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Human Rights, Rights

With new NGO curbs, government signals it won’t let anyone demand that it protect rights of Indians

These moves will have a chilling effect on the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly.
By Prerna Dhoop & Vandana Dhoop

Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing protest against Amnesty in Bangalore in August, 2016. | Sajjad Hussain/AFP
On September 29, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press release stating in uncertain terms how it viewed the operations of the human rights advocacy group Amnesty India.

“All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws,” the release alleged. “…India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.”

Earlier in the day, Amnesty India, the local arm of the international rights organisation Amnesty International, said it had been forced to halt its operations because of a “witch-hunt” by the Indian government over “unfounded and motivated allegations” that resulted in its ban accounts being frozen.

Days before, on September 21, the Lok Sabha amended the act regulating how non-governmental organisations can receive foreign funds, ostensibly with the aim of “strengthening the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution”.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2020 and the freezing of Amnesty’s accounts are not unrelated.

Chilling effect
To begin with, by creating overbroad, vague restrictions for NGO funding and operations, these moves will have a chilling effect on the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly.

With the amendments, the government has expanded governmental discretion, bureaucratic control and oversight with respect to the day-to-day functioning of NGOs in India. For instance, it has reduced the cap on administrative expenses from the previous 50% of the funds received to 20%. It has also made it mandatory for organisations across India to receive all FCRA money only through an account in a Delhi branch of the State Bank of India, Delhi. It has also mandated the submission of a statement of expenses four times a year.

Under the garb of ensuring transparency and accountability, the government is seeking to choke NGOs with red tape so that they are unable to do their humanitarian work.

The FCRA amendment disallows Amnesty and other civil society organisations that receive foreign contributions from supporting the work of other NGOs. This makes it more difficult for grassroots NGOs that are independent of government, business, religion and political groups to operate in India.

With this, the government’s move has choked Covid-19 aid from flowing to the remotest corners of the country.

Amnesty’s office in Bengaluru.
But most of all, the government has made it clear that it will view with suspicion any organisations that seek to uphold the fundamental values of dignity, freedom, justice and equality for all. It will not allow any organisation to hold it to account and to demand that it protect and respect the rights of Indians.

That is evident from the manner in which it has choked the operations of Amnesty, an organisation that has used the international human rights principle of “naming and shaming” to compel states to comply with their obligations under human rights treaties.

In recent months, Amnesty India has issued reports that question the government about rights violations during the Delhi riots in February and about the situation in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. In addition, it has engaged in advocacy, lobbying and campaigning; written letters, petitioned and protested against human rights abuses in India.

Repressing freedom
The passage of the FCRA Amendment Bill, 2020 and the actions against Amnesty place India next to only Russia, where the government has used the Foreign Agents Law, 2012 and Undesirable Organisations Law, 2015 as a weapon to repress freedom of association and expression. These laws have been used to pursue a systematic campaign against human rights organisations and NGOs in the country. In 2016, Amnesty was forced to suspend its operations in Russia.

Russia’s actions run contrary to the advice that was offered by Rabindranath Tagore during a visit to the Soviet Union. The Indian said that the Soviets should construct a social and political system that permits disagreement because, it would not only be an uninteresting but a sterile world of mechanical regularity if all our opinions were forcibly made alike”.

As Tagore also noted, “Opinions are constantly changed and rechanged only through the free circulation of intellectual forces and moral persuasion…Freedom of mind is needed for the reception of truth; terror hopelessly kills it.”

I would serve Prime Minister Narendra Modi well to pay heed to Tagore too and acknowledge the existence of differences of opinion.

Prerna Dhoop is a human rights lawyer based in Kolkata.
Vandana Dhoop is an independent researcher

Human Rights

China demolish mosque in Xinjiang to build public toilet

China’s war against Xinjiang has touched a new law as reports claim that Chinese authorities have built a public toilet on the site of a demolished mosque.

The incident took place in the Atush region of Xinjiang. The mosque in the Suntagh village was demolished in 2018. Two years later, a public toilet stands in its place. The people of Suntagh have toilets at home and the village barely receives tourists, so locals say there is no need for the public toilet.

Chinese authorities know it as well that’s why the new stalls have not even been opened to the public. The bitter truth is China wants to target the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang. China has destroyed 70 per cent of the mosques in Xinjiang and with this toilet, it is only adding insult to injury.

However, it is not the first such incident. In 2019, China destroyed the Azna mosque and now a store that sells alcohol and cigarettes has come up in its place.

In the Hotan city, authorities have been trying to build an underwear factory in the place of a demolished mosque. Beijing has destroyed between 10,000 to 15,000 mosques in Xinjiang in the last three years, according to the Uighur human rights project.

A Guardian report published last year had satellite images of the Imam Asim shrine. The shrine is located in Taklamakan desert. It used to attract Muslims from across the Hotan oasis. China recently tore down the buildings around the shrine. It also demolished the mosque and the place is deserted now.

There are similar images from Xinjiang’s Kargilik town too, the mosque was razed in 2018. China wants to erase the unique identity of Uighurs. It wants to “sinicise” Islam meaning make Islam Chinese and it is not shy of saying it out loud.

In 2019, China passed a 5-year plan to “guide Islam to be compatible with socialism”. The government of China also launched a mosque rectification campaign. There are 22 million Muslims in China including 11 million Uighurs.

China wants to blend them into the Han society which is the majority race and Beijing is ready to go to any lengths to achieve it. It has unleashed genocide in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have jailed 1.8 million Uighurs. China has killed many and harvested their organs. Women are being raped, men are being sterilised and children have been taken away from their parents.

China has waged a war on its Muslims targeting their culture, history and their religion, those in Xinjiang cannot do much about it. However, people outside can but they aren’t. China’s actions should provoke the Muslim world but they remain silent.

Saudi Arabia the self-appointed leader of the Muslim world won’t say a word against China. Turkey which wants to dethrone the Saudis and project itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim world has been rounding up those who escaped from China and handing them over to Beijing.

Pakistan pretends it doesn’t even know what’s going on in Xinjiang. Malaysia says it won’t criticise China because it does not respond well to criticism and Iran has actually justified China’s action saying Beijing is serving Islam by suppressing the Uighurs.

The rest of the world that claims to uphold human rights has watched China’s Muslims being killed by the Chinese state and not lifted a finger. China has built a toilet as the world has flushed its conscience

Human Rights

Citizenship Act, NRC: San Francisco becomes sixth US city to censure both moves

San Francisco has become the sixth city in the United States to censure the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, media reported on Wednesday.

In its city council meet on Tuesday, the Alliance for Justice and Accountability along with other local San Francisco organisations worked on a resolution to declare CAA and NRC as an act “to render millions of people among minorities and caste oppressed stateless”. American Institute of Islamic History and Culture, San Francisco Interfaith Council, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and the San Francisco Muslim Community Center were part of this.

Seattle, Albany, Saint Paul, Hamtramck and Cambridge have also passed similar resolutions, calling CAA and NRC “exclusionary and bigoted”.

San Francisco is standing on the right side of the history, said Hala Hijazi, commissioner of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Hijazi, also a board member of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center as well as the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said the city was leading the moral consensus in the global outcry against the legislation. “When genocidal campaigns begin, one important intervention is the international condemnation, and the Bay Area community feels a deep sense of solidarity with their elected, as the time to stand against the Indian government’s Islamophobic policies is now,” she added.

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability said that the use of religion as a criterion for granting citizenship is a “flagrant violation of all norms of secular democracies”, adding that it was inconsistent with India’s Constitution that guarantees equality before the law for people of all faiths.

“These genocidal projects happen in the shadows and this resolution highlights the significance of standing up for South Asian minorities, Muslims, and caste oppressed communities,” said Sharmin Hossain of the Equality Labs, a human rights start-up.

She added that thousands of organisers across the country have called for the resolution to be amplified to ensure it is an example for cities across the US to not stand on the “side of genocide”.

CAA and NRC
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

Around 70 people were killed in protests that erupted across the country after the Act was passed. These stopped in March after the nationwide lockdown was in place to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. One such exercise, carried out in Assam last year, resulted in the exclusion of 19 lakh people. Critics fear that the CAA when used in conjunction with a proposed National Register of Indian Citizens will allow the government to force many Muslims to prove their citizenship.

Human Rights

Myanmar bombing civilians: Air raids ‘that killed children amount to war crimes’

Myanmar is bombing its own people, according to Amnesty International. The human rights watchdog says it has evidence that indiscriminate airstrikes by Myanmar’s military, also known as the Tatmadaw, are killing civilians, including children, amid a worsening armed conflict in the country’s Rakhine and Chin States.

Myanmar’s military has killed civilians, including children, in indiscriminate air attacks amid worsening conflict in the country’s western Rakhine and Chin states, a prominent rights group said, urging the United Nations Security Council to launch a war crimes investigation.

In a report on Wednesday, Amnesty International said it collected new evidence showing Myanmar’s military – also known as the Tatmadaw – bombed several villages in Chin state in March and April, killing more than a dozen people.

One witness who was interviewed remotely told the group that an air raid in Paletwa Township on March 14 and 15 killed his uncle, his brother and his brother’s 16-year-old friend.

Two people from another family in the same village cluster said nine people, including a seven-year-old boy, were also killed in the bombardment.

“Our family is destroyed,” the boy’s father told Amnesty.

Myanmar SittweVillagers arrive at a temporary camp with their belongings on June 29, 2020, in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar [AP Photo]
In another round of aerial raids in Paletwa on April 7, seven people were killed and eight wounded, the report said, citing testimony from a farmer.

The indiscriminate attacks, which Amnesty said amounted to war crimes due to civilian deaths, came amid a surge in fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group seeking greater autonomy for the Buddhist Rakhine people who make up a majority of Rakhine state’s population. The region is also home to the mostly Muslim Rohingya, and borders Chin state, whose people are mostly Christian.

The conflict escalated in January last year following an AA attack on police posts and worsened in March after Myanmar’s government officially labelled the group a terrorist organisation. The AA posed “a danger to law and order, peace and stability of the country and public peace,” it said.

The attacks, and other serious human rights violations, are taking place in towns and villages where internet communication has been cut off for over a year. Locals have been kept in the dark over the threat of Covid-19 and denied information about humanitarian assistance. Rakhine State has been largely free of the coronavirus, but cases were on the rise in June.

Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific regional director says that whilst Myanmar authorities were urging people to stay at home to help stop Covid-19, in Rakhine and Chin states its military was burning down homes and killing civilians “in indiscriminate attacks that amount to war crimes”.

“Despite mounting international pressure on the military’s operations in the area, including at the International Court of Justice, the shocking testimonies we have collected shows just how deep impunity continues to run within Myanmar military ranks.”

In May and June, Amnesty interviewed more than 20 ethnic Rakhine and Chin villagers affected by military operations, which included airstrikes and shelling; analysed satellite images of burned villages, and verified video footage showing violations by the Burmese military.

The conflict has escalated since the January 4 2019 attack by the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine armed group, against several police posts in northern Rakhine State. The incident prompted a retaliatory order to ‘crush’ the AA and marked a turning point in the escalation of the conflict, which has since displaced tens of thousands. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that in recent days an additional 10,000 people fled their homes as a result of heavy fighting and warnings of advancing military operations.

Myanmar officially labelled the AA an unlawful organization on March 23. Fighting surged between March and May, while Myanmar also faced its first Covid-19 cases. More than 30 civilians were killed or injured in May alone, according to the UN. The victims were predominantly from Buddhist and Christian ethnic minorities, though media reports have also documented violations against Rohingya civilians.

The military’s airpower has inflicted immense damage and human suffering. Soldiers also appear to regularly confiscate or destroy civilian property and commandeer monasteries as bases. Amnesty documented the use and confiscation of civilian property by soldiers in Rakhine State and northern Shan State in 2019.

Residents say soldiers took rice, firewood, blankets and clothes, mobile phones and personal documents, gold bracelets, and necklaces. Livestock was slaughtered or taken. Myanmar soldiers also knocked down doors, broke windows, and damaged small Buddhist shrines kept at home.

Amnesty also documented incidents of the burning or destruction of villages in different townships in Rakhine and Chin States. Satellite imagery of several affected villages shows widescale burning consistent with Myanmar military tactics. The military and the AA have blamed each other for the burning.

They say they have not been able to document operations and abuses by the Arakan Army in the reporting period due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and limited access to affected areas and witnesses. But reports suggest the army has continued a pattern of abuses previously documented including endangering the lives of civilians during attacks, intimidation of local communities, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

Call for war crimes probe
Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in the unrest, and much of the fighting is taking place in communities where the internet has been cut off for more than a year, and against the backdrop of the new coronavirus pandemic.

“While Myanmar authorities were urging people to stay at home to help stop COVID-19, in Rakhine and Chin states its military was burning down homes and killing civilians in indiscriminate attacks that amount to war crimes,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.

“The reliance on air strikes and internet blackouts may be new, but one constant is the military’s remorseless neglect for civilian life,” Bequelin said, calling on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a war crimes inquiry.

“This relentless pattern of violations is clearly a matter for the ICC. The Security Council must act,” he added.

Zaw Htay, spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, did not respond to calls for comment. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement addressing concerns over the internet blackout, saying access was restricted to “prevent the AA from exploiting mobile internet technologies to detonate” bombs and landmines.

Internet will be restored once the situation “stabilises”, the statement said, adding that the government is taking measures to ensure the shutdown does not hinder efforts to combat the virus. Such action include disseminating COVID-19 information through SMS messages, the ministry added.

UN envoy: Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi failed as humanitarian (2:58)
Media access to Rakhine is heavily restricted, and prearranged visits with government minders are the only way foreign journalists can report from the area.

Myanmar is already under investigation in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over its treatment of the Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom fled Rakhine following a brutal military crackdown nearly three years ago. The government had defended what happened then as a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya fighters from a small armed group, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

In January, the court said “irreparable damage” had been caused to the Rohingya and ordered the government to take immediate steps to prevent genocide. Some Rohingya still live in the area, often in squalid camps.

Beatings, threats
In its latest report into the situation in the troubled region, Amnesty said it collected testimony from witnesses who recounted arbitrary detention and torture, and verified video footage showing abuses by the Tatmadaw. One woman whose husband was arrested in February said soldiers had tied up the detained man and beaten him for four nights and five days.

“He wasn’t given food or water … They kicked and hit him with rifles in the back and kicked his chest as well,” she said, recounting what her husband had told her. “Before this, he was tall and big, but when I saw him … he was visibly thin.”

The beating of detainees appears to be widespread, Amnesty said, noting that the military had admitted its soldiers punched and kicked blindfolded detainees in May after a video of the incident went viral.

Reporting from Rakhine: Surveillance, fear
The group, citing satellite imagery of conflict-affected villages, also reported widescale burning consistent with Myanmar military tactics. The Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army have previously blamed each other for the village burning.

Separately, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said more than 500 Chin people were currently stranded in Paletwa after the army turned them back as they were returning to their villages by boat. The group – all local administrators – had travelled to the town for a meeting.

The military “stopped us and told us that we cannot go back to our villages,” one of the village administrators told CHRO. “When we asked them why we are not allowed to return having already allowed us to enter, the soldiers at the security post shouted, ‘Do not ask any questions or say anything in return. We were given orders from above.’ No one dares to go since some boats were even shot at in order to threaten us.”

Amnesty said it was not able to document operations and abuses by the Arakan Army in the reporting period due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and limited access to conflict-affected areas and witnesses.

But reports suggest the Arakan Army has continued a pattern of abuses including the endangering the lives of civilians during attacks and intimidation of local communities, the group added.

Human Rights

CAA and NRC affects Assam’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy

Washington: Democratic presidential nominee and former US vice president Joe Biden wants India to take necessary steps to restore the rights of Kashmiris, and has expressed disappointment over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the implementation of the NRC in Assam.

According to a policy paper – Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community’ – posted recently on his campaign website, these measures (the CAA and the National Register of Citizens) are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.

A group of Hindu Americans has reached out to the Biden campaign expressing resentment to the language used against India and urged it to reconsider the views. The group has also sought a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans.

The Biden campaign did not respond to questions.

Observing that Biden understands the pain Muslim-Americans feel towards what is happening in Muslim-majority countries and countries with significant Muslim populations, the policy paper clubbed together Kashmir and Assam in India with the forced detention of over a million Uyghur Muslims in western China, and discrimination and atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet, weakens democracy.

Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law, the policy paper said.

Also read: For the Modi Government, Trouble Is Still Brewing in the US Congress

India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the constitution on August 5 last year and bifurcated it into two Union territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

India has defended its move, saying the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. It has asserted that the reading down of Article 370 is its “internal matter”.

The Indian government maintains that the CAA, which was passed by Parliament, is an internal matter of the country and stressed that the goal is to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries.

According to the CAA, members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.

India has said that the updation of the NRC in Assam is an “entirely internal” process carried out at the direction and under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the policy paper, Biden supporter Ajay Jain Bhutoria told PTI that Biden as the US Senator for decades and as the vice president under previous president Barack Obama for eight years has been known as one of the best friends of India and Indian-Americans.

He played a key role in the passage of the India-US civil nuclear deal and as vice president, he advocated increasing the bilateral trade to USD 500 billion per annum, he said, adding that Biden regularly hosted Diwali at his vice-presidential residence and is well-connected with the Indian-Americans.

Biden understands the issues impacting India, issues of cross border terrorism, the influx of terrorism across borders in Kashmir, issue of Hindu minorities sufferings in Kashmir, issues in the Indo Pacific region with China, and the rising role of India as stronger US ally in all areas including economic growth, counter-terrorism, fight for human rights, climate change and global security

Human Rights

WB provides Bangladesh $350m for Rohingya, host communities

Dhaka: The World Bank has approved $350 million in grant financing for three projects to help Bangladesh cope with one of the world’s largest ‘forced exodus’ of Rohingya from Myanmar.

These grants would help Bangladesh to address the needs of the host communities and the displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar regarding health services, response to gender-based violence, social protection, basic services and infrastructure, said a press release issued from Washington on Tuesday.

‘Bangladesh has shown great leadership by providing shelter to around 1.1 million Rohingya, which is about three times of the local population in Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas. Naturally, this has placed immense strain on existing infrastructure and social service delivery, and increased health and disaster risks,’ the release quoted Mercy Tembon, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, as saying.

‘The three grants will cater to the needs of both the host and Rohingya communities. At the same time, they will strengthen the country’s service delivery capacity and increase resilience to natural disaster and climate change,’ he added.

The $150 million Health and Gender Support Project for Cox’s Bazar District will enable 3.6 million people including the Rohingyas to have access to health, nutrition and family planning services as well as address gender-based violence through preventive and response services, it said.

The infant mortality rate and prevalence of stunting in Cox’s Bazar is higher than national average. The project will renovate and upgrade health facilities in Cox’s Bazar, including district sadar hospital and the mother and child welfare center in the localities and the women friendly spaces inside the Rohingya camps.

Within the Rohingya camps, the project will provide psychosocial counseling, immunisation, tuberculosis screening and treatment and nutrition services.

The $100 million additional financing to the Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project will scale up access to energy, water, sanitation and disaster-resilient infrastructures for the Rohingya and the surrounding host communities, said the release.

The project will benefit about 780,800 people, including 140,800 local people with better public infrastructure, it mentioned.

The $100 million additional financing to the Safety Net Systems for the Poorest Project will help provide livelihoods and income support to poor and vulnerable households in the host communities using an existing national safety net program, Employment Generation Program for the Poorest and scale-up social assistance coverage to the Rohingya under the Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project.
Source : New Age Bangladesh

Human Rights

5 Investigates undercover finds prostitution, ‘human trafficking

In the shadows of Boston’s old red-light district sex may not be for sale on the streets, but when 5 Investigates went undercover they found offers of sex for a fee happening behind closed doors.

The neon signs for massages glow in the windows of the second floor of 40 Harrison Ave. in the heart of Chinatown.

With cash in hand our producer hit two businesses, Diva Beauty Spa and Lotus Massage, on different nights.

When the massage ended, he said, “At a certain point with her hand on my private area she asked me if I wanted her to finish and made a hand gesture. In the old days you would see prostitutes on the street, now I just stepped into a doorway, went upstairs and found the same thing.”

Weeks later, two women were taken into custody and evidence was hauled out of Chinatown massage parlors during a Boston Police raid targeting alleged houses of prostitution and human trafficking.

Two of the businesses raided were part of our investigation at 40 Harrison Ave.

The detective sergeant who heads up the Boston Police Human Trafficking Unit told 5 Investigates police had received community complaints that people were going in not just for massages but to get illicit sex, illegal sex for a fee.

Investigators said in many cases what’s happening in Chinatown is more than just women working as prostitutes in massage parlors.

They believe it’s part of the underground sex trade involving human trafficking.

“Many of the women I’ve talked to who have come to this country have left very abusive situations back in China. They thought they were going to work in a restaurant or be domestic help and the next thing they know they’re involved in the sex trade,” said the detective.

The businesses and the services they offer can be easily found on websites popular with men on the hunt for sex.

Documents obtained by 5 Investigates show there’s been a history of problems at Diva Beauty Spa over the past few years. A complaint was filed in April with the state about alleged illegal sex at Diva Beauty Spa. They were also cited in 2012 for having an unlicensed masseuse.

The current owner of Lotus, Sophia Wang, was charged with sexual conduct for a fee back in 2008 and maintaining a house of prostitution in 2010. Both charges were dropped. Last year police obtained a search warrant after a massage therapist at Lotus told an undercover officer she would perform a sex act for $40.

Police don’t target the women providing the sex, who in most cases, are brought in from New York.

They focus on the business owners, the johns who provide the demand and pimps trafficking the women.

The head of the Boston Police Human Trafficking Unit said, “As you can imagine there’s a great demand and that’s the big problem. There’s a lot of money being made by pimps because guys are willing to pay two to three-hundred dollars for services at lunch.”

Both owners will be summonsed to court for maintaining houses of prostitution.

The state fined Lotus Massage last year for licensing and labor law issues. Diva Beauty Spa was issued a stop-work order last week, but that’s under appeal.

Because it’s difficult to prosecute these cases, city, state and federal investigators use a multi-pronged approach which includes looking at labor laws, immigration laws and inspecting the businesses.

Human Rights, Human Traffiking

New law to counter human trafficking in India

The Modi government is introducing a new law to fight this rising problem, affecting many thousands of boys, women and girls every year

 

For years India has remained the “top destination” for human trafficking in South Asia, according to the United Nations Office on Organized Crime (UNODC). This is a major problem in South Asian countries because of their porous borders, it says.

South Asian children continue to be trafficked for multiple forms of sexual exploitation. The abuse includes prostitution, sex tourism, child pornography, pedophilia – and to get them to work in factories, agriculture, domestic servitude and begging, for forced marriage, adoption, military recruitment and debt release.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures, the state of Bihar ranked third just behind Rajasthan and West Bengal in 2017, when 362 boys and 33 girls below 18 years of age were rescued from the clutches of traffickers.

In February 2018, the Indian Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill for introduction in the parliament. The bill, if passed, will lead to the creation of a national anti-trafficking bureau, to comply with a December 2015 Supreme Court order that an investigative agency be established to counter human trafficking. It will criminalize aggravated forms of trafficking with the intent of preventing this crime, and rescuing and rehabilitating victims.

The NCRB reported that in 2016 the government had identified 22,955 victims of trafficking – a significant increase from 8,281 victims the previous year. The NCRB said about half of the victims (11,212) were subjected to forced labor, while 7,570 were exploited in sex trafficking, 3,824 exploited in an unspecified manner, and 349 victims were subject to forced marriages.

But the government did not specify the age, gender or nationality of victims who suffered this exploitation. It included a small number of other crimes involving another 162 victims.

Boys most affected

The Indian government identified 8,651 boys, 7,238 women, 5,532 girls, and 1,696 men as trafficking victims. The great majority were Indian – 22,932 victims, while the other people affected were Sri Lankans (38), Nepalis (38), Bangladeshis (36) and 73 from a range of other countries, such as Thailand and Uzbekistan.

Most of the statistics and data on trafficking is gathered in relation to cases of cross-border trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. So, there is less information on the extent of trafficking linked to other purposes and trafficking of boys. In some countries, it is a custom or ritual to detain trafficked boys for some form of labor or pleasure.

Some boys from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are subjected to forced labor in embroidery factories in Nepal, while Burmese Rohingya, Sri Lankan Tamil, and other refugee populations continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in India, according to US State Department estimates.

People are mostly trafficked from countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, Indian officials say. Often refugees are targeted by local people. Victims of natural disasters are also targeted. Displaced Rohingya were at great risk of human trafficking from the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, experts said.

The scope of information available on trafficking in different countries varies widely. Bangladesh, India and Nepal compile limited data, while the lack of data in Bhutan and the Maldives makes it difficult to analyze trafficking patterns in those countries, researchers said.

Human trafficking was last addressed at the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation, but SAARC is often sidetracked due to disputes between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, or accusations that Pakistan has interfered in Afghanistan.

The SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution was held in 2002, but few changes have occurred in South Asian nations due to the lack of legislation or enforcement of anti-trafficking initiatives.

Men or boys are usually considered an invisible population as the traditional discourse on human trafficking does not usually take them into account. They are usually seen as predators or buyers of women, who are considered to be more vulnerable than young men. Lack of opportunities or little support from families are usually given as reasons that led to young men becoming victims of human-trafficking rackets.

Experts say speedy trials need to be implemented and legal authorities given adequate funds and training to break the cycle of trafficking and rehabilitate the survivors, so they can access prompt and proper care, such as psychological counseling. (Asia Times)