Human and Child Trafficking in Meghalaya

One of the prime reasons for human trafficking is poverty and Meghalaya as a state is increasingly dipping below poverty line. This can be measured from the under-nutrition and malnutrition of its growing population and women in the reproductive age. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Meghalaya is 39 per 1000 live births while maternal mortality is 211 per one lakh births in 2016 with only 48.6% institutional deliveries.  Statistics inform that 12% of the total state population lives below poverty line of which 12.5% is in rural Meghalaya and 9.3 % in urban Meghalaya according to the 2016 socio economic census. This pushes children into forced labour instead of being in schools.

Feminisation of poverty is an appropriate term for Meghalaya because of the rise in the number of female-headed households. In 2015 Meghalaya topped the list of female headed households at 9.8 % followed by Kerala at 9.7 %. The problem with woman heading a household is her vulnerability to poverty. Studies show that female-headed households face a higher risk of being poor vis-à-vis the male-headed households. Meghalaya is also the state with the highest fertility ratio hence the family size is also unusually large. Since the tribals of Meghalaya practice the matrilineal system, when a man abandons/divorces his wife the burden for bringing up children and educating them rests with the mother who more often than not does not get maintenance from the estranged husband. The rise in the number of street children who then get easily trafficked into child labour and of girl-children being trafficked for sex is on the rise. Unfortunately societal response to this is lukewarm and even religious institutions have not begun to discuss this burning issue with the seriousness it deserves. However, trafficking happens across ages and several adult women have had to be rescued by police who are tipped off by activists working in the area of human trafficking.

At the global level 21 million adults and children are being forced into unpaid labour and subjected to violence and torture. Human trafficking encompasses several illicit activities whose operators make up what is called the shadow economy. According to the International Labour Organization forced labour in the global private economy generates $150 billion in illegal profits every year hence it is big business. It is this lure for money that pushes individuals to run the trade and to prey on vulnerable minor children and sometimes young girls who are pushed to the limits of poverty.

The only way to tackle human trafficking is for civil society to take responsibility for this social crime. All religious and social institutions and governments must converge to end this modern day slavery.

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