Gender bias and discrimination against women is still rampant in India. In a country as large as us and culturally rich, women are still far away from being treated well. We are soon to celebrate 8th March as Women’s Day, yet we struggle for women empowerment. Human Trafficking being a huge problem (sex trafficking).
‘The one that is looming large under the umbrella of human trafficking is Prostitution…
Women are in constant fear of being raped, molested, abused physically and sexually, not given equal opportunities for education.
The work of the NGO’s
Many NGO’s have been set up to empower the downtrodden and underprivileged women. The NGO’s do a brilliant job of helping these underprivileged women to make effective decisions, especially ones that will help them grow in their social and economic environment.
Women are trained on various topics from accounting, record keeping, savings and lending, entrepreneurship. Regular meetings empower them to influence social and economic transformation. Their immense potential is given the impetus by being given financial support, motivation, and encouragement.
We have on one hand these good souls going out of their way in contributing to the noble cause of looking after destitute women, while a percentage of the intelligentsia and the rich are immersed in themselves and are blind to the miseries of these women.
The issue is large no doubt but not one that cannot be controlled.
It should start with the government laying down stringent laws and regulations and implementing them.
The government should now implement some law that will help in controlling population explosion. We the citizens of India should be open to such progressive thoughts. The progress of our Nation should be a priority.
Various forms of Human Trafficking
A true interest in controlling human trafficking should be generated.
Human trafficking takes various forms…
Prostitution, forced labor, forced marriage, forced begging, domestic servitude and forced organ removal.
‘Human trafficking is the recruitment of the individual, harboring them against their will using violence and deception forcing them to work against their will.’
These recruits are not necessarily trafficked across borders to other nations. It can happen in the state, in the city, and in the country.
Poverty becomes a reason for many to fall prey to trafficking. A lot of them when recruited are under the impression they will secure a job. A sum is paid to the agent for this.
They realize they have been deceived when they reach their place of destination. Their documents are confiscated. They have to work under forced circumstances until the loan has been paid.
People smuggling is different from human trafficking. People are sent across borders in people smuggling for a fee. On arrival of their destination, they are set free.
It is easy to traffick kids. The young innocent minds are oblivious of what life has in store for them. In their situation, there is no violence or force used as the child is very young. Sometimes they willingly walk the path.
Economic deprivation pushes a parent to sell his or her child. According to September 2015 in India, today girls are sold openly in Agra and Patna. They are auctioned for their virginity.
Placement agencies buy young girls from their parents promising them jobs as maidservants. In eventuality, they end up in Brothels.
Initiative by FICCI Flo
FICCI Flo Pune recently held a small panel of discussion where we had the head of an NGO, 2 sex workers with a manager and a madam (brothel owner)baring their heart. They all spoke of their heart-wrenching experiences.
On hearing their stories I thanked the lord a million times over for the lovely life I lead.
We on the other side of the wall hold no empathy for these girls. What has actually driven them to this situation is far from our imagination. We lead such comfortable lives yet grumble and are dissatisfied with what we have.
In Pune, we have on Budhwar Peth 400 Brothels…just imagine in that small area!
Because of the relentless work by some NGO’s the number has come down from 426 in the last 2 years to 400. There were 5000 girls earlier, the number has come down to 3500.
Ritu Nathani who runs Cybage Asha and Khushboo was in conversation with Saheli. Saheli is a social welfare organization. They work primarily with sex workers who have HIV/Aids. Educating sex workers on how to protect themselves from HIV/Aids.
Saheli’s Vision and Mission
‘Their Vision: Empowerment of women in sex work through Collectivization.
Mission: To provide health care support to women in sex work.
To provide necessary social services to women in sex work.
To change the attitude of society towards women in sex work
Aim: To enhance and enable greater levels of self-protection among sex workers through a sense of togetherness, collective action and the most important is creating an identity.’
Certain points were brought to our notice…we the ignorant ones needed to be educated. This panel discussion was the best. We certainly don’t necessarily take out time to understand these sensitive issues. We needed to be sensitized to the horrific situation these girls go through.
Some points that were an eye-opener
Prostitution per se is not illegal in India.
‘Doing’ sex work is not illegal.
Being a sex worker is not illegal.
Solicitation in public places is illegal.
Forcing someone into prostitution is illegal. (trafficking)
Brothel keeping is illegal.
Yet we have 400 brothels and 3500 girls prostituting…just in Budhwarpet …all of them have been forced into prostitution.
The question is HOWCOME it all continues to function?
We have been given to understand that it is a huge money making racket. From the politicians to the government all are given a percentage.
Is this not hypocrisy? On the one side, we are fighting for women’s rights, women empowerment. And on the other hand, we have illegal prostitution that continues, where the public is aware of all that is happening and there seems to be no way to wipe it all out.
Social welfare organizations are doing their best, but also have to face threat calls for helping these downtrodden women.
We heard of the dismal stories of the two sex workers who were there.
In 2009 one of them was lured into becoming the sister of a man. She was young and pretty. Worked in a shop. He brought her to Pune promising her a better job that would beat the Rs.3000 that she earned in the shop. The fascination of another city and the need for more money made her leave her house on the quiet.
After being left in a room with other young girls she realized the mode of work she had gotten herself into.
She earns Rs.10000 to Rs.12000 a month. She has to serve approximately 6 customers in a day.
The other girl was married for a while. However, the situation at home was frustrating. The in-laws kept her and her children hungry for most of the times. She was ill-treated.
She was seated by the riverside one day and decided to leave all. A milk van drove by. She boarded it and was brought to Pune where she spent the night under a tree. A man came by showing much compassion. Told her he would take her to Mumbai, where he has a sister and she could stay there.
He brought her to sewri where he introduced her to a lady. The two of them man and woman spoke together and then sold her for Rs.40000 to the brothel owner.
She then continued prostituting until she earned the 40000 and returned it… the price for her freedom.
She then was caught by the police and was jailed for a year. She was under watch.
One of the customers from her town decided to tell her family of her whereabouts. The family did not accept her back.
She ran away and came to Pune and of course the only option left was to go back to prostitution.
The brothel owner today told us of her story and gave us more of an insight into the business.
A brothel keeper is normally a Nepalese and they have a Nepalese Manager. A brothel owner and a manager are two different identities. If a brothel does not earn well then the brothel is given to another to run it. Normally the manager.
This brothel owner has never bought a girl. All the girls in her brothel are prostituting voluntarily. Many times a customer falls in love with a girl and takes her away to be his constant woman at the same time is ok with her continuing with prostitution. It is an understanding they share. The man many times lives on her income.
The ‘fresh girls’ in order to push them into prostitution are beaten, raped repeatedly, brainwashed. This can go on for nearly 6 months. They are broken down physically and mentally.
She tells us of how she got into the business at 13 years of age and was a sex worker for 10 years, after which she became a manager. She was a manager for 22 years. She then became a brothel owner.
She now has a man in her life as a companion and friend.
Saheli the social organization working with HIV/Aids
Tejaswi Sevekari is on the advisory board on HIV Aids. She is an integral part of Saheli and is a trained trainer, who trains and counsels these unfortunate women on several aspects.
40% of the women were HIV positive in the area. It has now gone down drastically. It is 8% only. Saheli’s sheer dedication and relentless work towards this cause have brought this commendable change.
It only goes to show that if there is a willing heart anything can be achieved. We have to believe in the cause and then work towards it crossing every hurdle that comes your way.
Saheli would conduct training on using condoms. There were times the girls had to be bribed into using condoms. There are many customers who do not want to use condoms. This meant the girls would lose business. However, knowing the dangers of HIV the girls have smartened up.
The biggest challenge according to Tejaswi in managing the show is how we people look at sex workers. Our perspective towards them must alter completely. It is only then that we can think of bringing in a large percent of change.
One of the sex workers on the panel voiced her desire of wanting to get out of the profession if she got another decent job elsewhere. She is willing to work as a maid in peoples home. Like her, there are many who want to quit this profession and lead decent regular lives.
A question was thrown to the audience as to how many of us would be willing to actually house a sex worker as a maid in our house.
The turnout was definitely not a large one.
The social stigma attached to this profession cannot be eradicated so easily.
Why just because they are paid a price for sleeping with a customer, where they have been forced into the profession by people who take advantage of their poverty?
In spite of having heard their story, we were still worried, skeptical to house them. If not house them are we ready to donate in large sums regularly, to these organizations who support them financially? Are we ready to go and spend time with them to give them emotional comfort? Are we ready to hold hands with them or hug them without the fear of contracting a disease? Are we ready to take their children into our homes and adopt them? Are we ready to fund the education of the child who has been born of a prostitute? Are we ready to click photographs with them and put them on FB as we do with our friends and family, without the fear of what our friends might think of us? If we can do this or at least live up to most of the questions posed, we have managed to bring in some change in our perspective towards the unfortunate ones.
A list of few other NGOs that work in uplifting the underprivileged women.
ANEW: Association for Non-Traditional Employment for Women. Started in 1997.
CARE India for underprivileged and rural areas. Has been around for 65 years.
CREA started in 2000 works at grass root and international levels.
Snehalaya helps people affected by HIV/Aids
Swayam based out of Kolkata. Interest to create peace tolerance cooperation and equality between men and women.