Since the beginning of the year, the number of human trafficking cases reported in Pakistan’s Sindh Province has increased. Last year, the Madadgaar Helpline recorded about 288 cases in all, but 190 cases were recorded in January and February alone. Most of the victims were from neighbouring countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Madadgaar Helpline is a local nongovernmental organization providing assistance to children and women who have been rescued from trafficking.
Different types of trafficking have been reported, including child trafficking. Some parents are paid a sum of money in exchange for their children. Under other circumstances, women and youth put themselves into the hands of human smugglers, who promise to find them employment; in actuality, they find themselves in conditions akin to slave labour.
“Combine [poverty and strife] with illiteracy and unemployment, and you will have people willing to sell their children,” said Madadgaar Helpline chairperson, Zia Ahmed Awan.
Sindh Province was heavily affected by massive flooding in 2010 and 2011. Farmers’ livelihoods were hurt in many cases, forcing them to send their children to work in urban centres.
Earlier this month, figures from an International Organization for Migration assessment were published. The stats showed that 13,325 people displaced from the region have been unable to return home since the floods. Many are still living in temporary shelters along roadsides or vacant land, in schools or formal camps. While some Sindh villages remain inaccessible (as of the February assessment), many displaced persons lack the economic (and other) resources needed to restart their livelihoods.
Prominent persons often have children working as servants in their homes, instead of setting an example by not using child labour. Part of the solution for child trafficking must involve tackling the issue of child labour at the societal level by creating awareness about the challenges it poses to children’s welfare—keeping them out of school, for example.
According to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2011, “Boys and girls are also bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped to work in organized, forced begging rings, domestic servitude, and prostitution.” In addition, children in domestic servitude may be subjected to sexual and physical abuse, while girls sold for “marriage” may be forced into prostitution by their “husbands.”