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Swamp of unbreakable chains

By: Aitazaz Ahsan - Legislative Intern SSDO

Human beings are not “being human” as their greediness has reached to such extent that they trade their own children for money. Roughly around 6 to 8 million people are trafficked worldwide annually, with eighty percent females and alas fifty percent of all trafficking victims are reported to be children.

Every year the US State department issues a report and ranks countries into three tiers according to their coping strategy with human trafficking issues. Pakistan was ranked on tier two in 2021. Pakistan is a developing country, as we all know, and 39.2% are still below the poverty line calculated by World Bank. These poor people are very much vulnerable to trafficking and especially children because parents cannot afford to bear their expenses and deliberately sell them off, to some brokers in exchange for money. Some children are kidnapped and forced into, prostitution, labor, slavery, domestic work, drug couriering, beggary, forced marriages and even military coups hire them for spying, suicide bombings and coerce them into becoming soldiers. Their childhood is ruined, their dreams shattered and they are brought into a swamp of unbreakable chains.

The gangs are targeting vulnerable populations in Pakistan, kidnapping children, raping and sexually abusing women, and selling women for prostitution as sex slaves, among other terrible crimes. Slavery and trafficking of women have been widespread throughout history, with far-reaching consequences and claws that have reached Pakistan, too.

Same situation was happened to be noticed by Pakistan’s authority as well. I came to know this in a seminar, on Trafficking in Persons in Pakistan: Current situation and the Way forward, was held in the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab with the collaboration of Federal Investigation Agency. I happened to attend it as audience. The panel also talks about two new laws that focus on human smuggling and trafficking in Pakistan which are Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2018 and, Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018 were briefed.

It was also discussed that despite taking measures, Pakistan has several issues hindering the way of eliminating child trafficking such as corruption, the cases being under-reported, influential people being involved, poverty, lack of education and awareness.

Sometimes caretakers are lured and taken advantage of by trafficking mafias and lead their children into trafficking rings. In recent times, there were many media reports telling that Pakistani girls were being tempted into marriage agreements and then used for prostitution in China. One such report in 2019 highlighted that trafficked girls’ number is 600 each year in Pakistan. The report also claimed that average per ‘bride’ earnings had a range from USD 25,000 to 65,000, but a small amount of PKR 200,000 was given to the family.

When these girls arrive in Pakistan, they face harsh conditions as an article by Kakkar & Yousuf 2021, showcases the stigmatization of the girls who are trafficked in Pakistan from Afghanistan into forced marriages and here they are abused, rapped, sold for prostitution, exploited and disowned. They are sold as prostitutes, sexually abused and forced into marriages. A similar interview of a girl trafficked into forced marriage in Pakistan said:

I was only 13 when I was kidnapped by a person and his wife near Kabul. That man rapped me several times when I was in his custody. Later on, he sold me into forced marriage to an old person with white beard. My husband is very cruel to me, he not only beats me but also threatens me to kill me with his knife if I did not obey him, just like what he did to his first wife. My husband forces me into prostitution and keeps all the money. He does not perform any work; I do the household work and prostitution to manage the household expenditure. My husband’s brother and his wife are also involved in this shameful business. I am presented as a slave for sex in exchange for money to strangers.

According to statistics put forward by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), around 6,767 illegal Pakistani migrants entered Europe through Iran and Turkey in 2017.

Certainly, more steps can be taken to combat this problem but merely being a signatory to international conventions and preparing documents is not the way forward. The country’s authorities have to implement these laws and acts on the grass root level only then we will be able to curb this issue. The silver lining is that the foundations have been built and we hope for attaining a tier one rating in the next upcoming reports.

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