South and South-West Asia

Countries and territories covered: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

Except for the Maldives and Afghanistan, all the South Asian countries covered in this report included the specific offence of trafficking in persons in their criminal codes during the reporting period. Trafficking in persons is not a new legislative concept for most of the countries in this region. The offence of human trafficking, even if limited in scope, existed in most national legislation before it did in other parts of the world. The most recent anti-trafficking legislation was adopted in Sri Lanka in 2006. Five countries of the region criminalize at least trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and forced labour, with no restrictions on the age or gender of the victim, while Bangladesh criminalizes only trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Afghanistan's criminal justice system, in the absence of specific trafficking in persons legislation, applies the law on kidnapping to prosecute cases that likely would be considered trafficking in persons according to the UN Trafficking Protocol.

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

The level of criminal proceedings recorded during the reporting period in the South Asian region was very high. India, especially, recorded a large number of investigations, though proportionate to the population of the country. Similarly, Nepal and Pakistan recorded very high numbers of prosecutions and convictions. Where information is available for 2003-2005, trends show a general increase in prosecutions for trafficking in persons. These trends apply to India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but there are no human trafficking prosecutions recorded for the Maldives and Bhutan.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

No information was collected on the profile of trafficking offenders. Additionally, data on age and gender was rarely collected for victims identified or sheltered, making it very difficult to create or analyse victim profiles. In countries where information was available (Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan) during the reporting period, adult women and children of both sexes were more frequently identified as victims. Adult male trafficking victims were reported in Bangladesh. Among countries that collected information, sexual exploitation was frequently reported. It was the main form of trafficking detected in Nepal, with large numbers also reported in India and other countries. Trafficking for forced labour appears to be equally prominent in the region.

From 2003 to 2006, a significant number of forced labour cases were reported in India, where it was more frequently detected than sexual exploitation. In Nepal and Pakistan, some child victims were returned from the Middle East where they were trafficked into forced labour as camel jockeys. A few Indian states reported victims of trafficking in persons for the purposes of organ removal and forced marriage. In Afghanistan, the number of children (of both sexes, equally) and adult males identified or sheltered as victims of trafficking-related offences was higher than the number of adult females.


South Asia is also home to one of the largest concentrations of people living with HIV/AIDS. Women involved in the sex business - as a group - are an important driver of the epidemic. Recent research involving repatriated women who worked at commercial sex markets in Nepal show that many of those who have been trafficked are at significantly higher risk of contracting HIV than are non-trafficked women.