Human trafficking constitutes one of the leading categories of violence in the world today. It is estimated that each year “1 to 2 million people are trafficked worldwide of which 225,000 are believed to be from South Asia. Other estimates show that over the last 30 years trafficking for sexual exploitation has victimized some 30 million Asian women and children.” The United Nations reports that the international trade in humans/trafficking is now the fastest-growing business of organized crime. It has become a $7 billion industry, ranked with the sale of illegal drugs and guns as the most lucrative criminal enterprises.
Human trafficking is the modern day name for slavery. As defined in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: “. . . trafficking in human beings is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of force. It may also involve abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or the giving and receiving of payments for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery-like practices, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Various studies show that “although human trafficking in South Asia is a centuries-old phenomenon current issues such as poverty, war and conflict, globalization, improved communication and transport links have accelerated the speed, magnitude and geographical coverage of human trafficking.” Patriarchy, power imbalances, and domineering systems are the pre-existing conditions that pave the way for human trafficking around the world. This complex phenomenon is fueled by multiple factors including: poverty; lack of substantial livelihood/lack of employment opportunities; structural inequities in society; gender-based discrimination; war/armed conflict; illiteracy and lack of education; present development model; and globalization/consumerism.
A relational pattern can be seen between developing and developed countries as consumption trends become more pronounced in developed countries, a corresponding increase also takes place in developing nations. The increased demand for goods by developed countries has subsequently resulted in an increased demand for cheap labor from developing countries to supply the necessary goods. As developed countries’ demand for goods has increased so has their demand for female labor from developing countries. In order to fill the demand women are often trafficked for domestic labor, arranged marriages, prostitution or forced labor. Consequently developed countries have not only become consumers of goods produced in the developing world but consumers of the “new human cash crop.”
The Naga society riddled with protracted conflict, poverty, patriarchal institutions, pervasive nature of unemployment, degeneration of social values, break down of family systems, domestic violence and weak economy is fertile ground for human trafficking. The recent reported findings of Nedan Foundation, which appeared in The Morung Express, is indicative of the rising predicament of human trafficking in Naga society. The alarming note is that most of the trafficking is being carried out under the cover of employment opportunities for young people.
Nagas can no longer remain indifferent or conveniently go into denial, as if the problem does not exist. It is now time to act. The next time, it could be one of yours!