UPSC MAINS 2019: Child Trafficking

Child Trafficking

Topic: Child Trafficking

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 1 : Social Issues


Child Trafficking


According to estimates, every day 3000 children are victims of child trafficking. The profits from human trafficking, particularly that of women and children, reaches up to 10 billion US dollars year according to estimates made by the International Organization for Migration. These victims, reduced to silence and treated like slaves, become objects of an illicit and immoral commerce.


Child trafficking:

A child has been trafficked if he or she has been moved within a country, or across borders, whether by force or not, with the purpose of exploiting the child. The traffic or trade of children is characterized by the recruitment, transport, transfer, and housing of any person by different methods.  It may also involve resorting to force or any other forms of restraint, through kidnapping, deceit, fraud, as well as the abuse of authority. Offering, accepting payments, or benefits for obtaining the consent of the victim (or person having authority over the victim) are also illicit acts that contribute to child trafficking.


  • The International Labor Organization’s estimation of 1.2 million children being trafficked each year.
  • studies done by UNICEF, suggests that boys are much more likely than girls to be trafficked for the purposes of begging
  • 152 million children are trapped in child labor globally. According to the ILO
  • 72 million are in “hazardous work,” which poses immediate danger to a child’s health, safety and moral well-being.
  • 25 million people are living in forced labor and 6.3 million are children.
  • 4% of children in Asia and the Pacific are in child labor, and 19.6% of children in Africa are in child labor.
  • Trafficking in children is on rise, and nearly 60% of the victims of trafficking are below 18 years of age (NCRB, 2005)
  • According to NHRC Report on Trafficking in Women and Children, in India the population of women and children in sex work in India is stated to be between 70,000 and 1 million of these, 30% are 20 years of age. Nearly 15% began sex work when they were below 15 and 25% entered between 15 and 18 years.
  • The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) has even reported cases where children have “disappeared”, with a frequency of one in eight minutes.

Trafficking Facts


Causes for child trafficking:

1) Poverty:

  • Poverty is one of the main causes of child trafficking. Poor families sometimes have no choice but to abandon their children, leaving them in the hands of traffickers. Poverty also causes a large increase in the number of street children and orphans. Vulnerable and fending for themselves, they become the ideal victims for traffickers who don’t hesitate in their promise of better living and working conditions in another country.

2) Humanitarian Crises:

  • Child trafficking is particularly prominent in areas struck by natural disasters. Notably, such was the case after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Traffickers profited from the situation by kidnapping numerous children.
  • It can be observed that child trafficking is more frequent in countries where human rights are being violated.

3) Lack of Education:

  • Illiteracy and the lack of education make families more vulnerable to traffickers.
  • Poor school conditions discourage children from being interested in school. This is worsened by teachers who have no incentive in teaching in villages, due to these conditions and low salaries. With a rote learning-based educational system that doesn’t make children employable
  • Parents see labour a better proposition. This is why there are 8.33 lakh children trapped in child labour in India. This is a ripe environment for traffickers to lure parents with lies about the possibility of better education, domestic work, and a nurturing atmosphere, with just a small sum of money.

4) Economic factors:

  • Forced begging is a profitable practice in which exploiters are motivated by economic incentives.
  • The business structures of major rings of children trafficked for the purpose of begging have been examined as comparable to a medium-size business enterprise.
  • A study conducted in Albania showed that a family with multiple children begging can earn up to fifteen euros a day, an amount greater than the average national teacher salary.
  • Child trafficking is an extremely lucrative. For example, a Serbian woman sold her child, a minor, for 2900 Euros to Croatian traffickers. This trafficking is so profitable that there is an increase in intermediaries, drawn to the easy gain.

5) International Adoption:

  • International adoption is more and more solicited by couples. Traffickers and dishonest adoption agencies don’t have much trouble finding potential clients.
  • According to UNICEF, the number of infants and children from Guatemala sold to couples wishing to adopt in the United States and Europe is between 1000 and 1500 per year. While mothers receive 30 dollars for a child, couples spend between 15,000 and 20,000 dollars to adopt.

6) Girls as objects of desire:

  • Indian society finds sons more ‘valuable’ than their daughters, simply because they carry on the family name, aren’t subjected to dowry and are obliged to take care of them in their old age. Since girls are also seen as weak and only objects of desire.
  • it is clear why most girl victims of child labour end up in prostitution or some kind of sexual slavery. According to a September 2015 report in India Today, girls are “sold openly” in Agra and Patna and auctioned for their virginity.

7) Political instability:

  • Child traffickers generally run few risks because laws are insufficient or often unenforced. Also to be noted is the absence of criminal provisions against child trafficking in the domestic laws of many countries.
  • India has seen a series of political parties coming to power. There has been a general lack of will amongst the political class to pass a strong anti-child trafficking legislation.


Various types of child trafficking:

Children are sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation, begging, soliciting, or for forced marriages. They risk themselves in construction work, working in factories, or are employed as domestic servants. Children are given for a substantial sum of money to parents waiting to adopt.

1) Forced Labour:

  • Bonded labour, domestic work, Agricultural labour, Construction work, Carpet industry, garment industry, fish / shrimp export as well as other sites of work in the formal and informal economy.
  • The objective of child trafficking is often forced child labour.
  • Child labour refers specifically to children under a stipulated minimum age, usually 14 at the lowest, being required to work.
  • Another major global trend concerns the number of child laborers in the 15-17 age group: in the past five years, a 20% increase in the number of these child workers has been reported.

2) Illegal Activities:

  • Like ,Begging, Organ trade, Drug peddling smuggling
  • Forced child begging is a type of begging in which boys and girls under the age of eighteen are forced to beg through psychological and physical coercion.
  • Begging is defined by the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review as “the activity of asking for money as charity on the street.
  • There is evidence to suggest that forced begging is one industry that children are trafficked into
  • Children are also used in drug trades in all regions of the world, specifically, children are often trafficked into exploitation as either drug couriers or dealers, and then ‘paid’ in drugs, such that they become addicted and further entrapped.

3) Sexual Exploitation:

  • Forced prostitution, socially and religiously sanctified forms of prostitutions, Sex tourism, Pornography.
  • The use of girls and boys in sexual activities remunerated in cash or in kind (commonly known as child prostitution) in the streets or indoors, in such places as brothels, discotheques, massage parlours, bars, hotels, restaurants, etc.
  • The trafficking of girls and boys and adolescents for the sex trade
  • Child sex tourism
  • The production, promotion and distribution of pornography involving children
  • The use of children in sex shows (public or private).

4) Adoption:

  • Children may be trafficked for the purposes of adoption, particularly international adoption.
  • Children are sourced from orphanages or kidnapped, or parents may be tricked, cajoled or coerced into relinquishing custody.
  • Disreputable international adoption agencies then arrange international adoptions, charging high fees to prospective adoptive parents.

5) As child soldiers or combatants in armed conflicts:

  • Direct roles in hostilities (combat roles)
  • Supporting roles (such as messengers or spies)
  • For political advantage (such as for propaganda purposes)

6) Entertainment and Sports:

  • Circus, dance troupes, beer bars etc. Camel jockeys.


Legal Framework to Address Trafficking in India:

India has a fairly wide framework of laws enacted by the Parliament as well as some State legislatures, apart from provisions of the Constitution which is the basic law of the country.

1) Article 23 of the Constitution Guarantees right against exploitation: prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour and makes their practice punishable under law.

2) Article 24 of the Constitution: Prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employment.

3) Indian Penal Code, 1860: There are 25 provisions relevant to trafficking significant among them are:

  • Section 366A – procuration of a minor girl (below 18 years of age) from one part of the country to another is punishable.
  • Section 366B – importation of a girl below 21 years of age is punishable.
  • Section 374 – provides punishment for compelling any person to labour against his will.

4) Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (ITPA) 1956:

  • Procuring, including or taking persons for prostitution
  • Detaining a person in premises where prostitution is carried on
  • Prostitution is or visibility of public places
  • Seducing or soliciting for prostitution
  • Living on the earnings of prostitution
  • Seduction of a person in custody; and
  • Keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel

5) Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:

  • It addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be constituted in each district.
  • The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.
  • The CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection.
  • Special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.

6) Child labour (prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016:

  • Extends this ban on employment of children under 14 across all sectors,
  • Prohibits the employment of adolescents aged 14-18 years in hazardous occupations and
  • Introduces more stringent jail term and fines for offenders: a jail term of six months to two years and a fine up to Rs 50,000.

7) The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006:

  • Makes it illegal for girls to marry under 18 years and for boys under 21 years.
  • Child marriage is a punishable offence with a fine up to INR 100,000, or up to two years of imprisonment, or both. It is a non-cognizable and non-bailable offence

8) POCSO Act 2012:

  • It deal with sexual assault, sexual harassment against children while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage of judicial process.
  • It enjoins the National and State Commissions under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights, 2005 to ensure the effective implementation of its provisions.
  • It gives exclusive definition to the crime of sexual offences against children and fulfils the mandatory obligations of India as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child, acceded to on December 11, 1992.

9) Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines:

  • Promote in-country and interstate adoptions.
  • Frame regulations on adoptions.
  • Promote inter-country adoptions as per Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption.


Programms and initiative for preventing child trafficking in India:

1) National Policy of Children 2013:

  • It recognizes a child to be a person below the age of 18 yrs.
  • It recognizes that children are not a homogenous group and require different responses.
  • It aims to give a social safety net to family to help nurture child.
  • It says that every child has universal, inalienable and indivisible human rights.

2) Aarambh Initiative:

  • It is the country’s first-ever hotline to curb sexual abuse of children through the Internet and to remove child pornographic content online unveiled.
  • To eliminate the scourge of online child pornography and further the cause of child protection in online spaces.
  • It is a network of organizations and individuals working on child protection in the country, has collaborated with the U.K.-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

3) National Child Labour Project:

  • It is a project of Ministry of Labour with aim to suitably rehabilitate the children withdrawn from employment thereby reducing the incidence of child labour in areas of known concentration of child labour.
  • To contribute to the withdrawal of all adolescent workers from Hazardous Occupations and their Skilling and integration in appropriate occupations through facilitating vocational training opportunities through existing scheme of skill developments
  • Raising awareness amongst stakeholders and target communities, and orientation of NCLP and other functionaries on the issues of ‘Child Labour’ and ‘employment of adolescent workers in hazardous occupations/processes.

4) 100 Million for 100 Million:

  • The Campaign organized by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation aims to mobilise 100 million youth for 100 million underprivileged children across the world,
  • to end child labour, child slavery, violence against children and promote the right of every child to be safe, free, and educated, over the next 5 years.


International Laws for addressing Child Trafficking:

International laws lay down standards that have been agreed upon by all countries. By ratifying an international law or convention or a covenant, a country agrees to implement the same. To ensure compatibility and implementation, the standards set forth in these international conventions are to be reflected in domestic law. Implementing procedures are to be put in place as needed and the treaties must be properly enforced.

The following are the most important International Conventions regarding trafficking of children:

  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
  • The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, 2000.
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) 1979.
  • The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
  • Declaration on Social and legal principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with special reference to Foster placement and adoption nationally and internationally, 3 December, 1986.
  • SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangement for the Promotion of Child Welfare, 2002.
  • About Hague convention: The Hague Convention seeks “to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for the rights of access.” Ninety-four states are party to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.


Way forward to combat child trafficking:

Prevention of child trafficking requires several types of interventions. Prevention as a strategy to combat trafficking has to focus on areas of sensitization and awareness among the public, especially those vulnerable pockets of trafficking at source areas as well as convergence of a development services to forestall conditions responsible for it.


1) Role of Government:

  • Government at local level and source areas should create compulsory high quality education, employment opportunities and income generation programme.
  • Government should produce relevant IEC materials; promote sensitization programmes for teachers in government schools, parents and community workers.
  • Government should include gender centered education curricula in schools and introduce subjects of child sexual abuse and trafficking
  • The government of different nations must share the information with each other to evolve a programme that will help both the countries in preventing trafficking.

2) Role of NGO’s:

  • The community should be sensitized about trafficking the community members should be motivated to keep a watch in the community for irregular movement of child victims to and from area their possible traffickers and hideouts.
  • NGOs working in the rural areas should ensure that parents are aware of safe migration practices.

3) Role of Media:

  • Media attention reaches several hundred thousand viewers and should therefore serve the following important functions:
  • The media should transmit appropriate message to ensure that the victims learn that they are not alone.
  • Victims can be made aware of places and institutions where they can seek help.
  • Create awareness that human trafficking is inappropriate and illegal and has negative consequences.
  • Wide publicity should be given regarding the legal, penal provisions against trafficking and the modus operandi of the traffickers through radio, television etc.

4) Awareness and Advocacy:

  • Awareness and advocacy is required at the policy level i.e. National Planning Commission, bureaucrats, politicians and the elite of the society. Awareness at the local level, in the community through workshops, songs, drama, poems, meetings, leaflets and posters especially in the rural areas is also required.
  • The role of gender in daily life and training programmes and activities for gender sensitization must be conducted by NGOs. The key to prevent trafficking in children and their exploitation in prostitution is awareness among the children, parents and school teachers.
  • The government must launch media campaigns that promote children’s right and elimination of exploitation and other forms of child labour.
  • Police advocacy is an important intervention that has to be fine-tuned.



Trafficking in human beings, especially children, is a form of modern day slavery and requires a holistic, multi-sectorial approach to address the complex dimension of the problem. It is a problem that violates the rights and dignity of the victims and therefore requires essentially a child rights perspective while working on its eradication.

In the fight against trafficking government organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society, pressure groups, international bodies, all have to play an important role. Law cannot be the only instrument to take care of all problems.


Sample Question:

According to the National Human Rights Commission of India, over 40,000 children are reported missing every year of which over 11,000 remain untraced. Critically examine how should government needs to redefine laws to make them more stringent and ensure severe punishment delivered quickly to address child trafficking.