Recent articles on bonded labor and human trafficking in India highlight the all too easily overlooked fact that democracies often sustain egregious human rights violations within their own borders, despite having laws and institutions that are meant to prevent them and governments that theoretically respond to the needs and wishes of their citizens.
Domestic violence and abuse of women and children through sex and other trafficking as well as bonded labor and other contemporary forms of slavery are severe and widespread social problems in India and require urgent attention. Free and fair elections and an independent judiciary are insufficient to protect the lives, rights, and welfare of citizens if they are not backed up by well resourced social services and government programs to advance the rights of women, children, the disabled, and other disadvantaged populations and uphold the law for all.
India can and must do more to protect these populations as well as India's Dalits and tribal peoples who face ongoing discrimination. The Indian government has the economic and human resources to do so. A myriad NGOs in India, both local and international, have made major achievements in advancing human rights. They will continue to do so on a much larger scale if political will is exercised in defense of India's Constitution, in respect of India's obligations to international human rights law, and in response to the urgent needs and demands of India's citizens.