The Meghalaya Model was first employed to combat human trafficking, especially of children and young women, in the state of Meghalaya in Northeast India. Geographically isolated from mainland India, the Northeast region consists of eight states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Sikkim. The region shares its international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. Suffering from a long history of ethnic and armed conflict, coupled with a lack of economic development, the region is impoverished and struggles with its stagnant economy. In 1996, this situation was exacerbated in Meghalaya following the ban by the Government of India on the state’s timber trade. Although the ban had its environmental merits, rural populations in Meghalaya whose livelihoods depended solely on the timber trade faced a sudden loss of income. With no alternative income source, the economic downfall caused a major migration of the people from rural areas of Meghalaya to urban areas in search of employment. Many young children and women left their homes to join the labour force, often as domestic help, rendering them vulnerable to exploitation. Unfortunately, due to sexual exploitation of these displaced children and women, missing child cases increased and a rapid growth in prostitution occurred in the small teashops and hotels along the state’s national highways. In addition, organized groups of human traffickers exploited the situation by luring young women and children to other parts of India with false offers of lucrative jobs and marriage, ultimately trafficking them for prostitution and child labour. In short, Meghalaya and the rest of Northeast India quickly emerged as a new supply zone for human traffickers. Due to the region’s porous international borders with neighbouring countries, Northeast India is also vulnerable to cross-border human trafficking. Since human trafficking is both a regional and global phenomenon, the comprehensive strategy of the Meghalaya Model was developed to combat child trafficking.
Working through her organization Impulse, Hasina conceived of the Meghalaya Model. The Meghalaya Model addresses the issue of child trafficking and consists of a comprehensive tracking system that brings together the state government, security agencies, legal support, the media, and civil service organizations. Pilot testing of the model in the state of Meghalaya successfully verified its effectiveness in combating child trafficking. Positive results from the pilot test have led to wider adoption of the model. Currently, each of the eight states of Northeast India is integrating the strategy. In addition, the model is currently being presented and lobbied for national replication to the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India with the support of the National Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Home Affairs, National Commission for Women, and UNICEF.
The model incorporates a large number of knowledge products including advocacy and training manuals, toolkits, and standard operating procedures for coordinated execution of the four ‘Ps’ (Prevention, Protection, Policing, and Prosecution) and the three ‘Rs’ (Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Repatriation) by law enforcement agencies and civil society. An integrated media strategy to highlight and spread awareness of the issue is a crucial component of the model. A legal support program, which includes a victim-protection program, helps in identifying and tracking down human traffickers. An anti-trafficking course is being integrated into the curriculum of Police Training Schools, with the aim of creating child-friendly systems. A Helpline Resource Directory that lists organizations providing services in the region has also been developed with the help of the government of Meghalaya’s Department of Social Welfare.A study conducted by the South Asia Regional Initiative/Equity Support Program helped in the dissemination and replication of effective, innovative practices used in South Asia for the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of victims of violence. In this study, the Meghalaya Model was identified as a good practice and reliable approach for combating child trafficking.