Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prostitution legal in J&K, govt plans to scrap old law

• Prostitutes can register by filling form, paying Rs 5
Riyaz Wani, Indian Express

SRINAGAR, MAY 12: As Kashmir seethes in anger over the sex abuse scandal involving top politicians, senior police officers and bureaucrats, the government is planning to repeal an old law with makes prostitution legal in the state.

Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country where prostitution is legal. According to the Public Prostitutes Registration Rules, 1921, a prostitute can carry on her trade legally if she registers herself with the District Magistrate. She has to fill in a simple application form, file it in person and pay Rs 5 as fee.
Though, the State tries its sex offenders under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA) and the sections of its own Ranbir Penal Code, the rules of 1921 have not been repealed. The rules are still published in J&K Laws, the State’s statute book.Law Minister Muzzaffer Hussain Beigh, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister of J-K, admitted the rules were still in force and could be invoked. ‘‘Yes, the rules are in the book and are as such valid,’’ Beigh said. He, however, said the Government would repeal them in the next Assembly session. ‘‘It is a different matter that no woman would register now under the rules, but the rules will have to go.’’ Sanctioned by the Darbar of the then Maharja Hari Singh vide Chief Minister letter No 17197, dated February 12, 1921, these rules were first published in Government Gazette of the same year.

The rules define a public prostitute as ‘‘a woman who earns her livelihood by offering her person to lewdness for hire.’’ The rules also allow for the role of a brothel keeper and defines him or her as ‘‘the occupier of any house, room, tent, boat, or place resorted to by person of both sexes for the purpose of committing sexual immorality.’’ However, the brothel keeper has to ensure that he does not keep the prostitutes who are not registered with the Government.

The Kashmir Bar Association in a PIL on the sex abuse scandal has sought the repeal of the rules. ‘‘These rules are still part of the J&K statute book. Even though the state has PITA, these rules are not outside the framework of the Act. And we are the only state in India which has them,’’ Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom said.
Qayoom said, if anybody wished, he or she can invoke these rules. ‘‘A woman, if she wishes, can register herself as a prostitute. Being in force still, the rules cannot be simply brushed aside.’’ Registrar General of J-K High Court Hasnain Masoodi agrees: ‘‘According to these rules, an adult woman can of her own free volition register herself as a prostitute while the PITA presumes that she is coerced, induced or influenced.’’

District Magistrate, Srinagar, Asghar Samoon said there was no record of any prostitute registering in Srinagar after 1947.

Kids kept as collateral in Tamil Nadu

Smitha Rao
[ Friday, May 12, 2006 02:19:18 pm TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

VELLORE: In a remote village in Tamil Nadu, little Nirmala (12), rolls her nimble fingers over a sheaf of tobacco leaves, pins them adroitly into a tumti yale and seals the edges. She has to do this about 2,000 times a day, like she has been doing for over two years now. Even while she is sleeping, she smells the pungent tobacco, the memory bringing forth a psychological cough. In Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district, every household has two or three Nirmalas, pledged as collateral. It’s a vicious cycle of poverty, labour — mostly child labour — and families on the brink of self-destruction. Every household has a story: the family takes a loan, then unable to repay it on time pledges a child as a labourer. The child is bonded to the menial work for life — for most often the family is not able to pay back and get the child released.

At Vellore and a few surrounding districts, the mainstay for people in the rural areas is not agriculture but industries like beedi rolling and match-stick rolling. Rajashekhar, who is just 14, says, “I had to roll 2,500 beedis a day because my family had borrowed Rs 2,000 after which my father fell ill. When I protested after four months of hard work, my employer threw something at me saying, ‘After all, you are a bonded labourer, do as I say’.” The boy rolled beedis for two-and-half years and before being rescued by an NGO, World Vision . Rajashekhar is now in a transit school run by World Vision. He said, “I want to be a teacher and teach my parents and my relatives, so that they don’t have to do this kind of work.” World Vision has so far freed 632 children from bonded labour. The NGO has been around for so long that families have started enrolling children into factories confident that “World Vision volunteers will rescue them later” . Volunteers from the NGO step in, pay the pledged amount and take charge of the children. According to Vellore coordinator for World Vision, Wesley, “The ‘Born to Be Free’ initiative started as an integrated approach to the huge problem of bonded labour. The project releases children from bondage and hazardous industries and meets their long-term educational, health and economic needs.”

How tech is driving trafficking in women

Link sent by Pranab Ji, Times of India ,Patna

PUNE: Mobile phone-cameras, handycams and sedative-laced drinks are beginning to give rise to a new form of trafficking in women in different parts of the country. From Kashmir to the small taluka township of Bhor in Pune district, about a dozen cases have surfaced in which unsuspecting women were filmed in sexual encounters. The video clips were then either sold, circulated or used to blackmail them into repeated rapes by different men. As had happened in the recent Srinagar sex abuse case, at Bhor and in the neighbouring Ahmednagar district, two minors and two other women were sexually exploited by a ring of men. What is shockingly similar in both the cases are allegations that the victims were drugged, filmed and then blackmailed into sexual exploitation.

In most cases, the women suffered silently out of fear that the scam, if exposed, could destroy their own future and that of their families. "The misuse of mobile phone cameras and handycams to sexually exploit women has been rising steadily and we NGOs feel that this has led to a technology-driven trafficking in women," Stree Adhar Kendra president Neelam Gorhe, MLC, told TOI on Thursday. In the Bhor case, which surfaced on Wednesday, a 22-year-old woman was taken to a lodge by an acquaintance on the pretext of being introduced to some influential people who could help her get a government job. There, she was allegedly sedated through a laced drink, sexually exploited and filmed. While this happened in January, the sordid saga of blackmailing and repeated rape continued over the next fourfive months till the racket was busted by the Pune police and nine men were arrested. In Ahmednagar, the CID arrested 12 men in connection with the chainrape of two minor girls from poor families.

That case was brought to light by Ahmednagar NGOs Childline and Snehalaya after they pursued a "missing" complaint lodged by the parents. "Our investigations led to people who were known in the Ahmednagar redlight area as traffickers in women. In this case too, some form of filming was done to trap the girls and keep them quiet," Snehalaya's honorary director, Girish Kulkarni, told TOI. Two months ago, in Aurangabad, two youths were arrested and charged with filming and circulating an oral sex MMS featuring their female classmate. The traumatised girl from the northeast was forced to discontinue her studies and rush back home. Last year, Pune was rocked when secret webcams were discovered in rented rooms occupied by college girls. In 2003, a web camera was found in the women's changing room in a public swimming pool.

Bihar MLA in 'child marriages' row

PATNA: An independent MLA from Bihar is in the eye of a controversy for allegedly providing material help for organising the mass marriage of 38 "minor" couples at Dehri-on-sone in Rohtas district last month. The state Commission for Women has asked the district administration to produce the newly-weds before it for age verification. "We have asked the Rohtas district administration to produce the 38 couples who were married at a mass marriage function held at Jharkhandi temple in Dehri-on- sone on April 18 before it in Patna on May 18," the Commission's chairperson Manju Prakash told PTI on Friday. Pradip Kumar Joshi, the MLA from Dehri who had trounced RJD veteran and former minister Illiyas Hussain in the last assembly polls, allegedly provided material help for organising the marriages.

Stating that the Commission took action after coming across news report of the mass marriage of under-aged boys and girls, Prakash said the age of all 38 couples would be ascertained by a medical board that would be constituted by the body. On the basis of the medical board's findings, a notice would served on the MLA if necessary, she said. Prakash said the Rohtas district welfare officer, responsible for checking such unlawful marriages, has also been asked to appear before the Commission to provide an explanation.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Editorial TOI -Safe Migration

For the past few weeks, thousands of immigrants have hit the streets in major American cities to protest government policy. The protests were aimed at pressuring US Congress into granting amnesty to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants and scuttling a proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border. The largest demonstrations were held in California which is home to over 2.5 million illegal migrants, mostly from Mexico. A look at some numbers gives an indication of the extent to which the American economy depends on immigrants. Since 2000, migrants have filled about 85 per cent of new jobs in the US. Each year roughly 1.2 million migrants, both legal and illegal, enter the US. Of these a majority works in agriculture and low-paying jobs in cities. So immigrants end up doing jobs that American citizens are unwilling to take up. The situation is not very different in Europe where immigrants from Africa and Asia do much of the menial work. Though immigrants are the target of abuse and discrimination, it is clear that without them most countries in the developed world would grind to a halt. The contribution of immigrants, especially those in unskilled jobs, to First World economies might seem irrelevant to us. But in fact it isn’t. Bangladeshi and Nepalese migrants to India are playing the roles of Mexicans in the US and Algerians in France. Though estimates of the number of migrants vary wildly there is little doubt that they perform a vital function in the Indian economy. From construction labour to domestic helps, migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal help meet the demand-supply gap in minimum wage jobs. For too long this issue, especially immigration from Bangladesh, has been politicised. It is time we come to grips with the fact that as India becomes an economic powerhouse, it will attract more migrants from neighbouring nations looking for higher wages. There is an urgent need to get hard statistics on migrants and put a value to their economic contribution. There is also a seamy side to this migration which involves terrorists, sex workers and child labour. A policy to control the inflow of workers and to give them work permits must be implemented. This would not only give legal protection to migrants but also help in weeding out undesirable elements.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Great Beginning

Dear Friends,

A big hello to all of you. It's been a fortnight since we met and the response from all of you has been overwhelming. The incredible space that you have managed to get and the variety in the topics have been fantastic. I feel very humbled by all the work that all of you have done. Makes it so much more worth the while. Rishi and Ravi have put as many as they could access on the blogspot. So do log in and check it out. It would, in fact, be a great if all of you could send us a link to your stories so we can post them on the website easily. We will also be putting in all the developments that have taken place soon.

This is a great beginning and let's keep it that way!

All the best to you and a big, big thank you for being so supportive.

Warm regards,

Cross Border Issues

Great to hear from Archana, Mohuya, Shazia and all of you there.

I have one suggestion to all of South Asian colleagues that -- which the problems may be localized and inter-state, they have a lot of cross border dimensions and ramifications. nepal, bhutan and bangladesh angle can broaden the scope of our stories and the audience, policymakers horizons too. Keep up your good work -- I look forward to reading, watching your great groundbreaking exposes! And quietly follow these ledes...



Show on DD News on Human Trafficking

Hello everyone... A story on Human trafficking, followed by a discussion with a studio guest, will be aired on DD News on Friday betwen 8 am to 9 am (Breakfast News). I will not be anchoring, but will be compiling editor that day. Do watch it if u can. Time was a constraint, but tried to bring out the problem as much as I could.

Hope the discussion proves to be enlightening!


Booming sex tourism lures children to Goa

Booming sex tourism lures children to Goa - By Archana Jyoti

Panaji, May 8:

Sami, a 12-year-old from rural Belgaom in Karnataka and Shingur, a boy from Andhra Pradesh, do not seen to have much in common, except that they belong to marginalised families and both were drawn to Goa by the booming tourism that they thought would offer them a decent living.
But, ironically, like many poor and innocent kids, Sami and Shingur have fallen to the sex tourism which has menacingly spread its tentacles in this tourist hotspot.
When India’s first pedophilia case surfaced in Goa in 1990s with the arrest and conviction of Indo-German Freddy Peat, child rights activists hoped that it would ring alarm bell in the government quarters to make them sit up and save the children from falling in this flesh trap.
But along with Goa, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu also, there has been rise in the incidence of sex tourism, specifically child sex tourism. This was pointed out by a survey conducted by an NGO, Equitable Tourism Options (Equations).
Presently, over one million kids across the country are being sexually exploited in various forms while authorities have turned a blind eyes towards their plight, claim NGOs. Most of these kids either belong to the families which have migrated from the neighbouring states such as Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh or have runaway from their hometown due to various reasons, poverty being one of them.
Archana Tamang, who heads Unifem, South Asia regional office, says, "Many trafficked children come from economically and\or socially marginalised communities and in many cases from "dysfunctional" families as such, their access to protection mechanism such as quality education, support structures and other services is limited."
Ravi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an NGO working against human trafficking said, "It’s high time the government wakes up from its deep slumber and do something concrete to save the childhood of these unfortunate youngsters."
Though, Goa government have introduced the "Goa Children’s Act, 2003," the first of its kind for safety of the child, a lot remains to be done considering that sexual exploitation of children remain invisible and unreported.
NGOs on their part have come out with a Goa declaration to take the issue of exploitation and trafficking beyond the realm of problems. Taking cudgels on behalf of these voiceless kids, Unifem, in collaboration with NGOs across the country brought out the Goa declaration with an aim to strengthen the institutions which work towards preventing trafficking and gender violence.
As a part of the declaration, a website , was also launched to raise an awareness in the international media on issues concerning child abuse and trafficking.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Sunday, May 7, 2006

Silent victims

Child domestic workers are often exploited and ill-treated in the absence of protective laws.Aditi Tandon recounts some harrowing tales and looks at the organisations helping to bettertheir lot

Some time ago, Mumbai woke up to the heartbreaking news of a 15-year-old domestic worker being assaulted by her woman employer. The girl had a fracture in the skull; her head had been brutally shaven; her body frayed with knives and pens, and her back all blue and swollen from a prolonged contact with a heated surface.
Too bizarre as it was to be buried under the rhetoric of employers’ intolerance of a worker’s laziness, the case generated the required response. Neighbours testified against the employer and the volunteers of the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) sprung into action to ensure the police acted for once.

Together they brought the exploiter to justice and provided succour to the victim who is still recovering from the trauma. Unfortunately, not all tales of child domestic workers’ exploitation meet such desired end.
There are several that are not told; still others that are told but not heard as the tale of 16-year-old Phulmati from Jharkhand. Her story serves as a reference point to the brutal exploitation of domestic workers in India. There are over 3 lakh estimated child domestic workers in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh and they have to be brought under the unorganised sector and guaranteed a semblance of rights.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark directive passed in November 2005, asked for the Draft Bill on Unorganised Workers to be modified to include domestic workers. Phulmati, and others like her, are unaware of the laws that might redress their grievances. Trafficked for forced labour by an unregistered agent from Jharkhand, she was sexually abused and tortured before she escaped from a dingy house in Panchkula (Haryana) on September 17 last year.

At a complete loss due to ignorance of the local language, she loitered around in Panchkula for three days before being rescued by the regional representative of the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM). Though her medical examination confirmed molestation, the abuser was not punished stringently.

Further investigations revealed that David Topo, the alleged violator, had been in the business of trafficking poor Jharkhand girls who were lured by the promise of good clothes, money and a secure home. NGOs working in the sector estimate that lakhs of children, especially girls, are trafficked every year for forced labour.

But the glossy dreams of these girls and boys are seldom fulfilled as they are forced into the never-ending cycle of menial labour sans monetary returns. Unrecognised as the domestic labour sector still is, there are no contracts binding on the employers. Force into a life of humiliation, there is no ceiling on working hours and no guaranteed rest for these children. More often than not, the unsuspecting child remains at the mercy of her employer who often pays the salary to the "evasive" agent.

At least 70 per cent of child domestic working in the northern region do not get regular salaries, according to surveys conducted by voluntary agencies. Sister Namrata, from the NDWM which addresses issues of domestic workers in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh says, "We have worked very hard to organise domestic workers, especially children, in this part of India. But our efforts are still at the nascent stage. We visit homes and slums to mobilise workers into groups so that their exploitation at the hands of agents and employers is minimised.


Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and the National Policy on Child Labour provide the framework for intervention on child labour issues. The above law prohibits employment of children in certain listed hazardous industries and provides regulation of employment of children in other industries. Domestic child labour is not a prohibited occupation for children

The Government of India has amended the Central Civil Service Conduct rules to prohibit Civil Servants from employing children below the age of 14 as domestics.

Under Section 27 (A) Of the Maharashtra State Public Service Conduct Act, 1997 the Maharashtra government prohibits government employees from employing children below 14 as domestic workers.

"But we still have a long way to go. Employers who register with us are supposed to pay a minimum salary of Rs 2500 to a domestic worker, notwithstanding his/her age. But of the estimated 3 lakh workers in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali alone, we have a few hundreds registered with us."

The condition of girls is worse as they are traditionally seen to be easier to mould to suit the needs of the employer. Eighty per cent of child domestics working in the homes in developing countries are girls.
According to the International Labour Organisation, there are 250 million child workers in developing countries and domestic labour is the largest employment category for girls under the age of 16. Government and UN studies show that there are 43 million working children in South Asian countries. While it is difficult to count child domestic workers as they are dispersed and invisible, it is believed that about 5 million children are working as child domestics in the region, predominantly in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
A Unicef survey in India in 2000 reveals that almost one out of every five children under 14, working outside the family is a domestic child worker. Nearly 45 per cent of households above the poverty line in 18 main cities in Tamil Nadu employ domestic help and 10 per cent of these servants are children. Another study conducted in Chennai shows that 82 out of 100 domestic child workers in the city are girls.

While their numbers are on the increase in the wake of a crumbling joint family system in India and a high rate of employment among urban couples, these child domestic workers are paid much less than their adult counterparts. Sometimes they are not paid at all, as is the case with 14-year-old Radha (from Chhattisgarh) who worked in Delhi for eight months without earning a penny. After being relocated to Chandigarh, she is under the care of the NDWM. But her heart still craves for home and school.

"I have four sisters and two brothers. My parents worked as agricultural labour but could barely sustain us. I never knew I would end up in this mess", says Radha, who came to Delhi on a sightseeing tour with a man called Rajesh.
Accompanied by three more girls, she landed in captivity for a week before being made to work for a family in Delhi. After working without earning for nine months, Radha was trafficked to Punjab by another agent. But this time she got a caring home. It is another matter that she has still not received her salary since she started work in December last year. "Madam says she has deposited my money in a bank," says Radha.

Like other countless children trafficked from tribal areas of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, Radha is not sure of her future. All she knows is that she was forced into labour by an agent who is "beyond the law". After a year and a half of forced labour, she has lost track of home and of everything it symbolised.

While Radha was tricked, several children are trafficked with the consent of parents. A fortnight ago, law-enforcing agencies in Amritsar rescued hundreds of such children. Most of them were from Bihar where extreme poverty survival strategies give impetus to the trend of domestic child labour, notwithstanding the dehumanising conditions into which trafficked children are forced.

The plight of Prabhjit Kaur, an 11-year-old maid employed at a home in Amritsar, is a case in point. On March 6 this year, she was admitted to Amritsar Civil Hospital with multiple bruises. She had been beaten up by her employer for "overbaking the chapatti". Like Prabhjit, 14-year-old Jasindha from Jharkhand also knows what it means to be a child domestic. Assaulted by employers in Panchkula, she was rescued some time ago.
Jasindha is now working for a family in Chandigarh. While some girls like Jasindha get lucky, others endure a lifetime of exploitation. Absence of protective laws makes matters worse for them. As Jeanne Devos, another volunteer in the field, observes, "The Catholic Bishop Conference of India Labour Commission organised the first survey of domestic workers way back in 1978. The voice of pain created concern in the hearts of many. In 1984, girls and women in Tamil Nadu spoke out their sufferings for the first time. Their stories were in sharp contrast to the explanations of employers who were convinced that domestic workers were lucky since they escaped poverty and slept in houses of upper middle class people. Workers, however, narrated stories about the absence of education, long hours of work and no rest, physical and sexual abuse."

After a long drawn out battle for the rights of domestic workers including children, voluntary agencies saw a glimmer of hope in early 2000 when the UN Human Rights Commission declared domestic workers as a form of contemporary slavery. Soon after, Tamil Nadu included domestic workers in their unorganised workers group while Maharashtra published a code of conduct. Karnataka then published minimum wages for domestic workers and Kerala followed suit.

Such measures are however yet to see light of the day in most north Indian states where cases of physical/sexual abuse of child domestics go unreported. Minimum wages of child domestic workers and domestic workers in general are far from being fixed as is clear from numerous children working without salaries.

Ironically, in India as in most countries of South Asia, child labour law is applicable only in formal or registered factory units. The home-based and other small informal sectors are not covered by legislation leaving a massive gap in children’s rights (guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, which India has ratified) and the reality.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and the National Policy on Child Labour provide the framework for intervention on child labour issues. The above law prohibits employment of children in certain listed hazardous industries and provides regulation of employment of children in other industries. Domestic child labour is not a prohibited occupation for children
The Government of India has amended the Central Civil Service Conduct rules to prohibit Civil Servants from employing children below the age of 14 as domestics.
Under Section 27 (A) Of the Maharashtra State Public Service Conduct Act, 1997 the Maharashtra government prohibits government employees from employing children below 14 as domestic workers.

National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM); For enquiries in Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, call 98724-35305
Arundhaya, Chennai: Provides coaching classes to part-time child domestic workers
Nazareth Illam, Chennai: Trains young women and children for domestic work and arranges for placements in suitable homes.
Bombay House workers Solidarity, Mumbai: Educates workers, lobbies with government for legal recognition of their rights
South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, Delhi: Identifies, liberates, rehabilitates and educates children in servitude.
Childline, Delhi: 24 hour service for children in distress: Dial 1098.
Samarthan, Mumbai supports victimised children.
Mottukal, Chennai educates children working in homes and supports their empowerment.