During Meetings with Indian Prime Minister Modi, Obama Urged to Raise Human Trafficking Concerns
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged President Obama to press Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to strengthen his country’s anti-trafficking laws and promote consistent enforcement at all government levels during their scheduled meeting at the White House tomorrow.
“More people are enslaved in India than in any other country in the world, with millions of Indian men, women, and children trapped in debt bondage and forced to perform strenuous work,” said Human Rights First’s Amy Sobel. “Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United States is an opportunity for President Obama to raise concerns over India’s progress in combating modern slavery while ensuring that the U.S.-India relationship is grounded in respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, India’s primary trafficking problem is forced labor: men, women, and children held in debt bondage, sometimes inherited from previous generations, who are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, embroidery factories, and other industries. Victims tend to come from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable parts of society—the lowest caste Dalits, tribal minorities, religious minorities, and women and girls—and are often coerced through sexual and other violence.
Human Rights First notes that Indian law enforcement tends to focus on victims brought into India from neighboring states, but 90% of slaves in the country are Indian citizens. Prosecutions in domestic slavery cases are rare, and when they occur, victims are often vulnerable to intimidation and harassment. In India, as in many countries, perpetrators routinely act with impunity and victims rarely see justice.
The organization also urges U.S. corporations and financial institutions who are significantly invested in India to work to ensure that their supply chains are free from forced labor.