International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Dr. Manjusha Subhash Molwane*  
The story of Zeenat illustrated how poverty and traditional cultural practices have contributed to  
the propagation of Human Trafficking. It is evident that trafficked women end up in Mumbai and  
other such big cities and this further increases the vulnerability. The Government has been very  
active to prevent and abolish derogatory practices against women. The Maharashtra State  
Commission for Women has been raising awareness to combat such heinous crimes and makes  
sure that the victims/survivors are reintegrated back into the society with dignity.  
Keywords : Human trafficking, Traditional cultural practices, Poverty.  
In February 2013, Zeenat was rescued by the Mumbai police from a brothel in Kamathipura. For one  
and a half years, Zeenat had been sexually exploited in different brothels after being trafficked to  
Mumbai. Zeenat become the victim of trafficking after her husband abandoned her and her parents  
refused to take her back. She was six months pregnant at that time. With nowhere to go, she  
eventually found herself in a hostel, and there she gave birth to a daughter. Zeenat struggled to cover  
her daily expenses, let alone the expenses of her new-born daughter, whom she had kept in an  
ashram school.  
Eventually she met a man who promised to find her a job. Instead, he gave her a drugged tea,  
rendering Zeenat unconscious. When she woke up the next morning, Zeenat found herself in Mumbai,  
being handed over to a brothel manager. He threatened her saying “If you run away, I will put your  
picture in the media and tell your parents you were prostituting. The police will come after you.”  
Mentally and emotionally broken, and knowing she had no escape, Zeenat began prostituting but  
she never saw a single rupee of her earnings”  
Zeenat’s story is only one in a million stories of victims of human trafficking. Impoverished, abandoned  
by her husband, and rejected by her family, as is the traditional practice, she was vulnerable and  
without hope, becoming an easy target for her traffickers. Her story illustrates how poverty and  
traditional cultural practices that are harmful to women have contributed to the propagation of human  
trafficking in our society.  
Most trafficking victims come from rural areas; they are poor and illiterate. More than one-third of the  
total reported cases of child trafficking are registered in West Bengal, bordering with the poor  
neighboring countries Bangladesh and Nepal. Often, trafficked women end up in big cities such as  
Mumbai. Far from home, and often not familiar with the local language, these trafficked women and  
girls cannot count on any help. Most victims are from disadvantaged minority groups, scheduled  
castes/tribes or other backward castes.  
Women and girls end up via different ways into a situation of trafficking. Due to a lack of information  
or awareness, poor families thrust their children into the hands of traffickers, hoping for a better life  
for their children. Some victims are also actually sold by family members or acquaintances to traffickers.  
And some, like Zeenat, are tricked and forced into a situation of exploitation, believing or hoping that  
they might gain a better job and livelihood. Instead, people abuse their vulnerability and they end up  
being trafficked into brothels, their freedom snatched from them. In 2014, UN Special Rapporteur  
Rashida Manjoostated, “Young unskilled women are allegedly given false work promises, resulting in  
forced domestic servitude in foreign countries. Women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution  
are unable to defend their rights, and lack access to rehabilitation and compensation for such crimes.”  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Though poverty and a lack of education alone are not direct causes of trafficking, they do increase  
In that regard, although much needed, it does not suffice to only address poverty concerns or  
education for girls. In order to effectively fight trafficking and reduce violence against women, it is  
necessary to look into another risk factor of vulnerability gender. Women and girls are more vulnerable  
to become a victim of trafficking than men.  
Patriarchal norms and certain traditional practices harm the position of women. A clear illustration of  
the aversion towards women is the practice of sex selective abortion and the declining female sex  
ratio. Also, child marriage and contractual marriage increase the risk of women and girls becoming  
victim of trafficking and exploitation. Other examples of traditional practices that are harmful to  
women and girls are the dowry system, ‘honor’ killings, devadasi and accusing women of witchcraft.  
The socio-economic dependency of women on their husbands or family, keeps them trapped in  
unsafe and abusive environments. To add insult to injury, many families refuse to accept women who  
have been widowed or abandoned, or sexually assaulted, leaving them without the security of a  
The Indian Government has addressed, and still addresses harmful practices towards women and  
girls “such as dowry, child marriage, sati, sex selective abortion etc. through legislation, programs  
and community interactions”. In 2007, the Government also introduced the Ujjawala scheme to  
combat trafficking of women and children for commercial, sexual exploitation. The scheme aims to  
prevent trafficking and promote rescue, rehabilitation, re-integration and repatriation of those trafficked  
The Maharashtra State Commission for Women supports these activities and is therefore, raising  
awareness on the issue through the hosting of an International Conference on Women Trafficking. In  
addition, the Commission supports the partners with numerous NGO’s in Maharashtra to support the  
re-integration of victims in society.  
The Maharashtra State Commission for Women has also initiated a series of training workshops for  
tackling sexual harassment against women at workplaces.Under PUSH – People United Against  
Sexual Harassment, the Commission seeks to educate and raise awareness regarding laws that  
protect women, and provide tools for helping aggrieved women. It is imperative that society raise the  
position of women and provide security and protection to them at every level.  
The commission recognizes the need to educate society and advocate for the elimination of harmful  
practices against women which leave them vulnerable to being trafficked.  
National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, TABLE 6A.7 Cases Reported & Rate  
of Crime Relating to Child Trafficking During 2015, Page. 217.  
Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes  
and consequences, on her mission to India (22 April – 1 May 2013), 1 April 2014, par. 28 [A/  
CEDAW,Consideration of reports submitted by states parties under article 18 of the Convention,  
Combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of States Parties – India [6 July 2012] par.25, [CEDAW/  
M.Sc., Ph.d, Member Secretary, Maharashtra State Commission for Women