Human Trafficking in India: A Religious, Social, Economic and Cultural perspective

Human Trafficking in India: A Religious, Social, Economic and Cultural perspective

Recently I was talking with one of my mentor about my doctoral project related with human trafficking. While mentioned to him about the tragic situation in the Indian context he opened my eyes to the following historical facts such as the religious, social, economic and cultural framework of exploitation that is in existence for thousands of years in India. There is an intrinsic religious, social, cultural and economic root to this evil. If we want to eradicate human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Indian context, we need to educate and deal with the ground realities.

Imagine a woman comes to your home during a rainy cold day seeking shelter, according to the Hindu moral standard it is ok to rape her and give her the warmth. There is a religious sanction for committing rape. Sexual desire is personified in Hinduism as a deity and in tantric practices which allows the priest to have sex with the bride to initialize the ceremonies. Prostitution was considered as a lawful profession in some part of India for thousands of years. Sexual immorality is also practiced in the name of devadasi system. Polygamy was an acceptable practice until recent times. Forced prostitution is apparently evident through devadasi and jogini system in India. Sexual pleasure and its recognition are considered as a chief aim of human life. If one follow the Hindu religious values and morals it will demonize and dehumanize the family values, relationships, love, patriotism, social ethical foundations.    

Exploitation of women is evident by reading the following passage in Manusmrti 9:2-4 …. Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. Her father guards her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence. The Rig Veda, 8:33:17 says the mind of woman cannot be disciplined because she has very little intelligence. The Smriti (Matsya Purana 70:40-60; cf. Mahabharata III:2:23) also talks about how to gain a woman’s chastity by worshiping the Siva and offering her to a Brahmin for his sexual pleasure for 13 months.    

When we talk about the social implications of human trafficking in India, the untouchable caste evil is the major issue. Western mindset glorifies the developed technological and mobile revolution of 1 billion users of cell phone in a single country, nuclear weapons and space mission, educated and professional youths etc. On the other side the corruption, bureaucracy, high illiteracy and lack of distribution of resources comes to our mind, but the reality is different from all of the above. The caste discrimination of the Dalits is still in the social systems and mistreatment of people happens to the extent of justifying modern day slavery. Recently there were reported cases, where a child in the school was severely beaten by the teacher for touching the plate of the upper caste children and a low- caste women was refused to work as a cook in the school for the children.

Lack of opportunities for education, poverty, lack of job and economic distress fuel this evil in the Indian context. It is easy for the trafficking person to trick a girl into devadasi system, commercial or religious prostitution when they are uneducated and comes from an economically deprived community. There is a vicious cycle of prostitution, injustice, discrimination, debt and slavery. According to Unesco, India currently has the largest population of illiterate adults in the world with over 287 million and this is 37% of the world’s total illiterate.

There are constant slogans we proclaim, be free, let the people who are free rescue the one in bondage, bring this darkness into light, raise the voice for freedom, freedom is being yourself without permission, freedom to walk away, dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery etc.

The Bible says: For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 


Binu Peniel (C) 2016


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