Friday, 25 October 2013

Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in India

Interview with Dave Skivington by Press Gang Member, Howard (Part 1)

In a recent interview with David Skivington, author of the novel Scar Tissue, he recalled that inspiration for his book came from the disturbing experience he had while travelling in India at the age of 18. David recalled that while he and a friend were walking down the street in Calcutta they “were approached by a man [who was] basically offering us young girls for sex.” Shocked and upset by the event, David went on to research the extent to which human trafficking was prevalent in India. The results of his findings inspired him to put pen to paper in the form of Scar Tissue.

Although the event that moved David to write Scar Tissue may be upsetting, it should not come as a surprise. A recent study by the Australian-based rights groups Walk Free found that just under half of the 30 million people enslaved in the world are in India. It should be noted that although not all of the men, women and children enslaved are done so for the purpose of sexual exploitation, this does not make their condition any less horrific. Many of these modern day slaves are born into debt bondage and because of this, or due to the persistence of the caste hierarchy, they are forced to work tirelessly in unsafe conditions in mills, factories and kilns from an early age. Many are coerced through means of sexual violence.

It is widely recognised by both the Indian government and international observers that, while it may not be the only form of enslavement, the trafficking of persons in India for sexual exploitation is widespread. The practice is not only limited to Indian nationals but there are also large numbers of Nepali and Bangladeshi women and children trafficked as India increasingly becomes a destination for trafficked persons as well as a source.

The Indian government has a number of measures in place to try and tackle the issue including the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the National Advisory Committee to Combat Trafficking, and nation-wide Anti Human Trafficking Units. Despite these measures, it would seem that the prevention of trafficking is limited and the conviction rate of those responsible is poor. Indeed, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime reports that in 2008, out of the 8512 people against whom prosecution for trafficking in persons commenced, only 1565 were convicted.

The United States’ Department of State ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2013’ observes that although the Indian government is making significant efforts to ensure the problem of human trafficking is recognised and tackled, it still does not comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. While actions such as the establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units are commended for being steps in the right direction, they are at the same time criticised for being inefficient, negligent and, at times, existing on paper only.

These figures, and the overall assessment of human trafficking in India, are deeply disturbing. Facts and figures, however, can only go so far in opening people’s eyes to the grotesque nature of the situation. It is for that reason that books such as David Skivington’s ‘Scar Tissue’ serve such a vital purpose. Despite being fiction, it is often the case that the story told is not too far removed from the truth.

This is a truth that everyone should be aware of.

Review of David Skivington’s Scar Tissue coming soon.

For more information on the issue of human trafficking and global slavery see:

Adam Leake

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