Monday, November 30, 2009

LACHO, Mumbai, May 2008

When I first saw her, I saw a young girl with very innocent face. I couldn’t think or know what she could have gone through. I know I was in organization that rescued and provided temporary shelter for minors who were trafficked and sold for sex trade, I dint know what I should have perceived. Every time she looked at me she smiled. Her bubbly face and spark in the eyes, one cannot forget. I had been talking to many girls and she knew I’m just helping them vent.

One day when all the girls were watching movie, I thought of taking break and took a book and went upstairs. She came in few minutes with glass of buttermilk and offered me to drink. I was delighted. She said her name here was Lacho (name she was given by friends at Madam’s place). She first asked if I can find her child. I was shocked she would have been around 16yrs of age, what child is she talking about, the way her face then turned told me that she is in too much pain. We spent next 2-3 hours talking about her past 3-4 years.

Her tale will stay afresh all my life. She was born in a very remote village in West Bengal, living with her parents and brother. She was married off in same village when she was 14years of age. She had a child 2years ago, after a miscarriage. Within few months after birth of the child it became too difficult for her and her husband’s family to survive due to huge loans. The last time she faced a lender, he threatened that he’ll kill her husband.

She continued to explain how she had never been out of the village, uneducated had no idea how train would look and what really are cities like. She had befriended a man whom she considered a brother (famous among her maternal family) always told her that there were jobs in cities where she could earn all the money her family owed in a month by being house maid etc. The previous threat helped her take a decision, as no one in family would let her go out of village, she decided to run away and return as soon as she earns enough money. Her child was just six or seven months old whom she carried along.

She cannot read and only knows she boarded bus with a woman whom ‘brother’ introduced as his mousi (aunt); she left Lacho with another woman and man in train station. There were another five girls along with these people. She dint speak much as she was afraid to talk. They changed 3 or 4 trains before she reached Mumbai after several days. Once they reached Mumbai she was alone taken to a rich well spoken woman’s house where she was again handed over and told that she could stay there as Paying Guest until she wants. The good lady asked her to leave her bag and child home and go to work so that it is easier and arranged for a car. Accompanied by good lady’s brother this time, Lacho for the first time reached Kamatipura in Mumbai (streets were filled with barely dressed all aged women calling on to men in the streets). She was scared; she was disgusted and went numb as this was first time she understood that she may be getting tricked. The man in the car forced her into a brothel. At this point she was more scared for her daughter and begged to take her back to Good lady’s home. He left her in the brothel and she never saw him again. The madam of the Brothel shouted at her and locked her in a room.

She denied to do sex work and begged to just let her see the child. She was locked up in a room for three days with no food and day long temptation of reuniting her with her child if she did what she was asked to. She gave up on the fourth day when the threat changed to sale of her 6-7 months old daughter.

Her first day of work she was to wear a laced bra(she had never seen one before) and panty only and was asked to stand in front of several men. Ashamed of herself she ran into a room when she was asked to leave. She was followed by a man. For almost year and a half she had been working for madam with meager amount of money (which they are forced to use for purchase of makeup and accessories). She was told time and again that she has to work for her daughter’s safety. She was once forced to sleep with 20 men one after another throughout the day.

She was rescued during a raid and brought here where I was interning. She still hadn’t seen her child.

She cried throughout while telling me the story. She said every time she had to sleep with someone she thought she was stone and lay in the bed still, she asked me – “how could those men not see my pain?“.

She was now least bit happy for getting rescued because that brothel was the only source through which she could find where her daughter was but as per procedures (legal) she was now being repatriated. She’d be first sent to CWC, west Bengal and then back to her village. No one was listening to her cries. She wanted to find her child and didn’t want to go back to her husband without her child.

After a month I heard she was repatriated, I don’t know if she ever returned to Mumbai or if she found her child. All I could do was hug her and cry along with her that day and the next few days of my stay there. I felt helpless as I had no answers not even capacity to reassure, No hope.

I know I want to do something for thousands and millions of Lachos in the country, but can’t do it alone. Trafficking is such a powerful business that probably there is a Lacho born every day to earn thousands for heartless, ruthless greedy men and madams. Once in this vicious circle a child is beaten in every capacity. And it is us who are letting it happen by being blind to it. Let’s start somewhere. Humanity sakes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

आओ मेरे साथ कुछ बातें कर लो सहर की,..................कुमार घायल,

मई कह रहा हु की,...........

मैं वो कलम हूँ जो सिर्फ़ दर्द
का एहसास लीखता हूँ
जो अरमान सीने में दफन हो गए मैं वही अरमान लिखता हूँ
और यहाँ गडे हुए मुर्दों की बात कौन करे
मैं तो जिन्दा इन्सानों की पहचान लिखता हूँ
मैंने कहा की ........................

कभी फुर्सत मीले तो याद कर लेना गांव अपना,
ये सहर तो बहुत ही है खतरनाक अपना,
और बीक रहे हैं जीस्म यहाँ सरे आम सहर में,
बन गया है ये सहर अब बाज़ार अपना........
और कीसको सुनाएं जाकर दर्द की कहानी अपनी
यहाँ तो हर कोई मस्त है करने में कारोबार अपना,
और अभी तलक कीसी की मौत ने रोक रखी है ज़िंदगी मेरी
वरना मैं भी सो जाता बना कर आशियाना अपना॥

मैं कुछ यूँ कह रहा हूँ की .....

जब कभी खून से सने कहीं खंज़र मीले,
तुम देखना दर्द ऐ बचपन के वहीँ मंज़र मीले

Commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Asian region, particularly in India, is a disturbingly rising trend. The economic growth in these regions has seen a major boom in the recent past and with it a sharp increase in the divide between the rich and the poor. The poor, generally people with little or no commercially viable skills, often become hapless victims of human trafficking. Many of these victims are children, who are easily one of the softest targets for being sexually exploited. This abuse affects the very fibre of these children, affecting them not just physically but also wrecking them mentally and emotionally.

Their own families introduce most of these children to prostitution, while others are lured by promises of wealth; some are kidnapped, and all end up as sexual slaves. Because of abject poverty, families end up selling their children like they sell their cattle or poultry in order to survive. Many of these families rationalize this heinous act by assumptions that their children will then find work and not have to live in poverty. Those who do not cooperate are harassed, drugged, beaten, and raped. They are then thrown into brothels where they are further exploited. These children are forced to live under unhygienic and inhumane conditions, barely acquiring even the minimal standards of living. About a dozen children have to survive in a 10 x 10 room. They are not provided with any medical help or checkups. They are forced to work round the clock and are excused only by the time when they are physically destroyed. Then they are dumped and left to die.

Where, on the one hand, globalization gives a kick to the business in modern times, tradition backs it. In many Indian societies, the practice of Devdasi is widely accepted. Devdasi is a custom where the young girls, often poor, are “married” to the “gods”. They are then forced into becoming ‘religious prostitutes’, sleeping with the priests and the other powerful members of the community. Such practice, though well known, is also acceptable because it is licensed by the religion and the powerful.

A Study reveals that India's child sex industry is the second largest in the world after the Philippines and 14% of sex workers are children aged 10-17. The study further discovered:

20% of the one lakh prostitutes were children.

25% of the child prostitutes had been abducted and sold.

6% had been raped and sold.

8% had been sold by their fathers after forcing them into incestuous relationships.

2 lakh minor girls between ages 9yrs-20yrs were brought every year from Nepal to India and 20,000 of them are in Bombay brothels. These girls are much prized for their fair skin.

15% to 18% are adolescents between 13 yrs and 18 yrs.
(Information by: Indian Health Organization)

If this makes you wince, there’s more…

According to an ILO estimate, 15% of the country's estimated 2.3 million prostitutes are children. The traffic is controlled largely by organized crime. (US Dept of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2000, February 2001)
Recent studies indicate that of the estimated 9,000,000 prostitutes working in India, some 30% or 2,700,000 are children. A further 10% reported that they had started their 'career' in prostitution before they were 18 years of age. A large number of these children are trafficked from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. (ECPAT International, A Step Forward, 1999)

30% of India's 1 million prostitutes are girls below the age of 16 years. (SPARC, The State of Pakistan's Children, 1999, citing "Child Prostitution Increasing in Indo-Pak", The Frontier Post, 25 November 1998)

An NGO states that the number of children in flesh trade is increasing by 8-10% every year ("The Young and the Damned", The Week, 4 August 1996, reprinted in ECPAT Bulletin, July 1996)

A report of the Central Advisory Committee on Child Prostitution, published in May 1994 says that 12 to 15% of the prostitutes in Mumbai, Delhi, Madras, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Bangalore are children. It is estimated that 30% of the prostitutes in these cities are aged below 20 and nearly half of them had become commercial sex workers when they were minors. 86% of the prostitutes come from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Conservative estimates put the number of children in India suffering commercial sex abuse at 300,000. ("The Young and the Damned", The Week, 4 August 1996, reprinted in ECPAT Bulletin, July 1996)

In India, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu are considered "high supply zones" for women in prostitution. Bijapur, Belgaum and Kolhapur are common districts from which women migrate to the big cities, as part of an organized trafficking network. (CATW Fact Book, citing Meena Menon, "Women in India's Trafficking Belt", 30 March 1998, citing the Central Social Welfare Board).

It is important for us to understand that it is a loss of a life, gravely affecting the future citizens of our country who have an equal right to live, just like any of us do. The after effects of these cruel, inhumane activities leave them fearful, battered and devastated, and it also snatches away from them their playful childhood, snuffing out any moment of joy from their lives.