly sexual behavior in images, films, or other digital media. Child pornography exploits and harms children. Hence most countries forbid its production, distribution, possession, or consumption.
  • Incestuous sexual exploitation: Incestuous sexual exploitation occurs when a family member, usually a close relative, sexually abuses or exploits a youngster. It is a severe kind of child abuse and a breach of trust and refers to any form of non-consensual sexual activity or exploitation within the family unit.
  • Child sex tourism: Child sex tourism is traveling to another nation or area to have sex with children. It entails the exploitation of minors in the country of destination, frequently in regions with lax legal enforcement and protective measures, and those involved in such operations are frequently nationals of nations with superior economic standards.
  • Child marriages: Child marriages are unions or marriages between individuals under the age of 18 or both under the age of 18. It involves a child’s legal or customary union, frequently without the child’s free and informed permission, and can have severe repercussions for the child’s physical and emotional health, development academically, and overall.

Legal Framework

  1. Constitution of India
    A. Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law

(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purpose, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them[4]

B. Article 24:  Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment Provided that nothing in this sub clause shall authorise the detention of any person beyond the maximum period prescribed by any law made by Parliament under sub clause (b) of clause ( 7 ); or such person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by Parliament under sub clauses (a) and (b) of clause ( 7 )[5]

C. Article 39: Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing

(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood;

(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;

(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;

(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;

(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;

(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment[6]

D. Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law[7]

E. Article 15(e):  Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public

(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children

(4) Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes[8]

  1. Indian Penal Code
    There are around 25 provisions for trafficking, but some of the significant ones are

A. 363 A (Kidnapping or Maiming a minor for the purpose of begging);

B. 366 A (procuring a minor girl for sexual exploitation);

C. 366 B (importation of a girl from a foreign country for sexual exploitation);

D. Section 3 and 18 of the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956 had provisions for punishment for taking and procuring of persons for the sake of prostitution;

E. 370 (buying or selling of any person as a slave).[9]

F. Section 370 of IPC,1860

The terrible gang rape occurrence in Delhi led to the formation of the Justice Verma Committee. With introduction of the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013, significant amendments to section 370 of the IPC and the newly inserted section 370 A were made concerning trafficking. The amending Act completely reframed Section 370 of the IPC. The recently modified Act now includes the idea of the human trafficking 2013 amendment. According to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (Act 13 of 2013), the entire section has been changed to broaden the definition of the crime and include not only the harm caused by slavery but also other forms of trafficking, such as forced or bonded labor, prostitution, and organ harvesting. Anyone who imports, exports, removes, buys, sells, or disposes of any person as a slave, or accepts, receives, or detains any person as a slave against his will, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. This was addressed in the previous Section 370. Before section 8 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 (effective as of 3.2.2013), this section’s status was as it was.

According to the new Section 370 “Now the section 370 provides that (1) whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbors, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or persons, by (i) using threats, or (ii) using force, or any other form of coercion, or (iii) by abduction, or (iv) by practicing fraud, or deception, or by abuse of power, or (vi) by inducement, including the giving or receiving of payments or benefits, in order to achieve the consent of any person having control over the person recruited, transported, harbored, transferred or received, commits the offense of trafficking[10]

The explanation goes on to say that slavery, servitude, forced employment, forced services, or the forced removal of organs are all examples of slavery or practices that are similar to them. The portion that serves as an explanation makes it even more apparent that the victim’s agreement is irrelevant when determining whether or not trafficking has occurred.

Punishment: Sections 370(2), 370(3), 370(4), 370(5), 370(6), and 370(7) of the IPC outline the penalties for violating the section’s provisions. These penalties include those for trafficking’s aggravated forms and all other components of the crime.

  1.  Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956
    The main legislation prohibiting the sexual exploitation of women and girls is the Immoral Traffic (prohibition) Act, passed in 1956. The sole state statute that defines “trafficking” is the Goa Children’s Act, 2003. The ITPA does not define trafficking, despite being the primary piece of legislation about the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
    The offenses listed are
    a. maintaining a brothel or enabling a location to be used as one
    b. surviving off of prostitute profits
    c. attempting, obtaining, or obtaining a person intending to procreate
    d. Keeping somebody in a location for prostitution
    e. The presence of prostitution near public spaces
    f. Sex assault on a detained individual
  1.  Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986[11]
    The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 strives to end all forms of child maltreatment in the workplace. It forbids the employment of minors under 14 in any type of hazardous activity. The Act forbids the use of children in specific processes and jobs.
  1.  Information Technology Act, 2000[12]
    The act makes transmitting indecent or lewd content illegal over the internet. This legislation also addresses the issue of pornography.
    The publication or electronic transfer of material involving sexually explicit acts is punishable under Section 67A.
    Section 68B penalizes the electronic publication or transmission of content that shows youngsters engaging in sexually explicit behavior.
  1. The Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2000[13]
    The Act of 2000 was a genuine attempt by the Indian government to instill the tenets of UN conventions like the CRC, the Beijing Rules, and the 1990 Rules. The JJ Act, 2000 was passed, according to the Supreme Court of India, to address misdeeds committed by minors in a way that differs from the law that applies to adults. The Act’s structure favors rehabilitation over the adversarial style that courts typically use. Its execution, therefore, required a radical shift in the thinking of those in positions of power to enforce it, without which it would be nearly difficult to accomplish its goals. The law applies to kids who are weak and hence more likely to become a target of trafficking. It safeguards children who require care and protection.
  1. There are various other acts and provisions passed by the government of India.

Prostitution in India

77% of Indians are literate overall. Even though many people lack literacy, they struggle to accept many aspects of society. This is true of sex jobs or prostitution. One of the oldest occupations in the world is prostitution. It is a $1 billion market. In India, discussing prostitution openly is frowned upon and is often regarded as taboo. Prostitution cannot be outlawed since it has been a widespread practice for too long and is old. There are a large number of Indian women that use sex work as a source of income on the streets. People choose this occupation mainly because they lack the necessary skills and literacy to find employment. Although no explicit law in India declares prostitution to be allowed, trafficking is prohibited.

India has practiced prostitution ever since the beginning of time. The Mughals were the first to deploy women as ministers and kings, which is when it all began. They were viewed as nothing more than sexual objects even throughout the British era of power in India. A group of women were employed for this purpose, and later, their heirs were also made to perform sex acts. Due to their poverty and lack of other options to acquire money, women continued to engage in prostitution, which led to their use. Devadasis, also known as women under the head, were women left at temples to be consecrated to gods and used for sex. Later, as men began to sell their women and children for sex or money, trafficking developed. There was even a time when there were a lot of brothels with male or female owners and heads, as well as a group of females willing to tempt men into having sex. The use of contraception and sexual health were not well known then. Without condoms and other forms of contraception, women were forced to perform sex acts, which resulted in unintended pregnancies. This event sparked the trafficking of women, girls, and even young children as young as 6 years old into the sex industry and forced sexual practices. As a result, India developed many red-light districts, particularly in the north.

In Conclusion, recruitment, transportation, and exploitation of people for profit via coercion, fraud, or deception constitute human trafficking, a severe violation of human rights. People from all backgrounds are affected, and it happens everywhere. Sexual exploitation, forced marriage, child soldiers, drug dealing, and organ harvesting are examples of trafficking. Despite having laws and programs in place, India confronts difficulties in the fight against trafficking, just like other nations do. It is critical to increase awareness of this problem, reinforce legal protections, assist victims, and address root factors including poverty and gender inequality. Law enforcement, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and international partners must work together. By working together, we can make a world where everyone, especially children, is protected from exploitation and can live with dignity.

Written by: Nehal Sharma

College: MIT World Peace University

[1] Human-Trafficking – United Nation

[2] 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report: India.

[3] 2013 NCRB Crime Report.

[4] Article 23 in The Constitution Of India 1949

[5] Article 24 in The Constitution Of India 1949

[6] Article 39 in The Constitution Of India 1949

[7] Article 21 in The Constitution of India 1949

[8] Article 15 in The Constitution Of India 1949

[9] Human Trafficking Prevention Under Section 370 of IPC, 1860

[10] Section 370 in The Indian Penal Code