Saturday, August 19, 2006

Human dignity up on sale

Human dignity up on saleMANU AIYAPPA[ 16 Aug, 2006 2243hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

HUBLI: Sangeetha (name changed) remembers vividly her ordeal at the hands of a human trafficker, when she was desperate to secure a better life for herself and her family. Three months ago, a man she didn't know met her and casually inquired about her life. Unwary, the 18-year-old told him that it was a hard life, and she did not have enough money to buy medicines for her ailing parents. Realising her desires, he told her about a wealthy man in Gujarat who was keen to marry a village girl. He promised to take her there if she was interested. Sangeetha believed him and decided to go, in the hope of securing a new lease of life. "First, my parents were reluctant to send me. But they agreed when I convinced them," she said, even as tears rolled down her cheeks.

When she insisted on taking her parents with her, the middleman promised that she would be able to return home after just two weeks, and with huge amount of money. But obviously it was not the case to be. "When we went to Gujarat, he took whatever money I had and sent me with a rich man, saying that he was her husband," she says.

"I spent two months with him after a marriage which was conducted in a hush-hush manner. It was a terrible time after that, as everyday I was sexually exploited and never allowed to go outside." Finally, she couldn't bear it any longer, and decided to return. "I had only Rs 200 which I had stolen, and it was difficult to escape, but finally I managed to do so."

Sangeetha is not alone. Although there are no hard accurate numbers, in the past five years, trafficking of women and children in North Karnataka for sexual exploitation has victimised over 3 lakh people.
Their destination is mainly Gujarat and Rajasthan, but some are taken to Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa, where the flesh trade flourishes...

There are reports that some have also been shifted abroad. While some are 'sold', others are 'married off ' for a consideration ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000. According to a police inspector who was instrumental in unearthing such a racket in Hubli recently, the victims usually come from poor families, and are lured by promises of a better life for themselves and their families. Some are offered a job or an education, while others are kidnapped and sold by friends and family members for profit. "It is a ruthless business where money overpowers basic human rights," he asserted. Traffickers often use local people (sub-agents) in a community or village to find young women and children, and target families who are poor and vulnerable. In some situations, family members sell children to middlemen or traffickers. The parents are deceived into believing their children will get a good job or an education. However, most of the time they end up in a brothel or other businesses where they are forced to have sex with the clientele. Until recently, police authorities here largely ignored the issue. But they now admit the existence of the problem and are trying to unravel it. "One of the major problems with making arrests is that people do not want to be used as witnesses against the agents or gangs involved in trafficking," another officer explained. "It is difficult to help women who have already fallen victim to traffickers, but preventing further such incidents is crucial," said Subhas Jamadar, belonging to an NGO associated with the Human Rights Commission Cell. He suggested maximum cooperation between the government and non-government organisations for the eradication of the problem.


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