The latest Global Slavery Index (GSI) released by Perth-based Walk Free Foundation has placed India at the top of the 167 countries under survey with around 14.3 million people under bondage as the report calls it.
The Global Slavery Index (GSI) 2014, published by the Walk Free Foundation in Perth in Australia says that India and Pakistan account for 45 per cent of the global total. The report estimates that over 23.5 million people in Asia are living in modern-day slavery. This is equivalent to almost two-thirds of the global total number of people enslaved.
But how realistic are these figures in the context of India? That is the million dollar question. The report has claimed that 14.3 million people in India including children, are “trapped” in modern-day slavery.
People are trapped in slavery through human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation, says the report. Although the report has been prepared by a team of experts from international organisations but there are strong opinions about how authentic is the figure.
India Opines talked to some opinion makers to know if India has been singled out for this tag without going into the country specific conditions of Asia.
Amod Kanth, General Secretary of Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre which has been working in the field of juvenile justice and trafficking since 1988 says that the situation in country was indeed very grave.
“It is a pity that India did not have any legal provision for trafficking for very long. But Prayas has been pursuing these cases under the UN protocol of human trafficking which involves child labour, or forced labour, commercial sex, forced marriages, organ trade and unlawful adoption. We have been helping these sections under multiple programmes for each one of these programmes.”
In 1991 a police team had rescued 119 children from the Red light area of Delhi and it was found that an over whelming majority of these children were not living with their mothers which in other words meant that they were trafficked but die to the absence of any homes for juvenile children at that time they had to be sent back to the same place.
The Juvenile Justice Act came into existence in 1986 which was later amended in 2000 after which the category of ‘neglected children’ was changed to ‘Children in Care and Prediction’and ‘delinquent children’ was changed to ‘Juvenile in Conflict with Law.’
Kanth’s organization Prayas which has to its credit the introduction of 1098 as the Helpline at the national level asserts that the absence of proper legal definitions has created a situation under which it is impossible to maintain a proper and authentic figure of what Walk Free Foundation calls ‘slaves.’
There are influential sections of women who suspect that the definition of forced and servile marriages in India is much different from what the West perceives as slavery.
Neena Kumar, a senior journalist feels that marriages like all other relationships needs compatibility and compromises to become stable. “Whether you keep servant or a maid or a partner there will be times that you don’t like something but after some time things do cool down, if you want this relationship to last,” she says.
She feels that in any relationship one has to give time particularly when “we talk of marriages in India where in most cases two strangers are coming together to live for life. You have to give and take for any relationship to last,” she says.
Talking about the different standards of marital stability she says that marriages in India are more stable because our family values are very strong.
“India is not like the West where a child is left to fend on his own once he is 16. Here the parents will support their children even if they are 25 or more till they can get a respectable job. That is why a little compromise to maintain a marriage is not a bad deal in the long run. I doubt whether the West will ever be able to understand these concepts and their definition of forced or servile marriage does not apply to us,” she says.
However eminent educationist and Chairperson of Springdales Society, Rajni Kumar is all for the Western definition of marriages.
“I am shocked at the kind of violence against women that is on the rise in the country. Only yesterday there was news of an educated girl being killed in Delhi for marrying in different caste” she says.
At the age of 91 Mrs.Kumar is like a beacon of wisdom and energy for women’s rights.
“Why should a women suffer forced sexual relationship in the name of marriage? We are still living in the old patriarchal society where women don’t protest and continue to maintain a marriage even when they are not getting respect doe to them,” she asserts.
By: Amitabh Srivastava