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A Brief Analysis Of The Laws Relating To Human Trafficking In The Era Of Dark Web

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This paper seeks to briefly analyses the various facets of the internet i.e. surface web, deep web and dark web, in addition to the mysterious and clandestine nature of the dark web which facilitates the perpetration of heinous offences, especially human trafficking, without the fear of being discovered. Further, the paper provides a bird’s eye view of the domestic legal structure and the relevant international conventions that aim at combating human trafficking. However, the failure of the legislature to evolve with modern technology has led to a glaring legislative void in the realm of human trafficking on dark web. The paper is primarily set on the analysis of a plethora of credible secondary data. Furthermore, the objectives sought to be achieved through this study are manifold in nature: Firstly, in-depth comprehension of the nature, evils and reach of the dark web. Secondly, to analyses the mode and extent of impact on the transformative technology on human trafficking. Thirdly, to emphasize the inevitable need for a legislation that seamlessly governs Human trafficking on the dark web separately.


In the summer of 2018, A heavenly opportunity turned out to be a hellish nightmare for a young British Model who was kidnapped by a group named “Black Death”, by luring her into a fake photoshoot and she was auctioned online on the dark web.

Technological advancement has opened the doors for global commerce, information and cultural exchange. The Internet has remained a strong skeletal structure for the evolution of e-commerce and it’s allied activities. But, every development has emerged with it’s very own pros and cons within the vast, mysterious and incomprehensible depths of the Internet. While active efforts are engaged, in order to overcome some obstacles, certain mysterious aspects like the dark web are still thriving in full swing. In fact, over the last decade, dark web has become synonymous with unlawful trade activity through it’s nefarious dealings in drugs, human trafficking, child pornography, credit card frauds, identity thefts, murders, kidnapping and trade of human meat.


The internet is not only being used by traffickers as a place of choice to sell the services which are forced upon the victims like prostitution, but also, is being used as a tool to recruit the victims. In a survey by an NGO named Thorn, 63% of the victims of sexual exploitation revealed the role of technology in child trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.

This type of activity takes place on the part of the internet where most of our daily internet activity occurs i.e. Surface web and is very easily accessible through popular search engines like Google and Bing. However, there is a part of the internet which is more than 500 times bigger than the surface web i.e. the Deep web which is not a searchable part of the web. It requires an exact address link or a link to another link after you have entered the deep side of the web.It is commonly used for online banking, e-mails, web forums which require registration to view content or to use services that the users must pay for , restricted or private access to social media accounts or profiles.

Beneath the Deep web there is another division of the internet, The Dark Web which gives the best possible cover for many illegal activities as this part of the internet is always kept hidden.While one would believe dark web to be an impenetrable and enigmatic fortress, The access to such a cornucopia of illegal services can be gained by simply accessing a certain browser like Tor or I2P. Such browsers are adept in data encryption through different nodes which are based worldwide which makes the tracking of the node to an IP address extremely difficult.

If the internet is considered to be an iceberg, the surface web is the visible part of the iceberg which is in fact only 4% of the internet. Below the waterline and what would constitute about 90 % of the internet is the Deep Web and the crevices even beneath the safe zone of deep web lies the mysterious world of dark web which again constitutes the remaining portion of the internet.


The Dark Web uses ‘Onion Encryption’ which is a multilayered encryption technology that ensures that the IP address of the user is encrypted at each layer and that is passed on to a randomly selected volunteer server, which is the next layer and in the route process, the destination website only receives the last IP address and so the destination website would be oblivious as to whom it is actually communicating with.Thus as the name suggests, onion encrypted websites access is passed through layers like an onion and guarantees near anonymity.

Further, anonymity is also maintained through use of unregulated cryptocurrency as a mode of payment. Thus, The dark web is much more than a catchy neon sign for drug hawking and contributes immensely to data breach by selling social security numbers, financial details and personal data, in addition to, counterfeited passports, stolen guns and hitman services.

The very nature of the dark web propels perpetrators of heinous offences such as child pornography, bestiality, prostitution etc. to pounce on their unsuspecting victims within the undiscoverable recesses of the dark web with about 2.5 million daily visitors. However, the anonymity on dark web is also convenient for discreet communications in an authoritarian state and forms a safe platform for whistleblowers.


Human Trafficking is a monstrous and a devastating crime against humanity as it imperils the dignity and security of the victims, and grossly violates their human rights. L.M Rhodes in his article has rightly analysed that “Many understand that modern day slavery was removed from our world last century with the abolitionist efforts of William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln and the many that stood by their sides. However, human trafficking still lives amongst us and is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, there are more people in slavery today than at the time we thought human trafficking left us. There are various factors of evolution in the systems of our modern day society that have contributed to the growth of this blight against humanity. The rise of the internet and particularly the dark web are enabling traffickers to operate their crime with increased ease in today’s world.”

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The nature of human trafficking is often highly organised, and often transcends cross borders and the legislative reach. Traffickers make use of the latest technology available to hide their deplorable activity with very little threat of being apprehended. The United Nations defines Human Trafficking as“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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.”

Whereas, The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 defines trafficking to mean: (i) recruitment, (ii) transportation, (iii) harbouring, (iv) transfer, or (v) receipt of a person for exploitation, by using certain means.

According to the U.S Interpol, Human Trafficking can be divided into the following types:

  • Trafficking for forced labour: acquiring cheap labour through techniques of coercion, undue influence and deception from developing and under-developed countries for recruitment in labour-intensive jobs.
  • Trafficking for forced criminal activities: forced labour for carrying out theft, trade of counterfeit goods and forced begging etc.
  • Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation: trafficking of women and children from vulnerable countries and use of organised illicit networks for sexual exploitation at destination countries.
  • Trafficking for removal of organs: Illegal removal, storage and trade in organs sought after by patients worldwide.
  • People smuggling : Forced labour by migrants in inhumane conditions to gain illegal passage across borders.

But, online platforms allow manifold and undetected human trafficking without the limitations of borders, physical presence and fear of discovery. The target groups of such clandestine crimes are usually women and children. While, Children are considered a supremely important national asset, A spine- chilling report of Eurpol revealed that dark websites have been providing live streaming of abuse and rape of children,inclusive of video feeds that allow pedophiles to carry out certain fantasies at paltry sums such as ordering the gang rape of an eight year old child online. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that approximately 5.5 million children under the age of 18 get forced into labor, and over one million become victims of forced sexual exploitation.

In India, The root cause of human trafficking arises from abundance of poor population, failure of the Governmental programmes and poor law enforcement machineries. It is highly deplorable and heart rending to note that many poverty-stricken children and girls in the prime of youth are taken to flesh market and forcibly pushed into flesh trade which is being carried on in utter violations of all canons of morality, decency and dignity of human kind. While, there exists a conventional domestic legal framework to combat human trafficking, India is lacking a separate legislation that governs online human trafficking.


The domestic legal structure consists of certain constitutional provisions and certain legislations that inanely provide for prevention and redressal of human trafficking and cyber crimes. In the absence of specific provisions, general provisions such as kidnapping, abduction, wrongful confinement and grievous hurt etc. have been charged against the perpetrators of online human trafficking. But, based on the purpose of trafficking, certain special legislations can also be used. A brief analysis of the existing laws in this regard is as follows:


Article 23 of the Indian Constitution protects the rights of victims of human trafficking by expressly prohibiting human trafficking, beggar and other forms of forced labour. Furthermore, denial of right to life and dignity enshrined in Article 21 threatens the very existence of a person. Additionally, Article 15(3) mandates the State to make special provisions for the specific upliftment of women and children.

While the Fundamental rights are mandatory injunctions for the protection of the victim, the State has also been issued Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 39(e) to ensure the health and strength of the workers, men and women and children of tender age from abuse and from economic compulsion to enter into avocations beyond their strength and or age. Similarly, Article 39(f) states that children should be provided with ample opportunities to facilitate their development in healthy, free and dignified conditions free from exploitation and moral and material abandonment and Article 42 requires the State to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.


According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2016 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Thus, certain specific provisions of IPC that deal with human trafficking and child trafficking for sexual abuse and ornographic purposes as follows:

Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code provides that whoever exports, imports, removes, buys, sells or disposes of any person as a slave, or accepts, receives or detains against his will any person as a slave, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Meanwhile, Section 371 punishes habitual imports, exports, removes, buying and selling etc. in slaves with either life imprisonment or a period, not exceeding ten years. Section 372 and 373 punish buying, selling, hire, purchase or disposal of any person under the age of eighteen years with the intention or knowledge that such person shall be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with ny person or any other unlawful and immoral purpose with imprisonment of either description or for a term which extends to ten years and shall also be liable to fine. Section 374 punishes whoever unlawfully compels any person to labour against the will of the other person with an imprisonment for one year , or with both.

Whereas, Section 292 of Indian Penal Code punishes the sale, hire, distribution of any book, pamphlet,writing etc. deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the putrient interest or is of such a nature as a whole, which tends to deprave or corrupt persons who are likely to see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it with imprisonment for a period extending to two years and fine on first conviction and imprisonment for a period of 5 years and fine in case of subsequent convictions. Section 293 states that sale, distribution, letting to hire or circulation of obscene object to any person under the age of twenty years shall be punishable with an imprisonment extended to the period of three years and fine on first conviction and an imprisonment extended to the period of seven years and fine in case of subsequent convictions.

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