Sex Slave: Putting a Price Tag on Human Dignity.

“Slavery is a weed that grows on every soil.”  – Edmund Burke


Before we talk about sex slave in India, we need to understand the meaning of it. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, sex slave basically means when a person is forced to perform sexual acts and who is not free to leave the place where they are kept or they are not allowed to stop the work which they are being forced to do.

Sexual Slavery basically includes forced labour (including forced marriage) and sex trafficking persons, such as the sexual trafficking of children.[1]

In old times even ‘concubinage’ existed, which was a traditional form of sexual slavery in many cultures, in which women spent their lives in sexual servitude. In some cultures, concubines and their children had distinct rights and legitimate social positions.


To understand the concept of sex slave, it is very important to understand the types of sexual slavery, some of which are as follows:

  • Sex Trafficking: Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking involving the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people, by coercive or abusive means for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking and estimates vary as to the percentage of human trafficking which is for the purpose of transporting someone into sexual slavery.
  • Utilization of children for commercial sex: It includes within its ambit a number of things like child prostitution,child sex tourism, child pornography, or other forms of transactional sex with children.[2] Youth Advocate Program International has described the utilization of children for commercial sexual activities as a form of coercion and violence against kids as a modern form of slavery. An assertion was made by the World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which was held in Stockholm in 1996 wherein it was stated about CSEC as, “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or in kind to the child or to a third person or persons, the child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object”.[3]
  • Forced prostitution: Forced prostitution refers to a situation of control over a person who is coerced by another to engage in sexual activity.
  • Forced marriage: A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both participants are married, without their freely given consent. Forced marriage is a form of sexual slavery. Causes for forced marriages include customs such as bride price and dowry; poverty; the importance given to female premarital virginity; “family honour”; the fact that marriage is considered in certain communities a social arrangement between the extended families of the bride and groom; limited education and economic options; perceived protection of cultural or religious traditions; assisting immigration.

Sex Slave in India: A Shame to Our Community:

“India is a source destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking,”[4]

The sex slave trade is centuries old, but its modern manifestation in India began under the British period. British soldiers and clerks had begun to show high rates of syphilis[5] and because of that in 19th-century, colonial administrators passed an Act known as Cantonment Act and Contagious Diseases Act, and created regulated areas for commercialized sex for British soldiers. Women of Indian origin were brought to such locality and regularly submitted to health check-ups. These women were not given any permission to marry or have any other profession.[6]

Nowadays, 90% of human trafficking in India is happening domestically[7], not across borders. In various cases, traffickers tempt children or young adults from rural villages to the city with the promise of well-paid work. Then such victims are transferred to individuals who become their masters making such victims the slaves. Some victims work without pay as household maids. Others have no way but to enter forced marriages with strangers whom they have never met. Some are also forced into bonded labour in the mining or agricultural sectors. Others are sold in brothels.

Most significant places where female trafficking victims are found large in number in India are Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat and Hyderabad which is a data according to the US State Department’s latest Trafficking in Persons Report. Women from Nepal and small girls are increasingly being trafficked to Assam, Nagpur and Pune.

In India, sex-selective abortions and female infanticide are very common due to the preference for male babies which has created one of the most harsh gender imbalances in the world. In recent times, the scarcity of women is generating a dangerous requirement for brides among men anxious to marry, especially in states like Haryana, which has one of the country’s devastating gender ratios. Traffickers are stepping in to meet this demand by kidnapping women from other states and exporting them to men in Haryana.[8]

Reason of Increase in Human Trafficking in India:

The following are the plausible reasons:[9]

  1. The Fundamental theory of demand and supply is valid for this situation as well. Men usually travel to major commercial cities for work and from there, the demand of commercial sex starts. To satisfy such supply of clients all sorts of efforts are made by the suppliers to bring girls and women from different parts of the country through processes like abduction, etc. Young girls and women belonging to poor families are at higher risk of falling prey to such instances.
  2. Poverty and economic deprivation is another main reason for the increase in human trafficking. Generally, it can be observed that if one is born to a poor family in the North-eastern state of India, then one is at a higher risk of being sold. Again, if a person is born to a poor family and is a girl, then the likelihood further increases. Sometimes parents are also desperate to sell their daughters to earn money in poorer families.
  3. Social inequality, regional gender preference, imbalance and corruption are some of the prevailing leading causes of human trafficking in India.




Treatment of the Guilty Offenders:

Under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is penalized. The punishment ranges from seven years’ to life imprisonment. The Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the Child Labour Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act are some of the other legislations which prohibit the bonded and forced labour in India.

Because of the brutal gang rape of December 2012, chiefly known as the Nirbhaya incident, government has passed a bill in which laws related to sexual violence and sex trafficking have been amended. But then also, there is a huge gap between enactment and enforcement of these laws in India. If only there is a strict disciplinary action against everybody involved in such a crime only then, this problem can be addressed.


The term sex slave itself hides a huge number of horrors which can involve kidnap, rape, illegal detention, prostitution and violence. Victims are often threatened with the murder of loved ones or dependents if they try to escape. While it is unclear whether stricter punishments will deter perpetrators, rescue and rehabilitation efforts remain sadly ineffective.

Movies are the best way to engage people with social issues. Bollywood movies in many occasions have tried to portray the real image of Indian society on the issue of sex trafficking and have successfully brought out the horrific images and the misery of the trafficked women on the said cause. Movies like Chandni, B.A. Pass, Dev D, Lakshmi, Udta Punjab has dealt with such societal problems. Again, movies like Slum dog Millionaire, Traffic Signal touched the subject of child labour and child trafficking.





[1]Jackie Jones, Anna Grear, Rachel Anne Fenton, Kim Stevenson (2011). Gender, Sexualities and Law. Routledge. p. 203. ISBN 1136829237. Retrieved October 28, 2017.

[2] “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and Child Trafficking”. Youth Advocate Program International. Retrieved 8 July 2012.

[3] Stephen Clift; Simon Carter (2000). Tourism and Sex. Cengage Learning EMEA. pp. 75–78. ISBN 1-85567-636-2.

[4] Arun Kumar, Forced Labour India’s Largest Trafficking Problem: US Report. , Zee News (Mar. 28, 2018, 6:57 PM)

[5] A very serious disease that is spread through sexual intercourse.

[6] Teresa Cantero, India Has A Sex Trafficking Problem, And It’s Worse Than You Think, (Mar. 28, 2018, 6:50 PM),

[7] Sadika Hameed, Sandile Hlatshwayo, Evan Tanner, Meltem Türker, and Jungwon Yang, Human Trafficking in India: Dynamics, Current Efforts, and Intervention Opportunities for The Asia Foundation (Mar. 28, 2018, 6:55 PM),

[8] Mary Ann Jolley & Liz Gooch, Sold like cows and goats: India’s slave brides, (Mar. 28, 2018, 7:15 PM),

[9] Ramandeep Kaur, Human Trafficking in India must end, mapsofindia (Mar. 28, 2018, 7:54 PM),

Leave A Comment