Traffickers turn to north-east states for flesh trade

Traffickers turn to north-east states for flesh trade
Web posted at: 10/31/2006 7:42:24
Source ::: REUTERS
GUWAHATI • Human traffickers are increasingly turning to insurgency-wracked north-eastern states in their search for young girls to work in big city brothels, police and activists say.

Over the past five years there has been a rise in reports of missing girls from the remote region of eight states, an increase which authorities believe is due to trafficking.

Police say at least 700 girls from the region have been reported missing over the last five years, 300 of whom disappeared in 2005 alone.

But activists estimate thousands of north-eastern girls disappear every year — most of whom are not reported by families due to the stigma associated with being part of the sex trade.

“Substantial trafficking of girls is taking place from the region. People in the north-east have recently realised what human trafficking is,” said Ajit Joy of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in New Delhi.

Traffickers are mostly women, often well-known in their respective villages, who promise poor, rural families good jobs for their daughters, most of whom are between 12 and 16. But in reality, they sell the girls to brothel owners in towns and cities like New Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Kolkata, earning between Rs20,000 ($440) and Rs40,000 for each girl.

Police estimate that around 20 per cent of the girls in India’s big city brothels come from the north-east. At least one million Indian girls and women work in India’s sex industry which is estimated to be worth around Rs400bn ($9bn) annually, according to the UNODC.

The rise in the number of girls disappearing from states like Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh is partly due to tighter surveillance on India’s north-eastern border with Nepal, where most girls were being trafficked from before. Authorities say increased security along the border to curb Maoist insurgencies in both countries has deterred many traffickers, and the number of Nepali girls being brought into India annually has halved from around 10,000 three or four years ago. Twenty-year-old Jaya Basumatary from the northern Assam district of Udalguri, was rescued after a raid on a Delhi brothel last year. At the age of 16, she was taken by traffickers who promised her impoverished family that they would get her a job as a domestic maid, but in reality she was sold to a brothel where she was forced to cut her long hair, wear make-up and mini-skirts. She was sold three times to different brothels and raped repeatedly over three years before being rescued by police.

Despite being back home, Jaya will never escape her past. “Even now I am sad. I find no peace. Who can remove my stigma? My past memories still haunt me,” she said.

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