Modern-Day Slavery in India A twenty-first century evil Against Women


The Global Slavery Index ranked India 4 of 167 countries for highest prevalence of modern-day slavery. It is estimated that 18,354,700 people in India are modern-day slaves.

Poverty is a main factor that makes people more vulnerable to becoming slaves. There are at least 270 million people in India that are below the poverty line. These people survive off of less than $1.90 per day.

The red on the map indicates countries that have the highest accounts of modern-day slaves.


The League of Nations formally defined slavery during the Slavery Convention in 1926. Slavery is defined as:

“the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised”

In 1953, the United Nations Secretary General report added that slavery includes: making someone an object of person, not paying compensation that is of value to the amount of labor, ownership of a person that is transferable to another person, and an individual under contract who cannot terminate their work.

Forms of Modern-day Slavery


Devadasi is a form of tribal prostitution. It is referred to as sacred prostitution, because girls that perform these services are married to a deity. Her duties include traditional dancing and sexual services to temple patrons.

Devadasi began in Northern Karnataka in South India. There are about 23,000 devadasi in Karnataka alone. It is estimated that 1,000 to 10,000 girls become devadasi annually.


The Act of Madras and Karnataka State’s Prohibition of Dedication Act of 1982 is the most prominent legislation against devadasi, however it is not strongly enforced. The goal was to prevent dedication of girls to devadasi by penalizing friends and family members that supported the decision. Pragmatic efforts are necessary to facilitate devadasi transferring back into a normal lifestyle. These can include job training, support groups or purification rituals

Devadasi are marked by distinctive red and white beads

Commercial Surrogacy

"India is the infertility medical tourism marketplace"

Surrogacy is defined as a surrogate mother for hire being artificially inseminated with the natural father's sperm. Commercial surrogacy officially became legal in the 2008 Indian Supreme Court case of Baby Manji Yamada v Union of India & Anr. India is the top destination for commercial surrogacy in the world because of a lack of laws to regulate the business.

Commercial surrogacy becomes modern-day slavery when women are "forced, coerced and exploited to become surrogates."


India drafted the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Regulation Draft Bill in 2010. Its purpose was to give protective rights to surrogate mothers. Some protocols include restricting the age of surrogates, limiting the number of times a surrogate can give birth and ensuring the proper prenatal healthcare. The bill has been tabled in parliament since its introduction in 2010.

Surrogate Mothers

Human Trafficking

The United Nations used the Palermo Protocol to define trafficking as:

[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

The United Nations suggests that more than four million people are trafficked annually. The selling of young women is the fastest growing, most lucrative organized crime in the world. Almost 80% of all people trafficked will end up in a form of sexual servitude.

Methods of Trafficking

  • Employment Prospects
  • Promises of Marriage
  • Love Affairs
  • Kidnapping
  • Sales and Adoptions
Girl crying because of her forced marriage.


The Palermo Protocol was adopted by the UN in 2000. India signed the legislation in 2002, but it was't ratified until 2011, therefore trafficking wasn't regarded as a crime. Nepal, Bangladesh, and India adopted the United Declaration of Human Rights declaring that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all forms.” India's policemen accept bribes or extort money from traffickers in return for not convicting traffickers.

External aid will be the most effective solution to this epidemic. The US Department of State passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The act combats trafficking using 3 P's: prevention, protection, and prosecution. A few protocols include economic sanctions on uncooperative countries and temporary visas to victims of trafficking.

A brothel where trafficking victims are temporary housed

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