UCAN: Church organizes struggle against human trafficking
GUWAHATI, India (UCAN) – A church group has brought together voluntary agencies and church people in northeastern India to see how they can check the increasing trafficking of women.
The region, surrounded by international borders but for a 20-kilometer-wide corridor connecting it with mainland India, is vulnerable to human trafficking, according to officials of Caritas India, who organized the May 22-24 program. New Delhi-based Caritas is the official social-service wing of the church in India.
About 50 people from some 30 non-governmental and governmental organizations attended the program in Guwahati, the region's commercial center, 1,950 kilometers (about 1,210 miles) southeast of New Delhi.
The seven-state region borders Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. Its proximity with international borders, its pre-dominantly tribal culture, and its people's Mongoloid features put its women at greater risk of trafficking, several participants told UCA News.
The region is comprised of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura states. Guwahati is in Assam state.
"People of this region, who look like the people of Southeast Asian countries, could be easily trafficked into those countries," said M. Shimray, who heads Caritas India's Gender Desk. Ethnic clashes, poverty, a lack of values, attraction to city life, and unemployment also lead to trafficking, she added.
The participants agreed to focus on "preventive intervention" by networking and by creating awareness through seminars, posters, video shows and street plays on the issue.
They agreed that the target audiences should be women, youth and village leaders, besides Church leaders and students of schools and colleges. They also decided to observe Dec. 12 as Anti-Human Trafficking Day to create awareness of the issue.
Shimray told UCA News May 24 the meeting was a follow-up of a program they organized in 2004 that revealed human trafficking as an acute problem in the region. She said the Church is "actively involved" in fighting it.
"Many girls from Manipur state are victims of trafficking and are in the flesh trade even in Bangkok," she noted, adding that "no one would be able" to give clear data about the number of victims from the region.
Many girls from the region are also taken to Indian cities with promises of jobs, said Shimray, a native of Manipur state.
Shimray said many women are taken from their homes after being promised jobs as domestic maids. The educated ones are promised jobs in hotels and city firms, she added. In many cases, those who entrap the women are members of their own families, relatives or people close to them.
Noting a "huge nexus" in trafficking, she said that to counter the evil, the participants have to "network" with "like-minded NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), institutions, government departments and law enforcement agencies."
D.K. Borah, an officer from the Assam Crime Investigation Department, presented sample statistics on missing adults and female children for 1996-2006 from the state.
In the period, the state recorded 3,718 missing female adults. Among them, 1,837 are still untraceable. During the same period 4,259 girls went missing and only 1,918 were traced, Borah said.
Stephen Gangmei, who heads Caritas India's northeastern office, defined human trafficking as transportation or harboring of persons by means of threats, coercion and fraud for monetary grains.
He said his organization fights this evil through prevention, rescue, protection, rehabilitation, repatriation, and reintegration by networking with various government and non-governmental organizations.
Frank Cooper, 32, program manager of a voluntary organization from Meghalaya, said the meeting gave him "new insights" on the problem. It has inspired participants to work against human trafficking, he added.
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