UNWANTED WOMEN

unwanted womenASHOK KUMAR IN THE HINDU

Female foeticide is a major factor resulting in trafficking of women from across the country to Haryana for forced marriages and the situation has only been worsened by widespread unemployment and the low status accorded to women in the State, says the first-ever UN commissioned report on human trafficking in Haryana.

Most of the women brought to Haryana for forced marriages are from Assam and West Bengal and the districts of Karnal, Mewat, Rewari, Kurukshetra, Jind, Yamuna Nagar and Hisar in Haryana are the major destinations for these trafficked women, says the report titled ‘Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on Anti-Human Trafficking’, adding that the process of bridal migration was gaining momentum in the State and the sale and trafficking aspects of it needed immediate attention. In Mewat, there are many women who are being brought from States like Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh and are forced to get married against their will. These girls are popularly known as “Paro”.

According to a 2004 report by non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, 100s of young girls and women are lured and sold into involuntary marriages in North India, says the report on human trafficking. They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity and exploited under conditions that amount to a modern form of slavery. Although trafficking of women and girls has become a lucrative and expanding trade in these regions, it routinely escapes effective administrative and social sanctions and the general response is to deny the existence of any such problem.

A large number of women are also trafficked to Haryana from Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for domestic work and are forced to work under bonded labour like conditions, according to the report. Gurgaon and Faridabad are the major destinations for the girls and women trafficked to Haryana for domestic work and a large number of them even become victims of sexual exploitation, says the report.The trafficked domestic helps, mostly minor girls, are supplied in Haryana by the placement agencies operating in Delhi and once these children land up in their employer’s house they end up in slavery. In many cases, these children become the victims of sexual exploitation at the hands of either the placement agency owner or the employer themselves. The placement agencies illegally run their business and have good links in the source areas. The agency owners bring girls from the source states with the help of their organised network and employ them as bonded labour.

Most of the victims are trafficked through railway routes and they are transited via Delhi. These women and girls are also sent to the border areas of Rajasthan from Haryana.

According to the report, the Haryana Government has initiated various schemes for the care and protection of trafficked victims and children. However, there is an absence of monitoring mechanism and minimum standards of victim care and protection and it was highlighted when the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights team detected cases of selling of infants and sexual exploitation of girls at a State-supported “Swadhar” Home in Rohtak recently.

Sounding the warning bells, the report says it may take Haryana more than 50 years to reach its natural sex ratio even if the Government ensures that not a single sex determination takes place in the State. The demand for marriageable age girls will be much more intense in the coming years and the demand met by inter-State marriages. The challenge before the State of Haryana as well as regions of Western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan is to ensure that the bride demand is not catered to through human trafficking. The governments in these regions should ensure legislations which protect the rights of women and children, says the report.

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More suffering awaits the rescued

2index.phpTHE HINDU

For three months, 18-year-old Geeta (name changed), who was kidnapped from her village in West Bengal and brought to the Capital, was confined to a small room in a brothel at G.B. Road and was repeatedly ‘raped’ by over a dozen men every day. Her trauma only ended after a client turned Good Samaritan and helped her escape.

Geeta was just like one of the hundreds of girls in the area who are kept as bonded labour with the only contact to the outside world being their customers.

“I still remember the day I was rescued. A Nepali girl and I were stuffed into a small tunnel in the terrace when the police conducted a raid. I was terrified and the police had to break down three tunnels before they found us. But my suffering is far from over,” said Geeta, sitting in The Hindu ’s office in Delhi earlier this week flanked by her aged father and brother.

“Geeta comes from a low-income group family and immediately after she was rescued, she was taken to Nari Niketan and ever since her father and brother have been forced to make frequent trips to Delhi for various police and court-related actions. The government pays only for the travel/stay of the victim, but Geeta cannot come to Delhi alone,” said Ravi Kant of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, which works in the area of anti-trafficking. The group also worked with Geeta’s parents and the police and helped in her rescue.

“It is only because of the sustained work of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and our initiative that the family has been able to come to Delhi and fight the case through this complex legal system,” added Mr. Kant.

While the government and police work well for the rescue of the victims, the follow-up is poor. “Most of the girls who are kidnapped and pushed into the flesh trade are from poor families, that have little access and means to sustain a legal battle to ensure that the kidnappers and brothel owners are brought to justice. They are fighting a system which is well-established, is riddled with corruption and in which information given to the victim is scant,” rued Mr. Kant.

Geeta, who is still coming to terms with the recent events and her ‘lucky escape’, said: “The brothel owners always kept us under a strict regime and there was absolutely no freedom. I cannot forget this episode; it has ruined my family. But now I am keen to finish my education and get a good job.”

“But not many are as lucky as Geeta,” said Rajesh Bhardawaj, who works with sex workers through non-government organisation Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha . “The women here are kept in the most unhygienic conditions and often come to us with skin problems, infections, injury marks, substance dependence and drug abuse problems. There is also no data available about their mental and emotional well-being. They are never tested for lifestyle diseases (with most having no access to a balanced diet, adequate rest and exercise) and sexually transmitted diseases for the fear of stigma and loss of business and livelihood. Their children are almost always sent away from the area by the age of three to five.”

Meanwhile, a brothel owner, Salman (name changed), who has been working and living in the area for the past four decades, too complained about the conditions in the area. “Crime and abuse is rampant in the area and the rights of the sex workers are undercut using corruption and exploitation. The government is not serious about the welfare of these women and that is the only reason this abuse continues unabated. Finish GB Road culture or legalise the trade – that is the only way to save these women.”

It’s Catch-22 for us, say the police

3index.phpDEVESH PANDEY IN THE  HINDU

Why does the Delhi Police dither when it comes to taking action against those involved in trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls at the brothels in the heart of the city on Shraddhanand Marg? The police claim that they are caught in a Catch-22 situation because of the “unclear policy on management and supervision” of brothels.

‘No clarity’

“People often make casual accusations of us taking bribes from brothels to allow the murky business to run unhindered. Concerned over the rampant sexual abuse of minor girls, when we recently initiated a discussion on cracking down on these brothels, we were told about an unpleasant experience the Crime Branch personnel were once faced with when they dared to take harsh measures. The move was opposed from all quarters and the unit had to beat a hasty retreat. It has been business as usual on Shraddhanand Marg since then. However, whenever we receive credible information on any girl being kept in confinement, we conduct raids and rescue them in coordination with non-government organisations,” said a senior police officer.

The officer said there was no clear instruction on how to deal with the flesh trade flourishing in these brothels.

“Flesh trade is not legalised in India and therefore, the brothels are being run illegally. Whenever the matter reaches the court, the brothel owners take the plea that they are in the business of singing, dancing and organising mujra ,” said lawyer Ravi Kant.

This year so far, the police have rescued 26 women. “Among them, those who were above 18 years of age said they were in the flesh trade on their own volition and hence, the courts concerned sent them to Nari Niketan. With respect to minors, we have registered six cases. Also, we have been actively assisting our counterparts in other States in rescuing the girls trafficked from different parts of the country. Since in such cases the First Information Reports are registered at places from where the minors are kidnapped, we now have anti-human trafficking units which also operate in close coordination with the police in other States,” said another officer.

Closure

Having detected instances of forced sexual exploitation of minors and women in 12 brothels, the Central Delhi Police had earlier recommended their closure to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate concerned. “Once the necessary orders were issued, the brothel owners appealed in court and the matter is hanging fire. This year, we have recommended the closure of three brothels for the same reason,” said the officer.

Ownerships of brothels are also being ascertained to ensure that legal action can be initiated against them in cases of human trafficking and sexual abuse of minors.


‘No one comes to see these girls’

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

Right outside the Kamla Market police post on Shraddhanand Marg is a board which displays photographs of women who are missing. They are mostly young girls for whom the police of various States have ostensibly been searching.

The road, infamous as the red light area of Delhi, is pockmarked with buildings which house brothels where many such girls land up. However, hardly ever has a real effort been made to search for them and set them free. Hundreds of girls live there in abhorrent and inhuman conditions, only to be forced to entertain dozens of customers each day. They remain the main source of revenue for their malik , malkin and pimps and are treated no better than pieces of flesh.

‘No one found’

“It is the police from other States which normally provides us with the photographs of the girls who have gone missing and who they suspect could have landed up in the brothels here,” said a beat constable at the post. “But I don’t recall any of these girls ever being found through these photographs, as no one comes to see them.”

The cop insisted that in the years he has been in the area he has only seen subservience from the sex workers towards the kotha owners. “They seldom speak up against them. The main problem the police face here is from the customers, who mostly come drunk, and the pimps as they often pick fights.”

In fact, just last year a beat constable, Vijender, was knifed to death in the area by some customers when he tried to prevent them from attacking a person. As a precaution now, when the constables step out for patrolling duty around G.B. Road they mostly do so in pairs or in groups.

The policeman said the girls rarely complain about being held captive.“It is the NGOs who normally come up with the complaints and then raids are conducted. During raids, we do not face any problem from the brothel owners.”

While the flesh trade taking place in the area is well-known, the Delhi Police confines itself to mere maintenance of law and order and does not interfere in the functioning of the kothas . But while the kotha owners appear to have bought peace with the police, the fact that only about 2,600 of the nearly 3,500 sex workers in the area are registered with health workers speaks volumes about how these women are kept confined and away from the eyes of the law.index.php

ABUSED CONFINED AND FORGOTTEN BY SOCIETY

1index.phpPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU  – BINDU SHAJAN PERAPPADAN

Almost all the 3,500-odd sex workers confined to the 96 brothels in the Capital’s red-light area on Shraddhanand Marg – earlier referred to as G.B. Road – have a tale of exploitation and human rights abuses to narrate.

The government and the police are far from taking action against brothel owners. The sex workers say they are “treated as the Capital’s shame – brushed under the carpet, only to be remembered when required”.

“Poverty and the promise of a decent life for our children keeps us here,” says Savitri at a government-aided health care centre in Lahori Gate.

She and a group of other workers came to the centre at 4.30 p.m., previously an impossible time for the women to be out of the brothels.

“Four o’ clock onwards clients start coming in, but these days the steep price rise has hit the business hard. This is the first time in 10 years that I haven’t had a customer in four days,” says a nervous-looking Mamta (36). She came to Delhi from Andhra Pradesh a decade ago and has three daughters and elderly parents to support back home.

“I am a mother of three young girls who I have left behind in Andhra Pradesh with my old parents. I know how ruthless life can be. Life here on G.B. Road is only about making money,” she says.

Lata came to Delhi when she was only five years old and was pushed into the flesh trade at the young age of 11. She has no hope of things changing for the better any time soon. “During elections, politicians and parties of all colour and shape come to meet us promising the world and more. We are forgotten immediately after the circus is over,” quips the 48-year-old.

Lata is angry that the violence and torture sex workers are subjected to and the lives they are forced to lead go unnoticed. “The sex workers and their children here have no rights. Be it access to nutritious and assured supply of food, security (financial/physical), education and health care facilities, crèche for our children, schools or playground, none is available. There are no fixed working hours and social interaction with the outside world is almost non-existent. We are discriminated against on the grounds of our profession.”

“We are confined to our rooms for years at a stretch. We are not allowed to step out even to see a doctor. It is only when the brothel owners are sure that we have nowhere else to go that they allow us out. Where have the law, politicians and police been all these years?” Lata asks.

Today she lives on the streets after being thrown out by her brothel owner. “I am old now and don’t bring in any business,” she says. “Now I have no rights as a worker or as a human being. Worse, I have no social security. Sex trade is a reality and because it is not legalised we are exploited at all levels.”

Sex workers across the country have long been demanding that their trade be legalised so that the women can have better quality of life.

Khairati Lal Bhola (85) of the Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha, a non-government organisation that works with sex workers across the country, says: “There are 1,100 red light areas in India and 23 lakh sex workers with 54 lakh children living there. The income of these sex workers is shared by kothamalins , touts, police and others in the system. The sex worker gets only 25 per cent of her income and that too is often spent on medical treatment and rations. Almost all of them lead a hand-to-mouth existence. If sex trade is legalised, then there can be a greater chance for these women to earn more.”

Previously, the Supreme Court constituted a committee of legal experts to look into the cause of sex trade and suggest ways to bring this population into the national mainstream. “So far there has been no concrete outcome from this group,” Mr. Bhola says.

He says commercial sexual exploitation today is not purely brothel-based but has spread everywhere – residential areas, hotels and clubs. “With the advancement of technologies and changing global scenario, sex trade has emerged in diverse forms.”

Rishi Kant of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, which works in the area of anti-trafficking, said: “The steep rise in human trafficking is because of several social factors including poverty, illiteracy, natural calamities and rapid globalisation. Human trafficking works strictly on demand and supply and is a basket of crime which violates several laws and rights. Currently there is no authentic database for human trafficking and it continues to be difficult to ascertain how many women are affected. Also corruption and strong inter-State/country network of suppliers and demand makes the circle very vicious and unbreakable for women.”

With the Delhi High Court stepping in earlier this week and seeking “information on the number of rescue operations undertaken, the total number of girls rescued and how many FIRs have been lodged so far,” many believe things will change while others remain sceptical. Mamta says: “I truly hope that the direction to the Delhi Police to also take action against those not registering FIRs following rescue of girls would bring about a real change.”

Delhi High Court glare on brothel owners

HINDUSTAN TIMES

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said inaction against brothel owners and failure to lodge FIR against them was the main reason why a large number of rescued minor girls are once again forced back into flesh trade.

The court also asked the petitioner, human rights NGO Shakti Vahini, and the Delhi Police to compile details of how many girls have been rescued from various brothels in the last one year and how many FIRs have been lodged in this regard.

Seeking action against those who have not lodged FIRs, a bench of acting chief justice BD Ahmed and justice Vibhu Bakhru said, “if a person does not lodge an FIR, that itself is a punishable offence. Find out who all are responsible and take action against them.”

“This court seeks information on the number of rescue operations undertaken, the total number of girls rescued and how many FIRs have been lodged so far,” said the bench.

The court order came following a complaint by the NGO that many girls rescued by NGOs and police are brought back by the owners of brothels by sending fictitious persons to the court to pose as their parents to take their custody. Following a complaint by another NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the court is also looking into whether some of the Capital’s placement agencies were indulging in flesh trade.

The court had in 2010 ordered a CBI probe into the role of a prominent Rohini-based placement agency.

Missing Karnal kids: Police suspect child-trafficking racket

TIMES OF INDIA

KARNAL: With more than 10 children reportedly missing in Karnal district over the last two months, the police suspect the role of a gang involved in human trafficking behind their disappearance.

The district police have received 10 complaints of missing children — four girls and six boys in the age group of two-and-a-half to 10 years. Four children have been traced while the remaining are still missing.

Officials running the children’s helpline, which was set up by the district administration to monitor the progress of cases of missing kids, also apprehend the involvement of a gang of child traffickers. Helpline counselor Bhawna Sharma said the plight of the parents whose children have gone missing was hard to put in words. “Even the manner in which the children have disappeared is startling. A few weeks back, a girl, Shalu, disappeared within minutes of her father halting his scooter at a gas station for refuel,” she told TOI.

Raj Kumar and his wife Kavita have been running from pillar to post during the last three months, trying to trace their missing daughter Kiran. The girl went missing from the ‘pakka pul’ (concrete bridge) on national highway-1 (NH-1) on the outskirts of Karnal and an FIR was registered at the Madhuban police station. Raj alleged, “All efforts to locate our daughter have proved futile. Even the police department has not done much in the case.”

Meanwhile, Karnal superintendent of police (SP) Shashank Anand maintained that the department was working to trace the missing children and had uploaded the details on its website. “The details of the missing children is regularly updated on the website so that anyone having any information about them could contact the department,” said the SP.