26/09/2011 - Children in quake affected areas of northeastern India are facing another crisis, one that is manmade and which has left them vulnerable to abuse.
As families and communities attempt to grapple with the devastation caused by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake which hit India mid-September, children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, disease and human trafficking.
The North Sikkim province of India was the worst effected with nearly a hundred dead and many still missing. In its wake it has also left orphaned and unaccompanied children those who have been separated from their families.
When such a crisis hits communities, studies conducted by numerous worldwide and Indian agencies clearly indicate that women and children are highly vulnerable to trafficking as law enforcement agencies may be overwhelmed and traditional protection mechanisms such as the extended family may have been dismantled.
The United Nation’s Division for the Advancement of Women states that following the Tsunami in Indonesia, women were vulnerable to traffickers who were taking advantage of those who had lost their family and social and financial support networks. Some women felt that they no longer had a choice, and allowed themselves to be trafficked in order to survive.
UNICEF stated that child survivors of the quake may face similar risks from human traffickers, and find may find themselves trapped in situations of child labour, child trafficking and sexual exploitation.
A local official, the Additional Superintendent of the Anti-Trafficking Cell of the Police, PK Pradhan, stated that “At present we have not received any such report. Most of the Sikkim roads are closed owing to the landslides triggered by the quake. However as soon as things starts to normalize, the vulnerability factor will grow. We are definitely keeping a close tab.”
A local NGO official stated that “there are traffickers always on the lookout for such situations whereby they take full advantage, promising the survivors jobs and a way out from their misery.”
Traffickers are able to lure many children and youth with the promise of good jobs in urban areas, such as in shopping malls and beauty parlors. Although they are lured with promises of good jobs, unfortunately many end up in brothels or working the streets to survive.