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Human trafficking, for labor and sex work, is rampant in South Asia. In March the Indian Parliament passed a bill making sex trafficking a criminal offense. However, there are many obstacles to enforcing this law.

Despite new restrictions and harsher punishments, India’s human trafficking problem is worse than ever. Young girls are often lured into the sex trade with the promise of employment in major cities. This stems from two problems: poverty and rapid urbanization. Poverty leads young girls into desperation or allows them to be tricked into the sex trade. Urbanization leads to a lot of men moving into cities inhabited by very few women. This creates a market for the sex traffickers to sell to.

The caste system also plays a role in the sex trade, as many of the women come from disadvantaged castes. Men of more noble castes see the exploitation of these girls as natural and deserved. Though steps have been taken to remove the caste system from Indian society, many elements still persist.

For these reasons, amending the laws against human trafficking will not solve the problem. The sex trade stems from poverty, rapid urbanization and a cultural stigma. To solve human trafficking, the government must work to remedy the conditions that nurture the exploitation of young girls for profit.

Organizations that focus on educating women, removing them from the sex trade and rehabilitating them also play a key role in correcting the situation. Not for Sale is a nonprofit working to break the cycle of human trafficking in South Asia. Women who are trafficked are removed from the situation, put into a home for exploited women and move through a program designed to empower them and re-integrate them into society. This includes education, job training, financial consulting, childcare, networking and treatment. Not for Sale also provides employment opportunities for women vulnerable to human trafficking.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Asia Foundation, New York Times1, New York Times2, Not for Sale Campaign
Photo: NPR