A Push Factor for Trafficking: Gender-Based Violence

May 24, 2022 The Asia Foundation
A Push Factor for Trafficking: Gender-Based Violence
Show Notes Transcript

One can lure victims into brothels and across international borders. The other is often hidden in the home. But their tangled relationship holds a key to detection, enforcement, and rehabilitation. Read the full article on the InAsia blog

Nandita Baruah (00:03):

When you are desperate, you are willing to pick at any twig that anybody throws at you and says, "Hey, this is horrible. I could get you to a way better place." And these are women coming from less educated, somewhat remote, without a social support system, therefore willing to take that twig and believe that it's actually a big branch,

Tracie Yang (00:23):

An overlooked connection between trafficking in persons and gender-based violence in South Asia. Today on InAsia, from The Asia Foundation, I'm Tracie Yang.

John Rieger (00:32):

And I'm John Rieger. One can lure victims into brothels and across international borders, the other is often hidden in the home, but understanding their tangled relationship could be a powerful key to better detection, enforcement, and rehabilitation for victims.

Tracie Yang (00:47):

Joining us today is the Asia Foundation's country representative in India, Nandita Baruah, part of the three-country team behind a new report on trafficking in persons and gender-based violence in South Asia. Nandita, welcome to InAsia.

Nandita Baruah (01:00):

Thank you, Tracie. And it's a pleasure to be here today.

John Rieger (01:02):

So Nandita, here's a major new report from The Asia Foundation, looking at trafficking in persons and gender-based violence in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. First of all, what prompted this big research effort?

Nandita Baruah (01:15):

The Foundation and many of our partners across South Asia have been working on anti-trafficking programs for years now. And why we have had a lot of success in many areas of addressing human trafficking, most of our programs we felt were not really addressing some of the core issues that are actually the push factor, or that increased vulnerability of women, men, young men, boys and girls to being trafficked. And when we dig deeper, we do realize that gender-based violence, of various forms and kind, is really a critical push factor that makes people more vulnerable to being duped, to being abused, and to being trafficked. Unfortunately, there are two groups of institutional players who work on both these sectors, and we don't necessarily seem to have connected the two as an essential area of collaboration. And that's what got us to start looking at, why was that?

Tracie Yang (02:14):

The report takes great pains to analyze what it calls the intersection of gender-based violence and trafficking in persons. What does that mean? And what does that get us?

Nandita Baruah (02:26):

So when we talk about intersection, I think what we wanted to really highlight is that when you intercept a person that you believe is being trafficked, you generally ask questions which pertain to the agency of that person in the movement. Did you move willingly? Do you know the person you are going with? Do you know what job you're going for? Do you have papers? Unfortunately, in many of the cases, the person is not going to give you the right answers, because she believes that, "Oh, I am with somebody who's going to take me to a better future than I was in." So we felt that you also need to ask deeper questions. What was the situation at home that made you decide to go for this job? Were you facing any kind of violation at home? Are you moving because you had economic deprivation?

Nandita Baruah (03:14):

The moment you start linking these two different sets of perspective, you are actually way better placed to see the correlation and say, "I need to look deeper than the answers she's giving to me vis-à-vis her agency in this movement." That's the correlation that we have tried to establish, saying "Do not look just at that movement. Look at the push factors, and you will be able to better identify victims on their way to being exploited."

John Rieger (03:41):

So push factors, what are some of the factors that make victims vulnerable to being trafficked?

Nandita Baruah (03:46):

So, many. I think when we were doing interviews with these survivors, large majority of them had either faced domestic abuse at home, were victims of sexual violation by somebody that they know, were economically violated, single women who were put in a position of extreme vulnerability by their families, who were not giving them their rightful use in property or in income, young boys and girls who are being abused within the family, physically, trying to run away, men, young men and boys who were... Again, same kind of trajectory, all of them believing the person who said, "I can get you out of this mess."

John Rieger (04:25):

And so leaving when you're in desperate straights, why does that make you vulnerable to being trafficked?

Nandita Baruah (04:30):

When you are desperate, you are willing to pick at any twig that anybody throws at you and says, "Hey, this is horrible. I could get you to a way better place." We've had cases where a woman said somebody told her, and she was being violated, abused, beaten up, and a person who came up to her and said, "Oh, wait a minute. I could take you to Delhi. And I could actually give you a job where you don't have to do anything. You just have to water some plants in somebody's house, and they'll give you food and shelter." And these are women coming from less educated, somewhat remote, without a social support system, therefore willing to take that twig, and believe that it's actually a big branch.

Tracie Yang (05:08):

So Nandita, both gender-based violence and trafficking in persons have been and continue to be against the law throughout your study area in South Asia, but the report suggests there are structural problems with the whole approach to these crimes. Can you explain that?

Nandita Baruah (05:26):

So I think with trafficking, like I said, the biggest structural problem is identification. So that's why we have created what is called a checklist. It's a simple, straightforward checklist for identifying victims of trafficking, with the intersectional lens of gender-based violence. When you see any women, or men and young boys in this situation, here is what you need to ask them. How many people were there in your family? Did you have working members in your family? Were you earning? Does your family know you have left? While you were in your family, did you face any violence? Are you married? Do you have children?

John Rieger (06:02):

So these are the push factors?

Nandita Baruah (06:03):

These are the push factors that people who are looking at trafficking don't tend to ask, unless you say, "You need to start asking these." And that story actually helps you unravel the past from which the person is trying to move away.

John Rieger (06:18):

Well, what you're suggesting seems remarkably simple. I mean, obviously some of the most important discoveries turn out to be simple in retrospect, but to inquire about the conditions that the person is leaving seems to be extremely fundamental.

Nandita Baruah (06:36):

Yes. I mean, frankly, like you're saying, it's nothing rocket science. It should have been obvious to all of us who are working in the sector. But somehow, I think our lens of addressing these two as separate issues kind of made us work in silos instead of as a part of an integral home.

John Rieger (06:52):

So clearly South Asia, it has been wrestling with this problem for some time. Where would you like to see this report take South Asia next?

Nandita Baruah (07:03):

I think... We've done a couple of things, John. One, of course, the research itself is trying to make a case for understanding the interlink between gender-based violence and trafficking as an integrated whole. Yeah. And therefore, using that lens at every level of anti-trafficking programs, whether it is interception, identification, rehabilitation, reintegration. Secondly, I think some of these kind of training, a lot of it has been given by civil society. We feel very strongly that these need to be embedded in the formal training institutions of the state who are authorized to deal with these crimes. So we've had a great success with the [inaudible 00:07:45] Police Training Academy, for example, in India. And they have agreed to adopt this, and they've already started providing the training as a part of their core training in the academy.

Tracie Yang (07:55):

Well, let's go back to civil society. Your report says that having separate services for trafficking victims and abuse victims is wasting resources. Do these agencies also need a new way of looking at things?

Nandita Baruah (08:09):

We've found responses when we ask them, "Do you think services should be integrated?" It's been mixed, right? Many civil societies, some have said, "Oh yes, it's a great idea. We never thought of it." Others have said, "Well, it's going to be very difficult, because I can't bring a traffic to women into my shelter home where I'm keeping gender-based violence because the gender-based violence women won't like it." Because those women are also caught in the same patriarchy of stigma, judgment against different forms of violation. I think it's like this, right? Domestic violence is something most, within patriarchy, everybody says, "Oh yeah, it's a violation that is happening at home." Maybe your mother-in-law, maybe your father, brother, husband is beating you up or is being abusive towards you.

Nandita Baruah (08:52):

And so those women try to get out escape, seek help, and get into a shelter. Simultaneously, another woman who's probably facing the same violation ends up in a brothel as a sex worker, and therefore there is a stigma about her. "Oh my God, she's come from the brothel. She's a sex worker. We don't want to be seen with her. We don't want her in our space." And that is something that most NGOs actually did articulate and felt that it's very hard to address this in shelter situations. So we sometimes prefer to keep these services different. And unless you address this head on and say, "These are my biases, I need to address this within my service center, within myself, and within the people I work with," I don't think we are doing justice to gender-based violence and women

John Rieger (09:33):

Suddenly, you've got a much bigger project here. Nandita Baruah, thank you so much for being with us today.

Nandita Baruah (09:39):

Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

John Rieger (09:42):

That's our show for this week. The report is Optimizing Screening and Support Services for Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking in Persons Victims. And you can find a link and read more about it in this week's blog post by Shruti Patil, a member of the team in India.

Tracie Yang (09:56):

And if you're enjoying the InAsia podcast, you can subscribe wherever fine podcasts like ours are offered to be subscribed to. Go ahead. Until next time, I'm Tracie Yang.

John Rieger (10:05):

And I'm John Rieger.

Tracie Yang (10:07):

Thanks for listening.