Human Trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. Exploitation involves prostitution and sexual coercion, forced labor, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers in their own country and abroad. However, a vast majority of those who are trafficked are women. According to the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), women account for close to half of all trafficking victims detected globally. As a whole, women and girls combined constitute seven out of ten of those identified.
Women in Pakistan are the most vulnerable to the phenomenon of trafficking due to poverty, gender discrimination, lack of education, and ignorance about legal rights. Women and girls are trapped in a structured system and exploited for prostitution and offered for sale in physical markets. Reports indicate that police accept bribes to ignore prostitution and sex trafficking. Women and girls are also sold into forced marriages; in some cases their news “husbands” prostitute them in Iran or Afghanistan. In other cases, girls are used as chattel to settle debts or disputes. A large number of internally displaced persons (IDP’s), especially women, are vulnerable to trafficking. Moreover, false job offers and high recruitment fees by illegal labor agents entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labor. Pakistan is a destination country for human trafficking. Women and girls from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan.
The issue of women trafficking in Pakistan deserves proper intervention due to its potential lifelong and life-threatening health consequences. The most health effects of trafficking are psychological, physical and sexual violence. Victims feel constant threat, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness, denial and self-blame throughout their lifespan. Physical abuse results in the victims getting injuries such as bruises, broken bones, head wounds, stab wounds, mouth and teeth injuries, and it can even lead to death.
In the light of the grave issue, the United Nations has designated 30th July as the World Day against trafficking in persons. The resolution was declared in 2013 to raise awareness of the situation and for the promotion and protection of their rights. At a national level, Pakistan is making efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but the implementation and outcome of those efforts remain questionable. The government cannot achieve significant progress in terms of curbing this phenomenon without a comprehensive approach. For that it would require training for legal professionals and judges for awareness related to trafficking. Illiteracy and unawareness about the law is another subject of concern. Therefore, facilities for the provision of legal advice and support to the victims to bring their cases to the courts should be made available.