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Letters from India
Calling upon Comprehensive Packages for Survivors of Trafficking
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
The victims of human trafficking

Mass awareness about trafficking, comprehensive plans for victims' support and rehabilitation package, sustained and collaborative effort from NGOs and a pro-active role by the media — were some issues of discussion during a day long dialogue in Guwahati of Northeast India.

Organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with the Northeast chapter of ATSEC (Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children) on September 19 2008, the forum brought together stakeholders such as : civil society, corporate house and media persons from the region.

The primary objective of the dialogue was to deliberate upon the need for a cohesive approach to combat human trafficking and also address the larger issues of livelihood generation as a prevention strategy. The discussion on 'Building Public Private Partnership for Anti Human Trafficking' was held under the banner of UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN. GIFT).

The dialogue emerged as a significant approach by the civil society and advocacy groups when the Northeast has been witnessing an increase in incidences of women and children being trafficked for exploitative situations such as forced labour, fake marriages and commercial sex work. This phenomena can be attributed to factors such as porous borders, displacement of communities, ethnic conflicts, lack of employment, mass exodus of communities and poverty.

For record, hundreds of women and children are trafficked every day within and outside the region under the pretext of a better future. As per the UN Protocol on Trafficking, the term 'Human Trafficking,' refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Trafficking primarily takes place for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), as well as for other forms of exploitation such as labour, organ transplant, and forced marriage.

Addressing the gathering, Hasina Kharbhih of Impulse Network emphasized on practical solution to the rehabilitation practices. She argued that once a girl is rescued from the traffickers, she must have the choice for vocational practices. She also insisted on a sustained need based rehabilitation package. Talking about the huge migrating population from Bangladesh and Burma into the Northeast, she revealed that , the migrant population remain vulnerable to human trafficking.

Anurita Hazarika of North East Network, a women's right group, urged the corporate houses to support measure to prevent trafficking on the ground keeping in mind the conflict situation of the region. She also urged the corporate bodies to play a positive role in rehabilitating the trafficked victims, who had been rescued by the authority. She argued that they could join the initiative under the scheme for corporate responsibility sector. Anindit Roy Chowdhury, from Sanlaap, highlighted the scope and opportunity for the rescued victims ensuring social and economic reintegration. He also highlighted on the employment opportunities for the victims as the sales girl, waiter, house keeping , care taker to the hospital, attendant to bank ATMs etc.

NGOs such as Impulse Network, GOLD, NEN, Nedan presented an overview of human trafficking in the region and also presented the various initiatives undertaken by them as well as the other NGOs. The participants of the workshop were media, NEDFI (financial institution) and NGOs from West Bengal, Mizoram, Manipur , Assam and Nagaland. The
gathering was also addressed by Manavendra Mandal, coordinator of ATSEC, Rajeeb Sharma of GOLD, Digambar Narzery of Nedan and N. Thakuria from Guwahati Press Club.

The highpoint of the dialogue was the participation by Ela Sangma , empowered survivor of human trafficking . She is currently working with Impulse Network and is involved in the rescue of the victims of human trafficking. She spoke about the need for creating awareness at the district level and stressed upon the need to hold similar dialogues with the community leaders. She further appealed to the media to be sensitive while profiling victims of human trafficking.

Ms. Pinky Pradhan, Communication and Advocacy Officer, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia, shared about the mandate of UNODC . She informed that UNODC seeks to achieve security and justice for all by helping member states and their people to guard against threats posed by drugs, crime and terrorism. In South Asia, UNODC's main current
focus areas are drug abuse awareness, reducing injecting drug use (IDU) driven HIV/AIDS, combating human trafficking, precursor chemical control, prison reform, smuggling of migrants and anti-corruption.

During the workshop, the protection of rights of rehabilitated survivors and provision of special services was strongly recommended. Many times survivors are discriminated against and isolated due to societal stigma. The need for collaboration between law enforcement and CSO's (Civil Society Organization) was equally stressed upon.

There was also demand for implementation of laws and programmes that respect women's rights. It was also unanimously agreed that there is a need for integrating counter trafficking measures within the larger livelihood framework and collaboration between civil society, corporates and Government to ensure effective implementation of laws
and policies.

"UNODC's anti human trafficking initiatives focuses on the three aspects of prevention, prosecution and protection. Most of law enforcement programmes relate to setting up anti-human-trafficking units in the police, training police and prosecutors, developing standard operating procedures for better law enforcement and improving law enforcement networks with the anti-trafficking NGO communities.

Other areas of work include prevention programmes and supporting facilities for the victims and survivors of human trafficking," said Ms. Marie Erickson, Consultant UNODC, during the proceedings of the dialogue.

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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