South Asian Studies Program (SASP), University of Iowa (UI), recently organized their Seminar Series – Fall 2013, in which a lecture was delivered on “Trafficked Survivors and Commoditization of Women’s Bodies: A Study in Andhra Pradesh and Manipur, Northeast INDIA”. Dr. Ajailiu Niumai, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy & Joint faculty, Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, delivered this talk on 5th September 2013 at the Schaeffer Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.
Dr. Niumai’s talk focused on human trafficking in the two states of India viz; Andhra Pradesh and Manipur. She based her lecture on the ongoing UGC Major Research Project (with Prof. Rekha Pande). In her lecture, she examined the phenomenon of human trafficking, shared the stories of survivors and investigated the process of commoditization of bodies amongst women and children. She said that feminists have been arguing to demarcate human trafficking from sex work. She believed that trafficking and sex work are closely affiliated to the Devadasi system, which is a religious practice and is linked to child marriages in Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, she pointed out that trafficking in Manipur is a contemporary phenomenon and not a part of their culture or tradition. Moreover it is not seen from a feminist perspective but as a human rights violation issue. It’s attributed to the process of globalization and India’s Look East Policy. The international territorial borders in the North East are largely open and unmanned, which allows trafficking to spread without much enforcement against it, she added.
Dr. Niumai highlighted that the two laws, viz., Suppression of Immoral Traffic in women and girls Acts of 1956 (SITA) and the Immoral Traffic in persons Prevention Act of 1986 (ITPPA) but colloquially called as PITA as an amendment to SITA suffers from flaws and non-implementation. She said that trafficked victim’s experiences in A.P. and Manipur are different due to their socio-cultural and religious background and the victim’s experiences with trafficking may differ between the two states but as women, their emotional trauma, abused encountered and factors with trafficking are comparable.
Currently, Dr. Ajailiu Niumai is the UGC Raman Post Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa (UI).
Dr. Meena Khandelwal, Director of South Asian Studies Program (SASP), UI, & Department of Anthropology, Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, UI introduced the speaker and later proposed a vote of thanks.