Trafficking and migration

Both the supply and demand sides of the trade in human beings are fed by gendered vulnerabilities to trafficking. These vulnerabilities are the result of political, economic, and development processes that may leave some women socially and economically dependent on men. If that support from men becomes limited or withdrawn, women become dangerously susceptible to abuse. They often have no individual protection or recognition under the law, inadequate access to health care and education, poor employment prospects and little opportunity to own property or to deal with high levels of social isolation. This makes some women easy targets for harassment, violence and human trafficking. Women of ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups are particularly exploited while women who lack economic security are easy targets if they are willing to leave their country in search of work elsewhere. As explained earlier, women who have been trafficked into domestic work are particularly vulnerable due to their work environment. Without protection, foreign domestic workers may have fewer options for seeking help when threatened or attacked by their employers.

However, the use of terminology for protection of migrant workers is very tricky, especially when it comes to women migrant workers. In some countries, the concept of protection has been used to bar women from seeking meaningful employment. A crucial distinction is often not made between protecting migrant women workers and migrant women’s right of employment and choice of profession. There is, at times, a tendency to overemphasize trafficking and adequate attention may not be given to women’s right to migrate. When male migrants face problems, they are seen as a labour rights violation while the problems faced by female migrants are viewed as trafficking problems. The dichotomy that “men migrate and women are trafficked” has to be broken in the mindset of people when dealing with migration. Additionally, with regards to the migration of women, the line between migration and trafficking is blurred, especially for poor people. Poverty often pushes families to send boys and girls abroad with little knowledge where they are going or what they will be doing.

Trafficking has been viewed with increasing concern in South Asia as a subregion and by individual South Asian countries as well. Many of them already had set provisions in their laws in the colonial period which could be used to combat trafficking as in the cases of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, or since the codifications of customary law as in Nepal. Many, however, felt that the provisions in general criminal codes were insufficient and sought to check trafficking by the passing of specific trafficking legislations. Due to the serious nature and the wide prevalence of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the subregion, many of these laws deal with this form of trafficking. Instead of a complete code dealing with different forms of trafficking, laws in this area are scattered across different legislations (UNODC 2011).