Trafficking in Women  
Irrefutable is the fact that trafficking in women, an obscene affront to their dignity and rights is a gross commercialization of innocent human lives, indulged in by organized criminals. Trafficking violates all known canons of human rights and dignity. In this world of tragic and complex human abuse, women and children form a particularly vulnerable class.
All of this is further compounded by an apathetic attitude of society fueled by a mindset which views women as mere chattels. With no freedom of choice and options for a life with dignity, these hapless women and children are merrily trafficked and exploited forcing them to lead a life crippled with indignity, social stigma, debt bondage and a host of ailments including HIV/AIDS.
Definition (UN Charter)
Trafficking in women is a criminal phenomenon that violates basic human rights, and totally destroying victims' lives. Countries are affected in various ways. Some see their young women being lured to leave their home country and ending up in the sex industry abroad. Other countries act mainly as transit countries, while several others receive foreign women who become victims of sexual exploitation.
Handling the Situation
It is a global problem in which INTERPOL actively seeks to increase and improve international law enforcement co-operation in order to help combat this crime.
Trafficking in women is not a new phenomenon, but in the recent decades, it has emerged as a serious problem, requiring new solutions. The process of privatization and the transition to a global economy have resulted in increased economic burdens for women and created a situation conducive to trafficking in women. Today, trafficking has become an international industry. Traffickers profit from the unequal social and economic status of women around the world.
It is the national focal point for combating trafficking in women and children in India. Supreme Court judgement in the Vishal Jeet v. Union of India case directed the government to ensure care, protection, development, treatment and rehabilitation of the victims of commercial sexual exploitation and the setting up of a central advisory committee. It was constituted in the same year and a national seminar was also held. The Central Social Welfare Board initiated a survey, which led to a national consultation in 1994. This was followed by six regional workshops, organized to formulate strategies involving the various stakeholders (DWCD 1998).
Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution
India, along with Thailand and the Philippines, has 1.3 million children in its sex-trade centers. The children come from relatively poorer areas and are trafficked to relatively richer ones. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
In cross border trafficking, India is a sending, receiving and transit nation. Receiving children from Bangladesh and Nepal and sending women and children to Middle Eastern nations is a daily occurrence. (Executive Director of SANLAAP, Indrani Sinha, Paper on Globaliation and Human Rights")
India and Paksitan are the main destinations for children under 16 who are trafficked in south Asia. More than 40% of 484 prostituted girls rescued during major raids of brothels in Bombay in 1996 were from Nepal.
In India, Karnataka, Andha Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu are considered "high supply zones" for women in prostitution. Bijapur, Belgaum and Kolhapur are common districts from which women migrate to the big cities, as part of an organised trafficking network.
Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka, known as the "devadasi belt," have trafficking structures operating at various levels. The women here are in prostitution either because their husbands deserted them, or they are trafficked through coercion and deception many are devadasi dedicated into prostitution for the goddess Yellamma. In one Karnataka brothel, all 15 girls are devadasi. (Meena Menon, "The Unknown Faces")
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Bangladeshi women and children are held in foreign prisons, jails, shelters and detention centers awaiting repatriation. Many have been held for years. In India, 26 women, 27 girls, 71 boys and 13 children of unknown gender are held in Lilua Shelter, Calcutta; Sheha Shelter, Calcutta; Anando Ashram, Calcutta; Alipur Children's Home, Delhi; Nirmal Chaya Children's Home, Delhi; Prayas Observation House for Boys; Delhi; Tihar Jail, Delhi; Udavam Kalanger, Bangalore; Umar Khadi, Bangaore; Kishalay, West Bengal; Kuehbihar, West Bengal and Baharampur, West Bengal. (Fawzia Karim Firoze and Salma Ali of the Bangladesh National Women Layer Association," Bangladesh Country Paper: Law and Legislation")
Women and children from India are sent to nations of the Middle East daily. Girls in prostitution and domestic service in India, Pakistan and the Middle East are tortured, held in virtual imprisonment, sexually abused, and raped.
In Bombay, children as young as 9 are bought for up to 60,000 rupees, or US$2,000, at auctions where Arabs bid against Indian men who believe sleeping with a virgin cures gonorrhea and syphilis. 160,000 Nepalese women are held in India's brothels. Approximately 50,000, or half of the women in prostitution in Bombay, are trafficked from Nepal. The brothels of India hold between 100,000 and 160,000 Nepalese women and girls, 35 percent were taken on the false pretext of marriage or a good job.
About 5,000-7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to India every day. 100,000-160,000 Nepalese girls are prostituted in brothels in India. About 45,000 Nepalese girls are in the brothels of Bombay and 40,000 in Calcutta.
Calcutta is one of the important transit points for the traffickers for Bombay and to Pakistan. 99% women are trafficked out of Bangladesh through land routes along the border areas of Bangladesh and India, such as Jessore, Satkhira, and Rajshahi.
Of the 5,000-7,000 Nepalese girls trafficked into India yearly, the average age over the past decade has fallen from 14-16 years old to 10-14 years old. In Bombay, one brothel has only Nepalese women, who men buy because of their golden skin and docile personalities. 2.5% of prostitutes in India are Nepalese, and 2.7% are Bangladeshi. Some Indian men believe that it is good luck to have sex with scalp-eczema afflicted prostitutes. Infants with the condition, called "pus babies," are sold by their parents to brothels for a premium.
70% of students surveyed at a wealthy high school seek a career in organized crime, citing their reasoning as "good money and good fun."
Activists discovered inter-state trafficking in teenaged girls from poor families in 24 Parganas North districts. More than 300 teenagers from Deganga, Harwa and Bashirhat may have been lured by false marriages to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab. 32 victims from six villages have been identified. After the girl was taken from her home village she would be sold for Rs 2,500 to Rs 10,000, depending on the number of middlemen involved. Those who escaped said the girls were watched all the time and not allowed to speak to anyone outside their room. Any attempt to resist resulted in brutal torture. All their "earnings" was taken away by the so-called husbands or mistresses. The "husbands" would occasionally write from fake addresses to their parents to avoid arousing any suspicion. Women organized a rally to protest the inaction of police, who they suspect knew about the trafficking.
  Policy and Law  
The UN Convention of the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), and the supplementary convention on the abolition of slavery, the slave trade and institutions and practices of slavery have been signed by most of the SAARC countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In 1992, Bombay, India, police intercepted the traffic of 25 Bangladeshi children, 5 to 8 years old. The children and trafficker were held in the same jail. Three years later, 12 of the children were returned to their homes.
  Actions of NGOs  
A major trafficking network was discovered by the Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW), smuggling 12-18-year-old girls from various impoverished districts to contractors who run brothels in Goa. The contractors pay the parents for their girl children under false pretenses.
The exploitation of Nepalese women and girls may never end. "For some there is too much easy money in it, for others there's nothing to be gained by lobbying for its abolition. But surely, for now, it can be monitored. Its magnitude can be lessened". Tthe alarmingly low rates of female literacy, coupled with the traditionally low status of the girl-child in Nepal have to be addressed to tackle the problem. The situation of Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) emphasizes the need for collaboration by the two governments on this issue. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
There are several shelters run by various Kathmandu-based NGOs working against trafficking and towards rehabilitation of girls who manage to escape or are rescued from Indian brothels. This is not easy work. Relatives of the rescued girls generally don't want them back and Nepal's government is worried about the spread of HIV, as many of the trafficked girls have contracted HIV while enslaved in India.
  Official Response and Action  
139 prostituted Nepalese girls were rescued through a police raid in Kamatipura, India and were then repatriated to Katmandu.
Rehabilitation of trafficked women and children forced into prostitution in Indian brothels is hampered by lack of Indian government support and agenda for their rehabilitation. The sending country may not come forward to claim them and younger children may not know where they originally came from.
There are approximately 10 million prostitutes in India. There are more than 100,000 women in prostitution in Bombay, Asia’s largest sex industry center. At least 2,000 women are in prostitution along the Baina beachfront in Goa. There are 300,000-500,000 children in prostitution in India. Men who believe that AIDS and other STDs can be cured by having sex with a virgin, are forcing young girls into the sex industry; seven year old girls are neither uncommon nor the youngest.
Every day, about 200 girls and women in India enter prostitution, 80% of them against their will. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, TamilNadu and Uttar Pradesh are the high-supply zones for women in prostitution. Belgaum, Bijapur, and Kolhapur are some common districts from which women migrate to cities either through an organized trafficking network, or due to socioeconomic forces.
Bangalore is one of the five major cities in India which together account for 80 percent of child prostitutes in the country. 90% of the 100,000 women in prostitution in Bombay are indentured slaves.
Prostitution is increasing in India where there have been fears over the spread of AIDS and reports of young girls being abducted and forced into prostitution. It takes up to fifteen years for girls held in prostitution via debt-bondage to purchase their freedom. Children of prostituted women are victims of sexual abuse as well. Children are forced to perform dances and songs for male buyers, and some are forced to sexually service the males.
Of 1,000 red light districts all over India, cage prostitutes are mostly minors, often from Nepal and Bangladesh. In Bombay, 95% of the children of prostituted women become prostitutes. One child, who had repeatedly been sodomized by the men who bought his mother, decided to become a eunuch. He was ritually castrated. There are three routes into prostitution for most women in India. 1) Deception; 2) Devadasi dedication and 3) Bad marriages or families. For some women their marriages were so violent they preferred prostitution. Husbands or families introduced some women to prostitution. Many families knew what the women had to do, but ignored it as long as they got the benefits from it.
The red light district in Bombay generates at least $400 million a year in revenue, with 100,000 prostitutes servicing men 365 days a year, averaging 6 customers a day, at $2 each. The largest red light district in India, perhaps in the world, is the Falkland Road Kamatipura area of Bombay. In Kamathipura brothel district in Bombay more than 70,000 prostituted women and girls are bought by three men a day. Condoms are seldom used. Escape is rare. There are many dhabhas, or small-scale brothels, along the Solapur-Hyderabad highway, which provide women as an "additional service" to truck drivers and motorists. One woman who runs a dhabha had previously been in prostitution. Now, with a shed, two cots and a few girls from nearby villages, she owns the brothel. "I rented this place for Rs 1000 a month and take Rs 20 per man from the girls.
A brothel owner along the Solapur-Hyderabad highway reported that he has two women. He takes a Rs 15 commission for each man. Since this is illegal, he pays the nearest police station Rs 1,000 a month as hafta, or bribe. If a girl is beautiful, she will be bought by five to ten men a day. The owner’s monthly earnings can reach Rs 4,000 to 5,000 a month.
A brothel owner along the Solapur-Hyderabad highway reported that prostituting women is a good business. He had ten to 12 girls. He paid the police Rs 6,000 as a monthly bribe. He goes to Bombay to bring women and girls, implying he was part of a bigger network.
The women and girls in the dhabhas, or brothels, along the Solapur-Hyderabad highway, are threatened, harassed, forced to service men, or goondas, freely and beaten by men and police. Local farmers abuse them also. Police do not register any complaints of assault. In one cases, a woman who was running over unfamiliar fields to escape the police in pitch darkness; she stumbled into a well and was killed. Sometimes, bodies of women are found on the fields, half eaten by animals. Another woman had her ears cut off, was robbed and left unconscious on the road.
Eunuch Lane in Bombay has more than 2,000 eunuchs in prostitution. The eunuchs, or hijras, have deep religious roots in Hinduism. As young boys they are abandoned or sold by their families to a sex ring and taken into the jungle, where a priest cuts off their genitals in a ceremony called nirvana. The priest then folds back a strip of flesh to create an artificial vagina. Eunuchs are generally more available to perform high-risk sex than female prostitutes, and some Indian men believe they can’t contact HIV from them.
  Prostitution Tourism  
Foreign tourists are frequenting India because of its relaxed laws, abundant child prostitutes and the false idea that there is a lower incidence of AIDS. India is one of the favored destinations of paedophile sex tourists from Europe and the United States. Multinational tour operators, hotel companies, airlines and travel agencies are setting up the tourism agenda for Goa, India and the world over. However, they ignore the host community.
December 1997, a nine-year-old girl from Pune was found living with a 54- year- old Swiss national in a Goa hotel for over nine months. A local NGO filed a complaint with the police and the girl was sent to an observation home. When contacted, her father said she was there with his consent. The man was released following an investigation. Inspector General, Goa Police, Mr. P.R.S. Brar said "paedophilia is a myth, it just does not exist." Ms. Mohini Giri, chair of the National Commision for Women met with the girl and said she had admitted to being sexually abused.
In 1990 an orphanage owner in Goa was arrested for allegedly supplying children to British, French, German, Swiss and Scandinavian prostitution tourists. He was freed on bail and the case has still not gone to court.
The main frequenters of prostitutes in Goa are tourists, local men and college boys. United States "seamen" ask locals in Goa which bars to find prostitutes in. Taxi drivers take tourists from Delhi, Gurjarat, Bangalore, Bombay and Punjab to brothels in Baina. Some men have taxi drivers bring prostituted girls from Baina back to their hotels in Panjim. The next morning, the taxi drivers rape the girls before taking them home.
  Policy and Law  
Although prostitution is legal in India, brothel keeping, living off the earnings of a prostitute, soliciting or seducing for the purposes of prostitution are all punishable offenses. There are severe penalties for child prostitution and trafficking of women.
Since mid-1997 the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment policy for India has given rise to the economic and sexual exploitation of women in export processing zones, where 70-80% of workers are young women.
The devadasi tradition, still prevalent in many parts of India, continues to legitimise child prostitution. A devadasi is a woman married to a god and thus sadasuhagan or married, and hence at all times blessed. As such, she becomes the wife of the powerful in the community. Devadasi is known by different names in different states. In the Vijapur district of Karnataka, girls are given to the Monkey God (Hanuman, Maruti), and known as Basvi. In Goa, a devadasi is called Bhavin (the one with devotion), In the Shimoga District of Karnataka, the girls are handed over to the goddess Renuka Devi, and in Hospet, to the goddess Hulganga Devi. The tradition lives on in other states in South India. Girls end up as prostitutes in Bombay and Pune. The Banchara and Bedia peoples of Madhya Pradesh also practice "traditional" prostitution.
  Official Response and Action  
After raiding Kamathipura, Mumbai's largest red district, Mumbai police 160 women were sent to the St Catherines Rescue Home. Many women were HIV positive and a large number were pregnant or already had children.
In Goa, India there are at least 400 children in prostitution. After Ms. Mohini Giri, chair of the National Commission for women, visited and declared there to be rampant child prostitution in the area, police have conducted some raids in order to find prostituted children. Although police conduct raids, brothels recieve tip-offs and hide the minors before raids are conducted.
  Official Corruption and Collaboration  
In Bombay, top politicians and police officials are in league with the mafia who control the sex industry, exchanging protection for cash payoffs and donations to campaign war chests. Corruption reaches all levels of the ruling Congress Party in New Delhi. Many politicians view prostitutes as an expendable commodity.
The mafia kidnapped a Dutch doctor compiling an ethnographic study for the World Health Organization. He was released three days later and warned to stop probing the links among politicians, the mob and prostitution.
Underage girls are rarely found in brothels because the pimps and owners receive tip offs from police about impending raids. In one brothel in Bombay, the police receive weekly bribes called haftas from the madams. Cops harass the girls, take their money, and demand free sexual services.
South Central Bombay is home to the biggest organized crime family in Asia, run by Dawood Ibrahim. In 1992, 40 candidates in Bombay’s municipal elections, and 180 of 425 legislators in Uttar Pradesh had criminal records. Shantabai, Bombay’s most powerful madam controlled as many as 10,000 pimps and prostitutes’ votes in a 1985 election. Bombay’s sex industry has evolved into a highly efficient business. It is controlled by four separate crime groups: One in charge of police payoffs, another controlling money laundering, and a third maintaining internal law and order, and the fourth procures women through a vast network streching from South India to the Himalayas. Of the four mafia groups in Bombay, the most powerful is Mehboob Thasildar, the procurer of women. Thasildar opened a restaurant on the ground floor of a two-story, blocklong brothel he also owned, one of the biggest in Bombay, with more than 50 prostituted women.
  Action of NGOs  
As of mid-1998, Sanlaap shelter in Sneha, India has 25 to 30 rescued prostituted children. 60% of the children rescued from prostitution are HIV positive. NGO workers, who urge prostitutes to use condoms, have to get the Mafia's consent, and promise to ignore the child prostitution.
Most of phone sex numbers called from India is phone sex businesses run in the United States, Hong Kong and Australia. ("India cuts access to phone sex numbers," Reuters, 20 August 1998)
  Official Response and Action  
India has blocked access to international numbers used for phone sex. "These services are obscene...they are against the moral fibre of the country and a drain on foreign exchange," said Communications Minister Sushma Swaraj. She said the government had directed state-run monopoly international carrier, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) to cut off the calls. The minister said many Indian government phones were being misused to make calls to sex lines. Swaraj said that she hoped there would soon be technology to stop people accessing Internet pornography.
  Copyright@ 2009 India Women Welfare Foundation