Human trafficking and slavery, particularly when children are the victims, not only deny fundamental human rights but also testify to an utter failure of our religions, cultures and civilisations.
Traditionally, the children, women and men are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sex, sex slavery, forced and bonded labour through a nexus of pimps, labour-recruiting agents, middlemen, contractors and employers, massage and beauty parlour owners, circus masters, doctors and other medical professionals engaged in the organ trade or brothel keepers with the consent or connivance of local or border police. A few new trends are fast emerging in different countries, including India.
Over the last year or two, I have had shocking experiences in Delhi. Some Muslim clerics and community leaders in the old city resisted me and activists of the Save the Childhood Movement (BBA) when we were trying to rescue trafficked and bonded children from garment and shoe-making workshops. Some of the workshops were hidden away in supposed madrasas (Islamic schools). We found children wearing small round caps hurriedly being asked to sit and pose as "Islamic pupils".
Illegally-run, private employment placement companies or agencies in big cities and towns have been multiplying rapidly.
In Delhi alone about 2,000 such outfits are active. They are not accountable to any authority. BBA has liberated more than 80,000 children from child labour, bonded labour and trafficking. The vast majority belonged to dalit, adivasi, Muslim or backward castes and communities. Besides caste discrimination, gender also plays an important role. The lower status of females in a patriarchal society has often led to a surge in prostitution, child marriages and the denial of equal opportunities and education for young girls and their servitude.
Lack of financial resources means the sustainable rehabilitation of victims and survivors is extremely difficult.
Ignorance and poor education is rife among victims and their families.
Most of the parents of victims of child trafficking for forced labour are either illiterate or poorly educated. This situation aids the traffickers as they can deceive such people and lure them or their children away. Urgent, proactive, collective action and mobilisation is needed to combat child trafficking.
Kailash Satyarthi is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement)
Born in 1954 in the historical town of Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh in Central India, Kailash is synonymous with the crusade against child slavery. In 1980, when he gave up a promising career as an electrical engineer to campaign against servitude in India, child slavery was a non-issue. As a crusader, Satyarthi has had the unprecedented opportunity to sit and motivate the indigenous people, tribes and the poor in remote villages of Africa, Latin America and Asia, as well as address the UN General Assembly, International Labour Conferences, UNESCO's High Level Group on Education and Parliamentary hearings in many countries. He has been regularly invited to address some of the biggest international congregations of workers, teachers, and students as a keynote speaker. As a grassroots activist, he has led the rescue of over 67,000 child slaves and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation. As a worldwide campaigner, he has been the architect of the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children, the 'Global March against Child Labour', active in over 140 countries.