Human Trafficking: Violating the Essential Human Rights of People

Human Trafficking: Violating the Essential Human Rights of People

This Article is written by Miss Divyakshi Jain, Semester X, B.B.A. LL.B. (IPR Hons.) at National Law University Jodhpur. In this article, she has dealt with the concept of human trafficking as an atrocious human right violation. She has also shed light on the legal framework available in India to combat the issue and certain suggestions to improve the situation.


According to United Nations, human trafficking is any activity that leads to recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or putting the person in a position of vulnerability.[1] Human trafficking is the trading of humans for sexual exploitation, forced labour, or sexual slavery. This could even encompass forced marriage or the extraction of organs or tissues or even surrogacy. The victims could be from any community, race, age and gender. Human trafficking is a serious human rights violation that occurs throughout the world. Human trafficking has been recognized as the third-largest organized crime after drug cartels and arms trade around the globe.[2]

The human rights that are violated as a result of human trafficking include:

  • Prohibition of discrimination on basis of race, sex, color, etc.
  • Right to life
  • Right to liberty and safety
  • Right to be free or slavery or servitude
  • Right not to be subjected to torture
  • Right free from gendered violence
  • Right of freedom of association
  • Right of freedom of movement
  • Right to the highest standards of physical and mental health
  • Right to favorable conditions in the workplace
  • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Right to social security
  • Right of children to be accorded special protection
  • Right for an effective remedy
  • Right to be granted asylum[3]

This list in itself shows you the extent to which human rights are violated with each instance of human trafficking. After understanding the atrocity that is human trafficking, we would now understand the legislative framework in India which tries to put a stop to human trafficking.

Read: Vishaka and Ors. Vs. State of Rajasthan and Ors.

Legal Framework of Human Trafficking in India

The Act which deals extensively with the prevention of human trafficking is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. The various provisions of this Act are designed to punish individuals who are found guilty of partaking in any form of human trafficking. It deals extensively with forced prostitution and the running of brothels by individuals.

When talking about the prevention of a crime that causes such extreme human rights violations, the Constitution of India cannot be ignored for the safeguards placed for the protection of citizens from being subjected to such atrocities. Thus, Article 23 of the Constitution specifically prohibits trafficking in human beings or beggars. While Article 39 of the Constitution provides for equal pay to all men and women and also a directive to protect the youth from being exploited. Another provision that specifically addresses this issue is Article 39-A which ensures that everybody has access to justice irrespective of their social class and economic disability. Apart from this, Article 14, 19 and 21 are prima facially violated by any crime which attempts to harm the dignity and freedom of any individual.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 also provides for various provisions which criminalize kidnapping and human trafficking.[4] Also, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 provides for the procedure of filing cases relating to human trafficking.[5] Then, there is the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which criminalizes bonded labor in any shape or form. This Act has been enacted to prevent physical or mental exploitation of the weaker section of society. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 provides for provisions prohibiting all children from engaging in occupations and to prohibit adolescents from engaging in hazardous occupations. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 provides for punishment in case of any physical, mental, or verbal atrocity being committed against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Also Check out: Animal Laws In India with Case Study

The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994 deals with criminal responsibility in case of illegal transplant of human organs and tissues without the consent of the transplanting party. Another Act enacted for the purpose of protection of children from sexual degradation is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. You must be wondering I have mentioned these Acts that seem unrelated to human trafficking. This is because these Acts all contain provisions for prevention of human trafficking as according to Courts any act which leads to a human being used as an item for trade is human trafficking. And all the above acts cause such situations to arise.

In the case of Vishal Jeet v. Union of India[6], the Court also laid down the following directions in regard to child prostitution and human trafficking:

  1. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct their concerned law-enforcing authorities to take appropriate and speedy action in eradicating child prostitution.
  2. The State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should set up a separate Advisory Committee within their respective zones to make suggestions regarding the measures to be taken and certain social welfare programs should be implemented for the rescued children and girls who have escaped the clutches of prostitution.
  3. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should take steps in providing adequate and rehabilitative homes manned by well-qualified trained social workers, psychiatrists, and doctors.
  4. The Union Government should set up a committee of its own to evolve welfare programs on the national level for the care, protection, rehabilitation, etc. of the young affected victims and to make suggestions for amendments and upgrades to the existing laws for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  5. The Central Government and the Governments of States and Union Territories should devise machinery of its own for ensuring the proper implementation of the suggestions that would be made by the respective committees.
  6. The Advisory Committee can also delve deep into the devadasi system and jogin tradition and give their valuable advice and suggestions as to what best the Government could do in that regard.

These suggestions were made in light of the various ways in which humans were being exploited as the Indian judiciary has interpreted human trafficking as treating men and women as objects of sale and handling them as such.[7]

Check out: National Legal Services Authority V. Union of India & ORS.


However, one of the major lacunae that have been highlighted by most commentators is the multiplicity of legislation dealing with human trafficking in India. [8]There has been felt a need for single legislation to deal with this atrocious human rights violation. This is the reason that the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development Minister, Ms. Maneka Gandhi. However, the bill lapsed and was not approved. This Bill was indeed a much-needed step for combating the issue of human trafficking, but it did not provide the broad perspective that was required to deal with the issue. Thus, India needs to step forward and attempt to make provisions that would safeguard the weaker sections of society from being exploited and deprived of their basic human rights.



[1]United Nations Office on Drug and Crime,

[2] UN: Human Trafficking Third Largest Criminal Business, Voa News (October 30, 2009),

[3] Human Rights and Human Trafficking, United Nations Human Rights, Fact Sheet No. 36,

[4] Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act No. 45 of 1860) Section 360.

[5] Criminal Procedure Code, 1963 (Act No. 2 of 1974) Section 181.

[6] (1990) 3 SCC 318.

[7] Raj Bahadur v. State of W.B., 1953 SCC OnLine Cal 129.

[8] Roshni Sinha, Examining the anti-trafficking Bill, 2018, PRS Blog (February 13, 2019),


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