MAHARASHTRA RED LIGHTS OF POVERTY

Vidarbha girls forced to take-up prostitution

Joydeep RayMonday, March 12, 2007 (Vadodara, Mumbai)NDTV :

Organised gangs of middlemen, traffickers, and pimps that operate across the state borders are picking up women from pockets of rural distress and selling them into sex trade markets in newly affluent urban India.The cash rich Gujarat has become the nearest and biggest magnet for the daughters of suicide country. The cotton fields of Vidharbha seem very far away for Seema. She was the eldest daughter of a cotton farmer. But this season her father’s crop failed and it was not for the first time. He tried to commit suicide not for the first time. This is when a girl in her village told her if she came to Gujarat she would be able to earn a lot more. The Gitanjali Express from Nagpur brought her to Vadodara to the horror of a brothel. “My father is a farmer. But there is not enough income. That’s why I am doing this work,” Seema said. On the surface there is a new affluence. In just in two months she has been able to send over Rs 30,000 rupees to her family. But she wants to return soon. “I want to be just a common, homely girl, in a family. I want to get out as soon as possible. I have already been here two months,” said Seema. That may be a distant dream. Girls like Seema from the crisis-hit regions of Maharashtra have crossed the border into the cash rich towns of Gujarat. The gang of pimps and traffickers ensure that very few make it back. Armed with a hidden camera, the NDTV team met Hamidbhai Mansoori at Mumbai’s domestic airport. Mansoori, in his 40s, is from Bihar. He is the pimp Seema now works for in Vadodara. Poverty and distressAs we get talking Hamidbhai tells us that his agents pick up girls from poor villages in Maharashtra, especially Vidarbha, and sends them to the sex trade in Mumbai and cities of Gujarat. His entire trade is fuelled on rural poverty and distress. But halfway through the conversation Hamidbhai realises we are journalists.”I spoke to you frankly. Don’t create trouble for me,” he said. NDTV’s team leave’s the airport to pursue the leads of Hamidbhai’s hubs in Mumbai. That brought the team to a seedy hotel in Chembur where they find two girls working for Hamidbhai. Sonia’s family in Satara in Western Maharashtra thinks she is a sales girl in a cosmetic shop. Her father who worked for a pesticide company has been sacked. Now she is the only support for a family of eight. Traveling back and forth from the housing society she lives in, she hides behind a burkha and is scared everyday that somebody will get to know. Sonia said that she will continue this work as she had to help her sister and brother get married.

Debt and distress: Rural women in prostitution

Yogesh Pawar / Supriya SharmaMonday, March 12, 2007 (Mumbai) NDTV:

Most of Maharashtra’s rural women sold into sex trade belong to Marathwada region, an NDTV investigation has found. Most of them are landless poor but due to failing crops even women from families that own land are not spared. Kamathipur, the city’s infamous red light district has women from all parts of the country. But most of them are women from landless families of drought-hit Marathwada, Maharashtra’s poorest belt that has traditionally fed the state’s brothels. “Our villages are hit by drought,” said one woman. Another said crops and rains have failed. A third woman explains, “our lands yield nothing and wages for working on others’ lands is not enough”.Prostitution has hit even those with land. Mangla from Beed is the daughter of a farmer and dowry could not be arranged.Debt pressureA year ago a pregnant Mangala was sent back home by her husband and she found her way to the brothel.Mangala said her sister is also into prostitution and the money she earns she takes with her when she goes home.She says her parents know that they are engaged in prostitution. In another brothel 21-year-old Chhaya reveals her debt-ridden father committed suicide and she needs to support her mother and a younger brother.She earns between Rs 100 – 200 and sometimes she does not earn, Chaya said. She admits it is not possible to live a normal live after being a prostitute. Shantibai, the oldest prostitute in Latur dose not minces her words. “They are young children. If the father takes a loan and dies, then that’s his headache. Why should these girls come here to repay those debt,” she says. The entry of women from the families of the landed has created a strange tension within the flesh trade. The traditional communities associated with prostitution resent the presence of women like Managala and Chhaya.

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