By Colin Todhunter in The Deccan Herald
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) are coming to town…
Delhi that is. While much of the talk currently centres on corruption and an infrastructure that may not be ready in time, let’s not forget that an event such as this means big money for some. Apart from architects, the construction industry, hotels, shops and tour operators, who else will benefit financially from the games? Look no further than the sex trade, says Ruchira Gupta from the organisation Apne Aap Women Worldwide. She wants action to prevent the CWG being turned into a major opportunity for human traffickers, pimps and brothel owners.
According to Ruchira, based on visits to brothels, reports in the media and revelations from a number of NGOs, hundreds of girls are being kidnapped from all over India and are being prepared for the CWG in Rajasthan with oxytocin injections to make them more voluptuous for prostitution.
Shakti Vahini, an anti-trafficking organisation working in Delhi’s GB Road, the city’s largest red light area, has rescued between 40-45 girls since March. The rescued girls originate from some of India’s poorest states: Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Bihar and are between 13 and 17 years old.Many other organisations have also spoken out. Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children says that girls are being trafficked from poor tribal areas in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to serve the huge number of foreigners who will come to the games.
In anticipation of the games trafficked girls and women on GB Road are being given one-hour sessions every morning to learn English and are being taught words like ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘how are you?’ and ‘please use a condom.’ What’s more, GB Road is getting a ‘face-lift’ to make it more appealing for foreign clients. LCD TVs, fridges and air conditioning are being installed by the brothel owners. Tina Jaiswal, owner of Delhi’s No 1 escort agency has stated that it hopes to make good money during the games and will simply follow the demand and supply principles of economics. She says that the agency will double its rates one month before the games begin and also increase its work force. The government has set up hundreds of condom vending machines, but Ruchira argues this is a poor substitute for protecting the rights of women and girls. She has appealed to President Pratibha Patil, to ensure that the government puts in place sufficient mechanisms to stop the proliferation of sex trafficking in the run up to the games.
These mechanisms include establishing information and surveillance booths manned by NGOs, to support girls and women who need protection from traffickers, especially in sex sites like GB Road and pick-up sites like railway stations, bus stands and metro stations.
Safety of labourers also
Measures are also being called for to protect the more marginalised women, who have been brought to Delhi as labour for the construction of roads, stadiums and houses. Apne Aap wants to ensure that they return home safely and are provided with tickets and bookings as well as protection from property snatching or rape.Sensitisation workshops are being advocated for police officials, tour operators, transporters and labour contractors concerning the treatment of women migrant workers as well as new women who are being trafficked to the city.
With one eye on the CWG, the Union government recently unveiled a code of conduct for the tourism industry aimed at encouraging tourism activities to be undertaken with respect for basic rights like dignity, safety and freedom from exploitation of both tourist and local residents. The code applies to all hotels, restaurants, guest houses, tour agents and entertainment establishments. It also applies to event management organisations, transport operators, tour guides and other services or agencies associated with the tourism sector.
The ministry acknowledges alarming trends related to tourism that have emerged in recent years concerning sexual exploitation, paedophilia, prostitution and cross-border trafficking. However, Apne Aap is concerned that the code of conduct prepared by the tourism ministry will only apply to women and girls being brought to hotels and not to the brothels. Apne Aap has therefore applied to the authorities for a place in GB Road to set up a support centre for women and girls. To date, nothing has been heard back over the application.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down. It remains to be seen just how much the pockets of pimps, brothel owners and corrupt officials will be lined from the exploitation of trafficked girls and women. Affluent foreigners (and Indians) who seek out Delhi’s red light district will have a choice if or when they visit G B Road. The same cannot be said of the girls and women who they will encounter. A combination of violence, poverty, patriarchy and greed will see to that.
- Brothel users escaping crackdown (guardian.co.uk)
- Up to 12,000 foreign ‘sex slaves’ work in British brothels (telegraph.co.uk)
- 2,600 women trafficked into sex trade, report finds (independent.co.uk)