Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Human Trafficking in South Asia

Definition of Human Trafficking

The trafficking of human beings is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation.

History of Trafficking

o Associated with the illegal trade of goods across borders, namely contraband and particularly drugs.

o However, over the past ten years this trade has taken a giant leap forward to include the trafficking of human beings, mainly women and children.

o Often tricked into believing they will be given legitimate work, these people soon find themselves caught in a web of exploitation and deceit, ending up in the sex trade.

o Every year 1 to 2 million women, men and children are trafficked worldwide; around 225,000 of them are from South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, and Bhutan).

o In some parts of one South Asian country richer families buy girls from poor families of lower social castes and give them to local temples as so-called “presents to god”.

o A recent study of the International Labor Organization estimates that whereas 43% of all victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, another 32% are victims of economic exploitation, the rest being undetermined.

o It is estimated that more than two million people worldwide are being trafficked each year, the majority of whom are women and children.

o United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that in the past thirty years trafficking of women and children in Asia for sexual exploitation has victimized over 30 million people.

o Victims usually come from poor families, lured into promises of a better life for themselves and their families.

o They might be offered a job or an education, while others are kidnapped and sold by friends and family members for profit. It is a ruthless business where money overpowers basic human rights.

o Traffickers often use local people in a community or village to find young women and children, and target families who are poor and vulnerable.

o In some situations, family members sell children to middlemen or traffickers. The parents are deceived into believing their children will get a good job or an education, and out of respect for their parents they will do as they are told.

o Most of the time they end up in a brothel or other business where they are forced to have sex with clientele.

Situation in South Asia

o In South Asia, women are now reported to constitute up to 35% of new HIV infections (UNAIDS, 2000).

o A complex web of socio-cultural and macro-economic factors affect women’s vulnerability to HIV, including poverty, migration, urbanization, gender inequalities compounded by women’s lack of autonomy (independence), abuse within and outside families, insufficient access to health care services, violence and ethnicity.

Main Causes of Trafficking

o Lack of employment opportunities

o Organized crime and presence of organized criminal gangs

o Economic disparities

o Social discrimination

o Corruption in government

o Political instability

o Insufficient penalties against traffickers

Trafficking in South Asian Countries

o Pakistan

o Afghanistan

o Bangladesh

o Nepal

o Korea

o Sri Lanka

o Thailand

o Vietnam

o Taiwan

o India

o Malaysia


o Pakistan in all its dimensions, starting with the process of initial contact for recruitment to the destination point.

o The trafficking of children for camel jockey work, sex work and dancing.

o Poverty is a leading cause of trafficking and that child trafficking has to be seen within the larger context of globalization.


o Afghanistan is both a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labor.

o Children are trafficked to Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for begging, labor, and prostitution, often with the consent of their parents who are told they will have better educational and job opportunities abroad.

o Over 200 Afghan children were repatriated from Saudi Arabia in early 2004.

o Boys are trafficked internally mainly for labor and sexual exploitation. Iranian women transit Afghanistan to Pakistan where they are forced into prostitution.

o Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) has participated in regional anti-trafficking conferences, ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and begun legal reforms.


o In Bangladesh women and children are falling victim to trafficking mainly for the purpose of prostitution, sexual abuse, forced labor, camel jockeying, cheap labor, bonded labor, domestic servitude, selling of organs and marriage.

o Human rights groups in Bangladesh estimate that 10-20,000 women and girls are trafficked annually to India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

o In case of women and girls, the destination is usually the sex-market both within the country and outside.

o In the case of boys, the destination is usually Middle Eastern countries where they are engaged as camel jockeys.

o In most cases the girls, who are trafficked abroad, are trafficked to India.

o In case of the boys, India is usually treated as a country of transit to the Middle East.

o Within the country, an alarming number of boys and girls are forcefully engaged in prostitution.

o The girls are engaged both in brothels and the street sex-market, while the boys are almost exclusively engaged in the street sex market.

o HIV prevalence among the general population, but have significantly higher rates among high-risk groups, such as injecting drug users and those engaged in the selling and buying of sex.


o There are an estimated 5,000 women trafficked to India yearly. After India with 100,000 women, Hong Kong is the second biggest market.

o Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands sometimes sell their wives to brothels.

o There are about 100,000 Nepali girls working in Indian brothels and an estimated 5000-7000 Nepali girls trafficked annually to India.

o Nepal runs the risk of an increased epidemic due to an active sex trade and high rates of girl trafficking to India for sex work.


o There are 18,000 registered and 9,000 unregistered prostitutes.

o Forms of prostitution include escort and call girls, street prostitution, and from cafes, clubs, cabarets, show cases, massage parlors and beauty shops.


o There are an estimated 142,000 women in prostitution in Malaysia, with 8,000-10,000 in Kuala Lumpur.

o Main channels of sexual exploitation: recreation businesses, i.e. entertainment, fitness clubs and the like.

o Almost every town has a red-light district.


o Estimates on the number of women in prostitution range from 300,000 to 2.8 million, of which a third are minors.

o Thai women are also in prostitution in many countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and the US.

o 4.6 million Thai men regularly, and 500,000 foreign tourists annually, use prostituted women.


o Most trafficking is to China and to Cambodia, including children.

o Trafficking happens through kidnapping, especially for brothels, deceptive job offers or tourist trips, match-making with foreigners who often sell and resell the women abroad.

o Prostitution is becoming a feature of the burgeoning tourism industry: hotels and tourist companies provide women to clients. Also, business deals are closed with presents of women.


o Forty percent of young prostitutes in the main red-light district are aboriginals girls.

o Girls under 13 have been made to undergo hormone injections by brothels owners to hasten their physical development.


o The majority of trafficking in India, both trans-border and in-country, happens for the purpose of sex work, and over 60% of those trafficked into sex work are adolescent girls in the age group of 12-16 years (UNDP, 2005).

o In many Indian cities, girl children as young as eight or nine are sold at auctions.

o There are an estimated 2,000,000 prostitutes in India and 60% of these women in prostitution in Mumbai are HIV positive.

o One common myth fuelling the demand for young girls in South Asia is that sex with a virgin can cure sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.

o There are an estimated 2.3 million women in prostitution, of which a quarter are minors.

o Over 1,000 red-light districts all over India, where cage prostitutes are mostly minors often from Nepal and Bangladesh.

o Forms of trafficking: economic incentives offered to parents to part with the children, fake job or marriage promises, and abductions.

Sri Lanka

o Sri Lanka is renowned as a pedophile’s (person with an abnormal sexual attraction to young children) paradise and their numbers increase every year.

o Tourist resorts of the country are well-known in the western world as easy and cheap sources of young boys, and one can find names and addresses of agents and children in publications, particularly in some gay magazines.


United States Federal Government States:

“The trafficking industry is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world.”

United States Foreign Minister - Madeleine Albright Says:

“This is a growing global problem that each year robs millions - mostly women and children - of their rights, their loved ones, and often of their very lives.”