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South Asian March Against Child Trafficking

About the March

Human trafficking is said to be the third largest illegal trade after drug trafficking and arms trade. According to the US Dept. of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2005 report, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 percent of them are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The fight against the inhuman practice of trafficking of persons needs no justification. Especially children at their tender age need to play and study are instead victims of a silent organised crime.

According to ILO (2003), of the 8.4 million children engaged in worst forms of child labor, 1.2 million are victims of trafficking. India is also on Tier 2 watch list in the Trafficking in Persons report of the U.S. State Department. Approximately 5000-7000 Nepali girls and an estimated 10,000-20,000 women and children from Bangladesh, are trafficked across the border to India each year, mostly ending up as commercial sex workers. The effects of sexual exploitation on children are profound and may be permanent. Normal sexual, physical and emotional development is stunted. Sexually exploited children are especially vulnerable to the effects of physical and verbal violence, drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. Children within India, Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers into a variety of exploitative situations, and are trafficked to work in rural based industries such as carpet, glass bangles, sporting goods, embroidery, etc.

More specifically, a comprehensive response to protect all the rights of all children, specially the right to be free from economic exploitation as well as right to education and participation, comprise of following dimensions:

Prevention – such as through access to education, creating awareness, community mobilisation.

Protection – through adoption and enforcement of child rights sensitive laws and policies, victim - responsive child sensitive programmes, rescue operations.

Prosecution and conviction of offenders to create a legal deterrent.

Provisions through victim – sensitive care and assistance, facilities to ensure safe return, social recovery and reintegration- including economic-social empowerment.

Participation through community, child participation in activities to protect child rights, involving key actors like govt., employees, employers, etc.

Any time-bound, multi-pronged, pro-active and holistic approach to protect children in most difficult circumstances would also consist of the following 6 stages of intervention:

  • Research (for a thorough understanding of the problem);
  • Recognition (of the problem);
  • Rescue, (through raids or other legal interventions);
  • Rehabilitation (both statutory and institutional);
  • Repatriation (of the children back to their homes);
  • Reintegration (of the former victims into mainstream society);

It is necessary to recognise here that most of the worst forms of child labour are, in fact, victims of trafficking. A child cannot be forced to work for long hours nor can s/he be exploited or beaten up in front of his parents. Thus, child labour complies with all the internationally recognised marches of trafficking – movement of the victim, under a menace of penalty, use of force, fraud or deception and exploitation for economic gain and the victim’s position of vulnerability.

The demand and supply chain of trafficking can be broadly classified into - the source (from where the victim is procured), the route, (transit route of trafficking) and the market, (the final destination of the victim). To tackle the problem at the source, there is need for awareness campaigns to make the gullible parents and children aware of the hazards of trafficking and enhance community stake-holding, at the route there may be awareness campaigns run coupled with some level of intervention like picketing; while at the market, there may be awareness campaigns run to increase consumer consciousness, legal interventions such as a raid to physically rescue children and create a deterrence, public interest litigations, liaison with the government, social institutions, media, etc.

As a precursor to its fight against trafficking, Global March Against Child Labour through its core partners, Bachpan Bachao Andolan - BBA (in India) and its Regional Coordinator South Asia  - CWIN and core partner BASE (in Nepal) plan to organise South Asian March Against Child Trafficking, a physical, from 25 February 2007 for a period of 4 weeks, along the Indo-Nepal-Bangladesh border to build and increase awareness on trafficking to India, Nepal and Bangladesh, especially amongst the most vulnerable sections of the society.

Marches as a strategy for social awakening and awareness

A march or yatra is a massive grass root level awareness and advocacy campaign that generates tremendous orientation in favour of a social cause. From time immemorial marches have been used to propagate faith, social awareness and independence struggles. The case against child labor has got enormous support and help by marches through various marches like the Global March Against Child Labour in 1998, an 80,000 km spanning 103 countries which led to vast public opinion against child labour and the formulation of UN Convention 182 against worst forms of child labour. In Indian subcontinent region also, physical marches have always had tremendous success. 

In 1992, BBA organised its first against child labour in the carpet industry from Nagar Utari to Delhi covering the heart of carpet industry.

The Shiksha March in 2001 covering the length and breadth of the country not only spread awareness that education is the tool to eliminate child labour, but was also instrumental in making primary education a fundamental right to children below 14 years of age.

Marches have thus been tools for - social change in the world, especially for problems affecting the marginalised sections of the society. The March along the Indo-Nepal – Bangla border is also planned for building and spreading awareness against trafficking of children from Bangladesh and Nepal to India, as well as intra-border trafficking.

Action Plan

The March along the Indo Nepal Bangla border would consist of a physical walk by the core marchers (100 in number) joined by local people while passing through the by-lanes of cities, towns, villages and remote countryside. Approximately 200,000 people will be directly affected en route and more than 10,000,000 reached and sensitised through media and other IEC tools. The marchers would carry highly informative placards, posters and banners, raise slogans, perform street theatres and plays. They would organise street meetings and at least one big rally or mass meeting everyday. The marchers would also address press conferences besides media documentation by accompanied and visiting media personnel. The March, spanning 2,500 km and 20-25 days would generate awareness, help parents air their views on the problem most importantly build a network of civil society organisations that would carry on the work forward after the March.

A direct impact of the March would be the prevention of trafficking during the course of the March and the subsequently generated awareness within India and South Asian Region  would help in prevention of trafficking  for forced labour and CSE.

Activities envisaged

  • To conduct the Indo-Nepal-Bangla Anti-Trafficking March for awareness generation in administration, civil society organisations, etc., and also to sensitise the general public and potential victims against trafficking and CSE.
  • To build a coalition and network of civil society partners on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border to help in complementing and reinforcing various efforts to combat trafficking and CSE.
  • To promote people’s participation by the formation of People’s Vigilance Committees for picketing at the borders, along the routes and at destination points.
  • To try to identify the root cause of the problem by visiting the rehabilitation centres for victims of trafficking, assimilation of case studies and meeting the released victims of trafficking and CSE.
  • To try and understand the demand and supply route of trafficking along the Indo-Nepal-Bangla Border.
  • To try and identify the nexus between the traffickers, employers and their political patterns.
  • Sensitising people about the problem through mass awareness campaigns.
  • Making the parents of victims and prospective parents aware about importance of education.
  • Advocacy for policy change to focus efforts on identification of the children most vulnerable to trafficking to be brought under the ongoing efforts on EFA and other social assistance programs.
  • To meet with the topmost political leadership of India, Bangladesh and Nepal and seek assurance that the governments act and respond to the needs of the vulnerable children.
  • Identifying loopholes and their implementation in the existing statutory schemes and continuously providing visibility to these issues.
  • Bringing the issue to the forefront in the media.
  • Developing the project into the shape of a mass movement.
  • Need based documents.
  • Visual Documentation.
  • Audio – visual presentations in the procurement areas to generate awareness.

Expected Outputs

  • A common policy in India, Nepal and Bangladesh on rescue, repatriation and rehabilitation of victims.
  • A common policy in the target countries for prevention of both intra – state and cross – border trafficking.
  • Increased awareness on the trafficking of children and vigilance from public in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • Increased cooperation between the Indian, Bangladeshi and the Nepalese authorities on checking cross border trafficking.
  • Increased knowledge and awareness leading to enhanced participation and vigilance on trafficking by common people, government enforcement and legal fraternity.
  • Over time, partners’ efforts resulting in increased enforcement of anti-trafficking laws.
  • Over time, partners’ efforts resulting in increased prosecution and convictions of the trafficking culprits.
  • People’s groups formed for picketing at the borders, along the routes and at destination points.
  • Over time, partners’ efforts resulting in increased knowledge of various laws pertaining to trafficking in the law enforcement agencies about various national and international laws and conventions.
  • Over time, marked drop in the number of cases involving trafficking in minors.
  • Positive judgments and directives from the State and the Supreme Court of India.
  • Independent monitoring mechanism installed for unorganised sectors like the Indian circus industry.
  • Governments’ conscious efforts in the two countries to ensure identification of vulnerable section of children and making special provisions for them with the ongoing Education For All (EFA) efforts.