Human trafficking cases are rising in the state. An overwhelming majority involves exploitation of young women and girl child for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Human trafficking does not only mean organised crime, but it is a condition where individuals are trapped in forced labour, sexual exploitation, and inhumane working conditions against their own will. There have been several reports where dubious employers had confiscated vital documents of young people, making them work long hours without payment of salaries; Naga women and girls working in certain job sectors in the cities have been forced into prostitution or sexually exploited. The victims in these cases have been trapped and threatened, and many of them feel stigmatised and fearful to even reach out to the authorities and families.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the Commission had dealt with several cases of sexual violence and exploitation of Naga women and girls. Most of these victims had gone outside the state to eke out a living or had been lured to the cities by nefarious individuals under the pretext of giving jobs. The issue is far more complex, but data show that young women and girls from rural areas and low income families are more vulnerable. Undeniably, search for livelihood and a need to support family have made young people leave the home state, only to be exploited in the cities. But the ignorance of people and lack of education and employment opportunities have certainly compounded the problem.
It may appear incredulous, but there are still some people getting duped by con artists and racketeers posing as African princes and Asian tycoons wanting to do business online. The access to correct information, sensitizing people on cybercrime, and a prudent use of the Mobile Internet will serve a huge purpose. The reach of Mobile Internet even to the remotest of villages has aggravated the problem of human trafficking, since many unscrupulous individuals and organised gangs are luring vulnerable people through the cyber space – promising free education and good paying jobs, etc.
Lack of education raises the risk of human trafficking. Sustained efforts must be made to educate children and equip them with necessary life skills to face any eventualities in life. According to the UNODC Report, the most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation (79%), predominantly of women and girl child. Educating the girl child is the need of the hour, since women empowerment and education go hand in hand. The victims of human trafficking in the state are mostly school or college dropouts. The society needs to address these difficult questions. Here concerns should not only be in skilling young people, but also ensuring that they are working in a safe space and treated with dignity and respect, whether in the home state or elsewhere.
Creating employment opportunities, access to quality education, and improving livelihood patterns will definitely solve a lot of problem; but the world is shrinking and many young people will move out for work and studies, with unforeseen ramifications. We have to face a reality that young people – especially women and girl child – from the north-east states are becoming more vulnerable to human trafficking in the mainland. Sensitizing others in our own neighbourhood and villages is the need of the hour. Every concerned citizens should bear a responsibility in knowing where our friends or relatives are working or studying in the cities.
Efforts must be made to identify unscrupulous individuals who take young people to big towns and cities under the pretext of giving jobs, only to have them exploited. It is much advisable for young people to seek job outside the state through proper agencies, which will need the concerted effort of the state government and other stakeholders to come up with new policies and expand the programmes in providing required skills to the youths, and to ensure their safety in the work places.
It is impossible for the authorities or any organisations to monitor the whereabouts of people working or living outside the home state, but a collective effort of civil societies, student bodies, and church can take us a long way. The least thing young people going to towns and cities in the mainland can do is get in touch (and keep in touch) with Naga students’ organisations (or north-east students’ organisations), churches, or any organisations that will assist them whenever need arises. Even if the towns or cities they are living do not have such organisations, they should make their presence known (parents and relatives must insist) to students organisations or churches in the neighbouring cities.
Social stigma and lack of support for victims remains part of the problem of human trafficking. Addressing this issue needs a collaborative effort of the society. The theme for World Day Against Trafficking in Person 2021 is “Victims Voices Lead the Way”. Reaching out and listening to the victims of human trafficking will help in taking important measures and making policy decisions to curb this scourge of humanity. Let us unite together to prevent human trafficking in the state and beyond.
Issued by Nagaland State Commission for Women ( NSCW), Nagaland.