The death of a battered two-year-old girl in India has thrust human trafficking in the country into the spotlight. The girl, dubbed Falak by doctors, was taken to a New Delhi hospital in January by a 14-year-old girl who claimed to be her mother. Doctors say Falak had severe head injuries, broken arms, branded cheeks, and bite marks covering her body when she was admitted.
For two months Indians followed the story as she underwent multiple surgeries. But on Thursday she suffered a cardiac arrest – the third in her short life – and died. The case made headlines across the country, but it was just the beginning of a much darker story. Once police began looking into the case, they uncovered a suspected human trafficking ring.
According to reports, the teenage girl who took Falak to hospital had been sold into a brothel. She began living with Rajkumar, a man she met through the brothel. One day, he allegedly brought home baby Falak.
The woman believed to actually be Falak’s biological mother, 22-year-old Munni, was tracked down in Rajasthan. Munni had been sold by her first husband to another man. She was reportedly forced to leave the baby with the teenager when she was sold. She also left behind her two other children. The Indian home ministry says it is a case of human trafficking.
“This has turned out to be one of the biggest sex rackets involving minors and child prostitution and sale of women for marriage,” Raaj Mangal Prasad, the head of India’s Child Welfare Committee, .
“This shows this is a classic case where the magnitude of trafficking has come to light.” The girl is now in a juvenile home and Rajkumar has been detained by police – one of a handful of people arrested.
The case has reignited debate about human trafficking in India, a country with a population of 1.2 billion people. The as “the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them”. because it is an underground crime.
However, the UN estimates that at any one time 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking across the globe, and the most common form is sexual exploitation.
In a 2011 report the US State Department in terms of human trafficking, meaning it does not do enough to eliminate trafficking but is taking steps to curb the problem.
“Ninety per cent of trafficking in India is internal, and those from India’s most disadvantaged social economic strata including the lowest castes are particularly vulnerable to forced or bonded labour and sex trafficking,” the report said.
“Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of forced prostitution … cities popular for tourism continue to be vulnerable to child sex tourism. Indian nationals engage in child sex tourism within the country and, to a lesser extent, in other countries.”
In a 2003 report the National Human Rights Commission of India , with around 11,000 of those never being found.
The NHRC estimates that almost half of the children trafficked within India are between the ages of 11 and 14.
Stolen and sold
But not all the trafficking cases in India are internal. In 2009, the ABC’s , looking into cases of children being stolen and trafficked to Australia under the guise of adoptions.
Officials say the number of cases in Australia is relatively low, but they also admit the extent of the problem remains unclear. According to the Australian Federal Police, nearly 200 people in Australia have been rescued from people-trafficking arrangements. Australia’s student visa program has also been hit by . The AFP has of the problem, and last year it backed a campaign aimed at dismantling stereotypes of human trafficking:
The Indian government “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking … [but] it is making significant efforts to do so”.
Last year India and it also prohibits some forms of trafficking – including for sexual exploitation and forced labour – in its local laws. But critics say the laws are not effectively enforced and a clear definition of trafficking is not provided. Delhi-based writer Namita Bhandare to stop cases like this happening again. But she argues that the “biggest stumbling block” is a lack of willpower to bring about concrete change. Online, meanwhile, people are in a bid to keep the case of baby Falak in the spotlight. “She came to reveal the sad story of human trafficking and many women of other India, now when she has done it … she is gone RIP Baby Falak,” tweeted one user