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South Asian Countries Set Up Free Helpline to Counter Human Trafficking

U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says South Asia is the second-largest and fastest-growing region for human trafficking

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South Asian countries, Wikimedia Commons
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NEW DELHI—South Asian countries will set up a toll-free helpline and online platform to fight human trafficking, which is growing on a massive scale in one of the world’s poorest and most populous regions.

While some activists are hopeful this will curb cross-border trafficking, others doubt that it will dent the problem.

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A desperate mother who traveled from her village in Nepal to Mumbai, India in search of her teenage daughter who was trafficked into an Indian brothel , Wikimedia Commons

Although there is no specific data on the number of women and children trafficked in the region, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says South Asia is the second-largest and fastest-growing region for human trafficking.

The main victims of trafficking are girls and women.

This week, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh underlined the need for regional solutions while attending a South Asia conference on protecting children.

After the conference, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Nepal pledged to establish initiatives to trace missing children. They also plan to establish a uniform toll-free helpline and develop common standards for addressing sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking.

Turmoil raises risks

Turmoil in several of these countries has led to a surge in trafficking, according to Colin Gonsalves, head of the New Delhi activist group Human Rights Law Network.

“Nepal has had the earthquake, Bangladesh has had political strife. So this area is an area where families are being unsettled and displaced, poverty has increased, and so there are very large volumes of trafficking in this area, and more important there is no check at all,” he said.

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Forced labor in Nepal , Wikimedia Commons

There is high domestic trafficking in India also, where despite the impressive 7 percent-plus economic growth, huge income inequality means that millions of people are still extremely poor. At the same time, a surge in demand in the country’s booming cities results in many children and women working as prostitutes, laborers and poorly paid domestic employees.

Many of the victims are brought from Nepal and Bangladesh into India.

Related Article: Human Trafficking a borderless organized crime Rajnath Singh

‘Dismal situation’

A prominent Indian anti-trafficking activist, Rishi Kant, is optimistic that the South Asian initiative will curb cross-border trafficking.

“If we have [a] support system in other countries like Nepal and Bangladesh — because we have a lot of children from those countries coming to India, especially girl children — if those countries’ law enforcement agencies and the civil society jointly participate in passing information promptly and immediately, I think this will go a long way in rescuing the children,” Kant said.

However, Gonsalves and other activists blame the governments and law enforcement agencies for only paying lip service to a very serious crime, and say trafficking rings continue to function with impunity.

“If you ask overall in South Asia, ‘Has there been any progress toward curbing trafficking?’ [The answer is] only cosmetic stuff, but no systemic attempt to stop trafficking. It’s a very dismal situation,” Gonsalves said.

(Inputs from VOA)

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Feels so bad on hearing this type of shameful news. This is a social evil which needs to be eradicated asap. Why this is happening only in south Asia. South Asian countries should take a deeper look into this matter.

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Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

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#MeToo, women
The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

#MeToo
Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

#MeToo
Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)