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Alarming Rise in Youth Elopements Fuels Human Trafficking Concerns in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Human trafficking, especially among young adolescents, has taken a distressing upswing in Odisha, particularly in the wake of the post-COVID era. Minati Behera, the Chairperson of the State Commission for Women, raised this concerning issue during the “Emerging Trends in Human Trafficking” workshop.

To counter this trend, the Commission has initiated community sensitization programs across all districts, with plans to extend these educational efforts to colleges. The goal is to equip young adolescents with knowledge about the vulnerabilities associated with human trafficking.

“The Commission is already sensitising communities by holding workshops in all districts and college-level workshops will also be conducted to sensitise young adolescents about the vulnerabilities around human trafficking,” Behera said

Behera emphasized that the widespread availability of mobile phones has made children as young as 14 susceptible to these crimes. “The access to mobile phones has made children as young as 14 years vulnerable to such crimes. Young adolescents get into relationships and later elope at a tender age without thinking of the consequences. After a few months of living together, they separate. These girls become easy targets for traffickers, who lure them to the business of sex trafficking,” she said.

Arun Bothra, ADGP CID Crime Branch, characterized human trafficking as a complex issue. He shed light on the measures undertaken by the state government to address this problem, including establishing integrated anti-human trafficking units in all districts and women and child desks at police stations. Bothra urged civil society to provide actionable information and collaborate in identifying human trafficking and bonded labor hotspots.

Umi Daniel, Director of Migration & Education at Aide et Action, underscored the pivotal role of the police in preventing trafficking. He highlighted the significance of “movement slips” and the necessity of registrations before migration as effective tools in combating migration and bonded labor. These measures had a significant impact on curbing such practices in Balangir last year.

Benudhar Senapati, Director of Childline in Odisha, presented alarming statistics, disclosing that 16 cases of child trafficking were registered in the past two months. Senapati stressed the importance of victims witnessing perpetrators brought to justice as a source of relief. Consequently, he urged law enforcement agencies to relentlessly work towards ending impunity.

The workshop also featured the stories of two trafficking survivors, Diyalu Niyal and Santoshini, who shared their harrowing experiences and detailed how government interventions rescued them from exploitative bonded labor.

Organized by Odisha Women in Media, the event drew more than 50 media professionals from across the state. Its primary objective was to deepen understanding of human trafficking and bonded labor in Odisha and encourage increased reporting of these crimes.

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