DCW rescues teen sold off by her mother Image Credit: Stock photo (For illustrative purpose only)

Her mother took her to a hotel and then sent her off with a stranger, little did 15-year-old Nisha (name changed) from the Indian capital of Delhi realise then, that she was being sold.

As soon as she understood that she was about to become a victim of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, Nisha ran with all her life. On Saturday, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) rescued the girl who was sold-off by her mother to a trafficker for Rs1 lakh (Dh5,171), but luckily managed to escape.

As reported by the Press Trust of India, the incident happened on September 8 when Nisha's mother took her to a hotel in Nizamuddin on the pretext of taking her to her sister's place.

In reality, the mother had made a deal with a man named Abdul. She asked Nisha to accompany a man named Shahid would later take her home. However, Shahid took the girl to his house in Ishwar Colony in Bawana village in Delhi.

There were other girls in Shahid's house and they asked Nisha to wear a wedding dress. When she started asking for details, the other girls told Nisha that her mother had sold her off for money and that she would now be sleeping with customers to recover the amount.

With just Rs10 in her pocket, Nisha managed to escape within a day. She took a shared auto ride and went back to her locality in Bawana JJ Colony and asked her neighbors for help, who then called the DCW Helpline number.

Rescued by authorities

The DCW team immediately rushed to the spot and took the girl to a local police station. While an FIR has been registered under section 370A of the IPC, no arrests have been made so far. The victim was reportedly shifted to a shelter home.

Nisha told the commission about Abdul who has a record of child trafficking and how he had offered her mother an amount of Rs1 lakh if she would agree for her daughter to be married off to a 62-year-old man in Haryana.

The young girl protested. She warned her mother that she would file a complaint against her if she tries to force her into marriage. She told the police that her mother had also sold her one-year-old brother last month to a trafficker to pay off the debt.

DCW Chief Swati Maliwal said, "Trafficking is continuing unabated in Delhi. Police is failing to curb crime and sale of girls. While an FIR has been filed, police are yet to make any arrests in this case. The mother should be arrested along with the traffickers. The role of her stepfather should also be thoroughly investigated. The one-year-old missing boy should also be traced. It's sad that the police did not take any proactive actions. We are issuing a notice to the police to seek the action taken in the matter."

India has a high volume of child trafficking

Even though it is illegal, India has a high volume of child trafficking. There have been many cases where children just disappear overnight according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). While some are kidnapped, others are sold due to poverty.

Poverty, uneven employment, gender discrimination, harmful traditional and cultural practices and lack of proper policy implementation are some of the causes of human trafficking in India.

Recent report by the NCRB show that in 2016, the state of West Bengal reported the most children trafficked (3,113), followed by Rajasthan (2,519), Uttar Pradesh (832), and Gujarat (485).

According to data released in 2017, by India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016.

According to the India Country Assessment Report 2013 on anti-human trafficking, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Odisha are common source areas for trafficking to red-light districts across the country.

Sexual exploitation for prostitution (22 per cent) was the second major purpose of human trafficking in 2016 in India, after forced labour (45 per cent), the NCRB data based on the statement of rescued victims and the accused show.

More than 23,000 victims were rescued in 2016, of those 61 per cent or 14,183 were children and 39 per cent adults. Of the 14,183 children, 61 per cent were boys and 39 per cent girls. Rajasthan reported the highest number of child rescues — 5,626 or 40 per cent of all the victims. Madhya Pradesh (2,653) was the next, followed by West Bengal (2,216), UP (852), and Tamil Nadu (648).

Last year an Anti-trafficking Bill lapsed as it could not be introduced in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Indian parliament) in the last session before the Lok Sabha (lower house) elections.

Offenders enjoy impunity

Reports show that India's human traffickers escaping punishment as data shows few convictions. According to a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation article, less than 1per cent of Indians charged with slavery offences during the past decade were convicted, September research showed.

Out of 429 people charged with involvement in 198 trafficking cases in the states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh from 2008 until 2018, three convictions were made, according to research by anti-slavery advocacy group Tafteesh.

The report states tat poor law enforcement and India’s under-resourced police and judiciary meant few people were punished and few victims received support, according to anti-trafficking campaigners.

“There is no fear of the law,” Snigdha Sen, a researcher at Tafteesh, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Traffickers out on bail have a lot of power and can do anything. They influence witnesses, threaten survivors and often commit the crime again ... Many of them eventually get acquitted.”

Government data showed that 93% of human trafficking cases sent to courts in 2016 were pending trial and the conviction rate in cases where trials had taken place was 54%, according to the Reuters report.

“Even though this is an organized crime, investigations by police are not thorough,” said Ram Mohan, secretary of Andhra Pradesh-based anti-trafficking charity HELP.

Trafficking: A global problem

Almost 80 per cent of all worldwide trafficking is for sexual exploitation, with an estimated 1.2 million children being bought and sold into sexual slavery every year. According to a report published by the US Department of State, India is the source, destination and transit country for human trafficking who then get involved in forced labour and sex trafficking. They are then forced into prostitution, forced marriage, and domestic work.