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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

AIPP’s Statement on World’s Day against Trafficking in Persons


As the world observes the World’s Day against Trafficking in Persons, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders Network wish to point out the unrecognized dimension of indigenous identity as a factor in human trafficking, especially of women and children.

Increasingly, reports of trafficking of indigenous peoples, women and girls, and children all over Asia are coming in in different reports and stories. The US State Department 2015 Report on Trafficking in Persons has flagged the vulnerability to trafficking of about 98,000 men, women and children from ethnic states in Myanmar displaced by conflicts. Earlier in 2010, it reported on the systemic trafficking of ethnic minority women to China and Thailand. A study by Save the Children in 2005-2006 of returning trafficked individuals from 19 northern provinces in Vietnam revealed that 21.2% were ethnic minorities, a disproportionate number considering that at that time, ethnic minorities composed only 13.8% of the national population. The UNESCO has reported as early as 2001 that ethnic minorities, stateless persons and highlanders in Thailand experience abuses indicative of trafficking. In Lao PDR, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) found that the number of trafficked women and children victims from upland areas (ethnic minorities) were disproportionately high compared to lowlanders who were mostly ethnic Lao.

In its 2013 country assessment, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that a former high state official claimed that in the past eight years, 20,000 girls belonging to Chhattisgarh’s tribal region have been sold by human traffickers. Trafficking in this state is so prevalent that the Supreme Court summoned the Chhattisgarh chief secretary and director general of police to appear in person on October 30, 2014 to explain how they were dealing with the problem of human trafficking of women and children particularly from tribal areas which has earned for Chhattisgarh the dubious distinction of being a hub of human trafficking. The UNODC has identified North East India as a high source area of trafficking of women and children. In Odisha, women ’s organizations report that in 2013, more than 40,000 adivasi women from Sundargarh district alone were trafficked to work in big cities. Of these women, the whereabouts of around 15,000 are unknown. Civil society groups also report that about 10,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand every year not only to work as either domestic help or sex workers, but also for forced surrogacy, which is emerging as a new form of exploitation.

These are not mere statistics. These are precious lives of indigenous children, women, and men. In Thailand, the UNESCO asserts that lack of legal status is the single greatest risk factor for trafficking and exploitation where hill tribes are disproportionately affected. In Southeast Asia, Save the Children found that the main targets of human traffickers are the people from vulnerable agricultural, ethnic, and displaced communities. The Vietnamese NGO Alliance Anti-Traffic (AAT) confirms that the large populations of ethnic minorities that live in the provinces are primary targets of traffickers. In India, poor economic conditions, usurpation of their land by corporations, lack of employment opportunities, displacement due to development and corporate projects, and impoverishment, render adivasi men and women vulnerable to trafficking in their search for livelihood and survival. The lack of exposure of tribal people to mainstream culture, and non-access to the justice system add to their vulnerability to trafficking. In Laos, trafficked individuals, particularly women, come from relocated villages, and their ethnicity is a key factor in determining propensities for migration and mobility. Freedom House has identified the repressive rule of the former junta, the ethnic conflicts and the devastation from Cyclone Nargis as contributory to the high susceptibility of women in Burma to sex trafficking.

These statistics clearly demonstrate that indigenous peoples, specifically indigenous women and girls are main targets and victims of trafficking due to their prevailing multidimensional condition of discrimination and marginalization. This condition is brought about by the states’ disregard of their distinct identities and collective rights to their lands, territories and resources, and customary systems of governance for their collective survival, wellbeing and dignity on one hand, and the state’s neglect and denial of basic social services such as appropriate education, health services, livelihood and decent employment on the other hand.

Indigenous communities for centuries are self-governing and self-sufficient. However, the wide-scale expropriation and destruction of their lands and resources have systematically destroyed the livelihoods that are particularly sustained by indigenous women. The massive displacements of indigenous communities from their territories are one of the key factors for their vulnerability to trafficking as these have undermined their economic base and social cohesion. Their lack of education and skills to seek decent jobs and employment, aggravated by prevailing discriminatory policies and attitude to indigenous peoples and the absence of social safety nets and access to justice are other key factors in their vulnerability to trafficking.


  1. To fully recognize, respect and protect indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, territories and resources and their right to citizenship;
  2. To develop targeted programmes in collaboration with indigenous peoples for adequate and appropriate social services especially education and health services, taking into account the needs of indigenous women and girls;
  3. To provide adequate and appropriate support in enhancing the sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples;
  4. To develop, in conjunction with indigenous peoples appropriate programmes for skills development and income generating activities;
  5. To reform discriminatory policies and practices against indigenous peoples and women such as on wages, access to job opportunities, education and provision for social services;
  6. Formulate laws and policies against trafficking and ensure proper enforcement, including data disaggregation according to ethnicity.
  7. Ensure access to justice of victims of trafficking and provide adequate support to victims including indigenous peoples;
  8. Support efforts of indigenous peoples against trafficking such as awareness and education campaign, communication facilities such as hot lines, setting up of assistance centers among others.


[4], March 2008