Author: Akansha Somani
III Year | St. Wilfred College of Law, Jaipur
“The exploitation of childhood constitutes the evil the most hideous, the most unbearable to the human heart…”
Child trafficking is a menace. Here, a child shall mean any person under eighteen years of age. It is a problem all over the world. The Constitution of India and The Indian Penal Code provide punishment against child trafficking. After exploring the meaning of the term “trafficking”, this article then looks into the reasons that cause this issue. It also discusses the domestic legislative provisions tackling with child trafficking.
Meaning of Trafficking:
The term “trafficking of children” means treating them like goods – selling and buying them and creating immoral traffic or for immoral purposes. While according to another definition given under The Indian Penal code and UNICEF, it means disposing of a person as a slave or exploitation by recruiting, transporting, harbouring, transferring, or receiving a person by one of the following ways:
- By giving a threat,
- using coercion on a person or using force
- way of abduction
- practicing deception or fraud
- abuse of power
- inducing the person including giving or receiving of benefits
Reasons for Child Trafficking :
The causes and effects of child trafficking follow a cyclical pattern. Some of these are as follows:
- Sexual exploitation by forcing them into prostitution or abusing them by way of pornography, brothels, escort services, etc.
- Promoting child labour by employing children in domestic work, restaurants, farms, factories, industries, etc.
- Though many countries consider child laundering an illegal and profitable business, children are abused and taken illegally from their families for adoption and laundering.
- Though surrogacy does not constitute a crime in itself in many countries, girls and women are kidnapped to bear children year after year.
- Traffickers force children into drug peddling, organ trading, smuggling, or form a part of criminal gangs.
International Labour Organisation has given a list of the worst form of child labour and considers child soldiering as one among them. Correspondingly, it is an astonishing fact that the number of child victims has risen from 20% to 29% in the last three years. Moreover, victims are often between the age of 16-24 years who are forced into prostitution. According to a drug and crime report:
This section is suffering globally and around two million people across the globe trafficked are 17% of girls and 10% of boys. India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are top among the countries with the highest number of cases of child trafficking.
Provisions in the Constitution of India:
Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution not only prohibit traffic in human beings and forced labor but also prohibit the employment of children in factories, etc. Article 23 specifically prohibits trafficking and begar employment and other similar forms. Article 23 not only provides protection against the state, but also against private citizens. The article also prohibits all forms of bonded labor. Moreover, the Parliament can prohibit any act and provide for its punishment under Article 35 of the Indian Constitution.
Punishment for Trafficking in the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
Another significant legislation is The Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 370 and 370-A contain the provisions related to human trafficking. The section also defines exploitation as well.
The section provides for the punishment for the offence of trafficking. Offenders are punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and up to ten years, with or without a fine. If more than one person is trafficked or child trafficking is exercised, then the punishment shall not be less than a term of fourteen years and can extend up to imprisonment of life with or without a fine.
‘The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956’ also provides punishment for human trafficking.
In conclusion, child trafficking affects the life of a person. It is a vicious cycle that leads to prostitution and other crimes. Therefore, it must be eliminated at the roots. Though punishment in the legislation is a deterrent, it is not reformative, thus leaving a chance for the offender to commit the mistake again.
 International Labour Office, Unbearable to the human heart Child trafficking and ways to eliminate it, International Labour Organization, https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/files/childtrafficking.pdf.
 Raj Bahaduar v. Legal Remembrancer, AIR 1953 Cal. 522.
 ILO-IPEC and University of Indonesia: op. cit. p. 30
 THE IMMORAL TRAFFIC (PREVENTION) ACT, 1956 Section 5
Editor: Anusha Jabi