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Child Exploitation as a Form of Human Trafficking

Trafficking is any part of the process from finding and recruiting children, to transporting and receiving them. Trafficking has three stages. The act, means and purpose. The act is recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons. The means is threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.

The purpose is the exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs. Men, women, and children all over the world are victims of trafficking, but children are particularly at risk.

Child trafficking is a form of human trafficking. It involves sexual abuse, forced labour, forced marriages of children under the age of 18 years old. It is child abuse. Millions and millions of children are trafficked each year. Traffickers easily manipulate children as they trust easily. Children are lured into the chains of human trafficking by exploiting the innocence and vulnerability they have.

Child victims of traffic

king are recruited, transported, transferred, harboured, or received for the purpose of exploitation. They may be forced to work in sweetshops, on construction sites or in houses as domestic servants; on the streets as child beggars, in wars as child soldiers, on farms, in traveling sales crews or in restaurants and hotels. Some are forced to work in brothels and strip clubs or for escort and massage services.

Commercial sexual exploitation manifests in numerous forms, such as sex trafficking, prostitution, sex tourism, pornography, early marriage, performance in sexual venues, and online or electronic transmission of children engaged in sexual activities.

Children who are living in poverty or who are refugees are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, as are children who are living in areas affected by armed conflict or other forms of violence. Also, youths who lack social support networks, who feel unloved and are vulnerable capture the eyes of traffickers. Traffickers lure the children by giving promises of good job, education, improving the conditions of living. Trafficking of children is closely linked to demand for cheap labour with worst conditions of work.

Types of Child Exploitation are as follows:

Forced Labour: One of the most widespread forms of child exploitation is forced labour, where children are compelled to work in hazardous conditions for low pay, often in the informal sector. They may work in mines, factories, domestic work, or agriculture, and suffer physical and emotional abuse.

Sexual Exploitation: Children are forced into prostitution, pornography, or other forms of sexual exploitation, causing long-term physical and psychological harm, increasing their risk of sexually transmitted infections, and physical injuries.

Forced Begging: Traffickers force children to beg on the streets, exposing them to neglect, malnutrition, and physical abuse, while the earnings go to the exploiters.

Child Soldiers: Children are forcibly recruited and exploited as soldiers in some conflict-ridden regions, undergoing rigorous training and exposed to life-threatening situations, resulting in severe physical and psychological trauma.

Child Marriage: Young girls are forced into marriage before 18, depriving them of education, health, and personal development, leading to early pregnancies, domestic violence, and limited opportunities for growth.

Online Exploitation: Traffickers use online platforms and social media to groom and exploit children, producing explicit materials involving minors.

Street and Gang Exploitation: Criminal gangs exploit and recruit children living on the streets or in marginalized communities, engaging them in drug trafficking, theft, and other criminal activities, trapping them in a cycle of violence, exploitation, and limited escape.

Trafficked children go through so much trauma and abuse since their childhood. They are hurt physically, mentally, and psychologically. Identifying the signs of a trafficked children is important so that the law enforcements can be involved. Some of these signs are: having no time to play, living distant from family, or having minimal social contact with friends, family, and the community, appearing unfamiliar with a neighbourhood, and being observed in inappropriate locations (such as factories or brothels) being unsure of where they live, having their movements controlled, or being unable to travel alone, living somewhere inappropriate, such as a work address, or dirty, cramped, unsanitary, or overcrowded accommodation, including caravans, sheds, tents, or outbuildings, lacking personal items, and frequently being moved by others between specific locations (for example, to and from work) - This may occur at unusual times, such as very early in the day or late at night, when they are unable or unable to provide data such as where they reside, afraid or anxious.

Child exploitation denies children their fundamental rights, including the right to education, health, and protection. It perpetuates cycles of poverty, as children are deprived of education and opportunities for a better future. India has addressed the wrongdoings against children and have created several laws and legislatures for protection of them.

The core child protection legislation for children is enshrined in four main laws: The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act (2000, amended in 2015); The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006); The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012), and The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986, amended in 2016). 

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act is a legislation that was first passed in 1986, and has since been amended several times, most recently in 2015. The Act aims to provide care, protection, and rehabilitation to children who are against the law or who are in need of care and protection. Under the Act, a juvenile is defined as a person who has not yet completed 18 years of age. The Act provides for a separate justice system for juveniles in conflict with the law, which is aimed at reforming and rehabilitating them rather than punishing them.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) is a law enacted by the government in 2006 to prevent child marriages and to protect the rights of children, especially girls. The PCMA replaced the earlier Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. The PCMA defines a child marriage as any marriage where either of the parties is below the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys. The Act makes it illegal to solemnize, facilitate, or promote child marriages in any way. It also makes it a criminal offense for parents, guardians, or any other persons to force or coerce a child into marriage.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Posco), 2012, is a special Act enacted to protect all children, defined as anyone under the age of 18, from sexual assault, harassment, and other offences, as well as to enforce children's rights to safety, security, and protection from sexual abuse and exploitation. Section 5 of the Act states that whomever performs penetrative sexual assault in a shared household with the kid is considered to have committed aggravated penetrative sexual assault or rape. However, Exception 2 of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) stipulates that sexual intercourse or sexual activities by a man with his own wife is not rape if the wife is not under the age of 15 years.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act is a 1986 Indian statute that has been revised multiple times since then. The Act seeks to prohibit and regulate the employment of children under the age of 14 in jobs and practises deemed dangerous to their health and safety. A "child" is defined in the Act as someone who has not reached the age of 14. The Act forbids the employment of minors in harmful to their health and safety activities such as factories, mines, and construction sites, as well as procedures such as beedi production, carpet weaving, and brick kilns.

Children need to grow in an environment that is safe, comfortable, and loving for them. They should not be in an environment where they are abused and tortured. This is the sad reality of today. We can’t even take care of our children. They should be able to go to school, play with their friends, live life freely with no restricts. We can eradicate this horrifying crime by helping to provide a living wage for parents so that their children do not have to work to support the family and can attend school instead. Poverty is the root cause of many issues.

How can we help ?

If we address it in a proper manner, then we can surely help end it. There is also lack of opportunities when it comes to jobs. Children can get access to education and not exploitation if parents have a job and are earning well. Governments should develop laws and strengthen child protection systems to prevent and respond to violence and abuse. We can also help by closely working with communities and organizations that work to support children and victims of human trafficking and change harmful societal norms that make children more vulnerable to exploitation. Supporting the training of professionals working with children including social workers, health workers and police and border officials is essential to help stop trafficking.

Let’s end child exploitation together and give children the life that they deserve.

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