With the crashed economy and pandemic raging in the country, every business is striving to survive. A large number of youths are losing a job, businesses are dying and companies are incurring huge loses.
This may lead to a massive increase in sex trafficking and human trafficking in every hotspot regions.
Which are the regions that can be most affected?
Villages around the red light areas all across the country care huge source or children and girls for trafficking.
Areas, where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment, are most susceptible to trickeries that the sex traffickers use to lure young individuals.
“The reasons are manifold like debt trap, closing down of factories, restaurants and retail shops, probable rise in demand of young girls and women in red light areas,” said Roopa Sen, anti-trafficking researcher and gender rights activist.
The current situation has adversely affected the already dire condition of women and girls in these areas.
What happens to the survivors?
Due to physical and mental harassment for a long period of time, often young girls suffered from severe conditions of PTSD. Suicidal tendencies are also common among rescued victims.
A 13-year-old girl who was trafficked 8 years ago by a local shopkeeper who took her to Delhi with promises of domestic work was rescued by a local NGO in Delhi. But even after return to the home, she is haunted by nightmares and abuses that she underdo for 8 years.
Similarly, a girl 21-year-old girl who was rescued from red-light area Sonagachi, in West Bengal does not even remember her parents considering she was trafficked at such a young age.
How has the pandemic situation worsened the condition and enabled sex trafficking further?
In many remote areas and villages, due to adverse conditions in the economy and unemployment due to lockdown in most parts of the country, many families are forced to take loans.
The heavy financial burdens are often tackled by the employment of every member of the family. Due to lack of work and safety measures followed by most employers, these families are on the verge of complete bankruptcy. In such a situation it’s easier for the human and sex traffickers to manipulate and lure young victims with promises of well-paying jobs.
Not just that, the current condition has forced the police and authorities to completely shift their focus to COVID-19 crisis which has slacked the attention on crimes like human trafficking.
“Even when parents reported the cases to local police stations, the officers pleaded helplessness, since all their energies were focused on COVID prevention,” said Sambhu Nanda, an activist from West Bengal who works towards human trafficking prevention and is closely associated with an NGO, Partners for Anti Trafficking.
Pompi Bannerjee, another activist for West Bengal specifically talked about the state and that in the recent past, West Bengal also suffered flood and cyclone that diverted the attention of policemen and NGOs towards other causes like helping the poor to rebuild their dilapidated homes and fixing the damage of the large hit areas.
She said, “The pandemic, the lockdown, and in parts of our country devastating natural calamities (floods and cyclones) are now accentuating these vulnerabilities and have brought them out in the open, visible enough that they can no longer be ignored by the law enforcement and politicians.”