Saturday September 23, 2023

Human trade

By Editorial Board
January 30, 2023

A recent UN report on the extent of global human trafficking in 2022 makes for grim reading. The report notes that South Asia is the region from which the highest number of women are trafficked out, often to destinations in Western Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. In 2020, the same report had noted trafficking in a larger number of men. The report also finds that children, women and men from less privileged groups are all vulnerable to trafficking, with women being the most vulnerable of all.

In Pakistan, human smuggling – particularly of children – has always been a problem. Smuggling networks are used to send young boys to the Gulf States as camel jockeys. Children are often forced into labour both within Pakistan and abroad. International rights organizations have noted that our laws against trafficking are weak, traffickers are seldom prosecuted and influential people complicit in trafficking are allowed to get away scot-free. One major problem is that the law against sex and labour trafficking requires that it be demonstrated that children being trafficked were subject to force or trafficked against their will. Understandably, many children are terrified of testifying against their traffickers and captors. Clearly we need to beef up our laws; there needs to be zero tolerance for trafficking, no matter how powerful those involved in the crime may be. This is a crime we have ignored for too long.

In 2020, there was a 11 per cent decline from the previous year in trafficking all around the world. The number of convictions for trafficking offences also fell by 27 per cent over the same period. A 56 per cent decrease has been registered in South Asia but we need to bring the figures down so that people are safe and secure in their homes and can carry on their business wherever they go and whatever they do. This is especially important for women who are vulnerable while going out for work or even from within their own homes. The sale of young girls for marriage to men much older than them is a part of the entire practice which undermines the status of women and is intended to gain profits for those who are powerful while punishing those who live in poverty and a state of poor protection for entire families. To fix this situation, there is a dire need to improve the capacity and understanding of human trafficking within the police force as well as those that make policy in the country.