n India, of an estimated 20 million commercial sex workers, 16 million women and girls are victims of sex trafficking, according to the non-government organisations working in India. Most of the poor girls are pushed into the sex trade by family members to counter poverty. The father literally bargains for perks while letting go his daughter in an agent’s hand. Once the girls were gone, families rarely found out what had happened to them and had no further communication at all. Researchers found that 78 per cent of girls sold for commercial sexual exploitation were from West Bengal. Official data in 2014 showed that West Bengal accounted for about a fifth of India’s 5,466 cases of human trafficking, with the state both a source and a transit location for women and children trafficked into the sex trade. Reports of human trafficking in India rose 25 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with more than 40 per cent of cases involving children being bought, sold and exploited as slaves, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
In the recent past, a study led by the My Choices Foundation in partnership with major anti-trafficking groups across India found the average age of girls being trafficked had fallen to age 10-14 in recent years from 14-16 in the past. Fathers in rural India are the targets of a new campaign to stop traffickers trapping young girls into the sex trade as research showed the average age of girls forced into prostitution had dropped with some as young as eight. But a key finding was the role of fathers with researchers discovering that traffickers were convincing fathers to give away their daughters by promising to arrange a marriage without the need to pay a dowry to the boy’s family or a job in a metro city. Apart from selling or bartering daughters, a large number of missing girls are mostly found in flesh trade, especially from the rural areas. Researchers also found during their work in the field that parents were also unwilling to report a missing girl to the police fearing stigma.
A few months ago, there were two minor tribal girls of the same family, aged 12 and 14, who went missing from Lemru village of Korba district and were rescued from the traffickers. 11 people, including 3 women, were arrested.
The girls were raped by six ‘customers’ and were kept confined at a farmhouse. One of them was almost sold and she was supposed to be sent to another city for flesh trade.
Girl trafficking is strengthening its roots in tribal-dominated regions or in rural villages, where jobs and economy are a big crisis. On the grounds of providing jobs in metro cities and also locally, girls get exploited.
Last year, a 17-year-old girl was sold and pushed into flesh trade in Thane, Mumbai. She was hailing from Bangladesh and was repeatedly raped by her friend’s acquaintance while promising marriage at her native place. In the same month, he sold her to agents (involved in trafficking) in Bangladesh who in-turn sold her to their counterparts in India.
The girl was subsequently brought to Thane district; she was taken to customers at various places in Thane, Vashi in Navi Mumbai, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
These days, even the social network is used for exploiting these girls; they are from village and not educated. The agents take advantage of such situations. They create their FB profiles and even websites; they display their pictures inviting customers. These girls are exploited to the core and if they dare to oppose, they face cruel treatment. There is no one in their life as a fallback. Trafficking of women from the state to metros has increased, though the government has chosen a mystifying silence. More than 60,000 girls between 12 and 15 years work as domestic workers in Delhi and Mumbai.
One girl in every 10 families is pushed into prostitution by middlemen, who take them to the cities with the promise of a job. The government should take steps to stop this violation of human rights. In a male-dominated society, women are not allowed to claim their rights.
There is another example; the ‘Rajnat’ community of Rajasthan is struggling to give up prostitution, a profession practiced for generations. But with no jobs on offer, even for educated members of the community, the girls have been forced to join dance bars in Mumbai. At least it ensures a decent income and a better future for their children. The ‘rajnats’ or ‘nats’ were dancers and singers in the royal courts but were reduced to utter penury and took to prostitution with the decline of the feudal order. While most of the girls in the community were pushed into commercial sex, the men functioned as pimps and the tradition has continued. Though in most parts of the State, commercial sex work has been given up, there are pockets where some girls still follow the profession because even the educated men have no jobs and the situation has become even more difficult when it comes to girls.
Even if the community wants their daughters to be educated and live a respectable life, but when they educate the girls they are not getting good grooms as the men are jobless and no one wants to have a matrimonial alliance with this particular community, even if the community gives up commercial sex work altogether, there is no other option for survival.
Each state of India is going through worst for girls; we need some drastic step towards the prevention of such practices.
Just saying, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana’ is not enough.