Ugly American

Updated: Mar 24 2005, 06:01am hrs
Uncle Sam seems all set to play Big Brother once again. And this time it is India which is likely to face its displeasureread economic sanctionsfor its inability to check trafficking of women and children. But much as the US likes to assume the role of the worlds saviour, it would do well to mind its own business. This isnt to say that India does not have a problem of trafficking in women and children. Or that it is being addressed in an adequate and satisfactory manner. We do have a serious problem on our hands. But it is not something that we are unaware of, or are incapable of dealing with on our own. We can do without the US demonstrating its bleeding heart to the world by imposing sanctions. Indeed to the extent that such trafficking is a direct consequence of poverty, in which case economic sanctions are only likely to aggravate rather than solve the problem, US hypocrisy is fully exposed.

The US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 categorises countries based upon the concerned governments efforts to combat trafficking: Tier-1 for countries complying fully with the Acts minimum standards, Tier-2 (India is presently in this category) for those that do not show full compliance, while Tier-3 comprises countries that arent complying at all. A down-grading for India will mean Tier-3 and, thus, a US vote against loans to India from international financial institutions. That does not matter much at the moment, since India is no longer dependent on these institutions.

This isnt to say human trafficking can be ignored. According to an estimate, nearly 700,000 persons are trafficked every year across international borders. In India, a number of state governments have set up fast-track courts to prosecute traffickers. Better enforcement of the law is only one part of the answer. The other is to do things like legalising prostitution. This will immediately remove the industry from the clutches of the underworld and the mafia and give women in this profession some rights. And most important, a voice that will be heard, even if not always heeded.