Eyes full of Hopes and Dreams
It was half past nine on a cold winter night, when Shaheen left her premises seeking refuge. Her alcoholic father was a mason who spent half of his daily earnings intoxicating himself. Her mother lost her life when Shaheen was three while giving birth to her younger brother. Since then, the rage of her abusive father grew day by day. The 14-year-old Shaheen sought to find a place in the glamorous world of fashion while living in vain.
She left for Mumbai and while searching for opportunities, met a woman named Begum. The woman promised her a gig with a leading agency. But, turned out that this ‘agent’ was actually a ‘pimp’, who lured her into prostitution. Without an identity or a place to go, the red-light district has been her home for the last ten years and she still has found no escape.
Shaheen is one of the 1 billion people in the world, who live but don’t exist in the ecosystem (According to the World Bank). Mind you, the 1 billion is only an understated estimate. The number of this unregistered population is unknown even today. Of this 1 billion, nearly half of the population is below the age of 18. Without an identity, these people are unable to travel legally, get an education and are eventually robbed of their freedom and life.
The Bitter Reality
Child prostitution and trafficking have thrived primarily in third-world and war-torn countries because of the weak legislative laws, unsecured borders and deep-rooted corruption. Child traffickers use fake identification documents to transport young people across borders for forced participation in illicit activities including sex trade, labour, illegal human organ trade, begging, drug supply etc.
Many nations have made efforts to curb this situation. Post-Soviet Estonia was the first country that decided to put an end to the chaos by centralizing data of their citizens. India has got 93% of its population registered through a program by the name, Aadhaar. However, this data is held on centralised servers secured by technology that is prone to hacking. To resolve such issues revolving around security and impermeable data, decentralization through Blockchain is now being implemented by different platforms to address the challenges.
How Blockchain can Provide Identity
The unbanked population has no identification document making them vulnerable and easily exploited by traffickers. With a hope to cross borders and start a better life, they fall in the charades of traffickers disguised as ‘agents’ for creating IDs, ending up in a mess.
A ‘virtual identity’ of a person is created on Private Blockchain using unique biometric information such as a fingerprint or iris scan. The information saved on the Blockchain is immutable and cannot be forged. So, traffickers transporting victims across borders cannot tamper with this information or change the victim’s identity. The individuals are able to prove their identities using information on the Blockchain that is secure and unchangeable. The use of physical documentation that can be easily modified is eliminated. Every individual has control over their identity and life. Moreover, as Blockchain is a borderless technology, identification documentation and tracking can happen anywhere in the world. The following initiatives taken by various organisations prove that a crimeless future is gradually becoming a reality.
UN’s initiative to end Child Trafficking through Blockchain
The United Nations (UN) has partnered with World Identity Network (WIN) to develop a Blockchain identity pilot aimed to help curb child trafficking. The pilot involves collaborations from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN-OICT) to combat human trafficking.
Battling to gain an identity for herself during her early years, Dr. Mariana Dahan, Co-founder and CEO of WIN believes that securing data on an immutable ledger will make trafficking attempts trackable. Blockchain will address this global issue and potentially save millions of children.
Moldova to implement Blockchain to resolve Child Trafficking
Since Moldova became independent from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the widespread poverty and disappointing standards of living have led to the rise in child-trafficking. Hundreds of children have been trafficked to Russia and the Middle Eastern countries to work as sex slaves.
The Government of Moldova decided to collaborate with U.S. based Company, ConsenSys to tackle this menace. The collaboration aims to provide a digital identity to the citizens by using the Blockchain network. The digital network aims to store the identity of every individual in a distributed ledger of a Blockchain, along with the information of their relatives. The aim of the scheme is to maintain a digital database for children, which cannot be tampered or hacked into. The Blockchain is the most adept platform for storing such information
The practical application of Blockchain in combatting social vices like human and child trafficking is feasible and sustainable. However, Blockchain initiatives require the cooperation and collaboration of numerous parties in order to achieve meaningful success. It requires dedicated efforts and integrity from every participant to resolve these ailing issues. With due diligence, Blockchain technology has considerable potential to curb child trafficking and modern-day slavery.