Rehabilitation of trafficked children proving to be a challenge

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Inadequate resources, lack of trained personnel including quality counsellors, and ways to mitigate final compensation to the victims are some of the major hurdles that the rehabilitation process faces.

The rehabilitation of trafficked children is proving to be a major challenge for Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), Child Care Institutes (CCIs) and non-governmental organisations working for child welfare and protection across the country. Inadequate resources and techniques, lack of trained personnel including quality counsellors, and ways to mitigate final compensation to the victims of child trafficking are some of the major hurdles that the rehabilitation process faces.

A spurt of over 25% in cases of child trafficking in India since 2015 has put the total number of trafficked children and women in 2016 at 20,000. This has raised questions on the functioning of CCIs and CWCs. CWCs are the district level bodies established by the Central government under the Juvenile Justice Act, and are the sole and final authority for the treatment and rehabilitation of children in need of care and protection. CCIs come under the state governments.

SUPERVISION-NEEDED

The law makes it mandatory for each CWC to inspect the CCIs at least once every month. However, according to Rishi Kant, president of NGO Shakti Vahini, no such monitoring happens. “Inside Delhi’s Naari Niketan, the Delhi Commission for Women chief had to step in to stop the mistreatment of inmates. So what are the regular inspection units doing? There is no system of checks and balances even inside the shelters,” he said.

Meenakshi Ganguly of HAQ, Centre for Child Rights, reiterated the sentiment, saying that while laws regarding inspection are in place, they are not followed in many states.

However, realising the need to ensure effective supervision of CCIs, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has passed an order asking the members to conduct regular inspection of CCIs, parks and other child related institutions, Ramesh Negi, chairperson of DCPCR told The Sunday Guardian.

Secondly, arrangements for the final rehabilitation of the children (once parents or guardians of the child are identified and verified) by CWCs are ineffective. Junaid Khan, programme director, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, told this newspaper that the NGOs that step in to rehabilitate the trafficked child and the CWC are divided on bearing the cost to escort the children back home. “There are cases when parents are not able to come to the city where the child is sheltered. In such cases, there is no clarity as to who will bear the cost of transportation. While the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) has made arrangements asking a battalion of armed constables to accompany the child, lacunae still exist,” he told this newspaper. Some NGOs have observed that a lot of the children are re-trafficked from their homes.

Third, most of the government-run CCIs have a capacity of 100 people, but keep around 300 children who have access to only limited resources. Rishi Kant argued that the government-run protection homes cannot deny taking children, and that is why the police always end up sending them there, irrespective of the space there is to accommodate children.

However, Rita Singh, member of DCPCR, said, “Hundreds of trafficked children are recovered every day. Where else do you expect us to send them off? There are only three government-run CCIs for girl children in Delhi—Nirmal Chaya, Sanskar Ashram and Kilkari. Our priority is to give these children immediate shelter with the limited resources we have.”

LACK OF TRAUMA COUNSELLORS

The Juvenile Justice Act mandates that a psychologist/counsellor be assigned to look after the trafficked children for their social and mental reintegration. However, most of the times, either the CCIs do not have any qualified counsellors, or it is the police that dons the hat of the counsellor. This, NGOs say, is unacceptable since the practice is not only illegal, but the police also does not know how to counsel a child.

“The problem is that the state or the Central government doesn’t provide funding to the Child Care Institutions. The CCIs can apply for a grant under ICPS (Integrated Child Protection scheme), but a qualified counsellor cannot be hired from the amount they receive,” Junaid Khan said.

However, Khan added that the Department of Women and Child Development is taking help from NGOs like Sun Chetan and Sarthak, to provide counselling support to CCIs.

NO VICTIM COMPENSATION

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Under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and the revised Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour scheme, victims of child trafficking are entitled to a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. The compensation, which, was a meagre Rs 20,000 until 2016, has been increased under the Central Sector Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour.

“Under the revised scheme, a state’s Labour Department would be as much involved as the Centre. Routing of proposals and release of funds received from the district administration will happen through the state machinery,” Khan said. “But instances of victims actually receiving the compensation are low. The districts do not have enough funds. We are planning to file an RTI to know how much funds districts have and how much of it has been used for victim compensation.”

The cases where a child manages to get his dues are the ones where his/her employer is involved. Under the Minimum Wages Act, the CWCs send an order to the child’s employer, who has to pay the dues and an additional fine. The amount is deposited in the child’s bank account opened by the CWCs, and can be accessed by the child when he turns 18.

“The process is a mess. The cheques that reach the Child Labour Department under the Bonded Labour Scheme keep piling up, without being cleared. Certain cases go to the Supreme Court, which has a separate pool of funds. The compensation is successfully given in such cases, but not everybody has the time or the resources to go to court,” said Sushma Vij, chairperson of Child Welfare Committee, Mayur Vihar.

Many a time, the victims do not know that they are entitled to any compensation. “Uneducated victims and parents are unaware. Since the child cannot contract the compensation before the age of 18, he and his parents give up in the middle of the whole process. More often than not, implementation agencies are not proactive,” said Supreme Court lawyer Vijay Dalmia.

INITIATIVES AND ORDERS

Yet, there is a silver lining. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recently released a handbook on skill development and counselling of staff of child care institutes.

Likewise, the DCPCR, which suo motu monitors cases of child trafficking, has asked the authorities to identify vulnerable areas that have reported the maximum cases of missing or trafficked children.

“We are planning to involve district magistrates, SDMs, and senior officers of the Delhi Police to identify these areas,” Ramesh Negi said.

Recently, the Delhi High Court has issued an order to the state government and to the Department of Women and Child Development, enquiring about the gap in the services being provided to children in CCIs, mostly due to lack of quality staff.

According to Khan, the District Child Protection Units (DCPUs), which are monitored by CWCs, are conducting a survey to gauge the gap between the services being provided to children.

Didi used CCTVs to record my every move, fed me after seeing footage, says ‘torture’ victim

By The Indian Express:

The child, employed as a domestic help in Faridabad over the last three years, was rescued Wednesday when she attempted to climb into the neighbor's balcony to escape further torture.

“One time, in anger, didi took off all my clothes and threw hot water from the geyser on my back. Didi hit me on the head with a rolling pin and split it open. She hit me on my hand with loha (iron) or the rolling pin. She tied my hands behind my back with the doggy belt and my legs with a chunni. Then she tied a polythene on my mouth to stop me from breathing.” This is the statement of a 13-year-old domestic help to the Haryana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The child, employed as a domestic help in Faridabad over the last three years, was rescued Wednesday when she attempted to climb into the neighbour’s balcony to escape further torture. She fell off and landed on the balcony of an empty flat below. She was rescued five hours late after her employer alerted guards, police said.

The child came to Faridabad from Patna in 2014, and started working as a domestic help at the flat of 22-year-old Sneha Yadav, an engineering student at Manav Rachna University. Sneha was granted bail by a district court on Friday. The girl’s parents, who reached Delhi on Thursday, work in the mines of Sneha’s father, Sanjay Yadav, in Patna. They hadn’t seen their daughter for the last three years — a period during which she was allegedly tortured and beaten.

The alleged ordeal inside house C-1101, however, remained hidden from residents of Kanishka Towers in Faridabad’s Sector 34. The flat is located on the top floor, and only two of the five other flats in the tower are occupied.

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Officials from the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights at the building in Faridabad. (Express Photo)

“She (Sneha) never seemed interested in interacting, so we did not make an effort either. We never heard anything from the flat, but that could be because the child’s screams were muffled,” said a resident who did not wish to be named.

However, another resident claimed, “Supervisors and guards knew about it, and they tried to convince the woman to stop troubling the girl. Apparently, she promised to send her back to Patna, so they dropped the matter.”

Narender Kumar Sharma, executive member of the residents’ welfare association, said, “Sneha kept to herself. Nobody from here has been to her flat.” While the guards refused to comment, the supervisor, Devender, said, “We do not interfere in what happens in residents’ homes. I didn’t know this was going on, nor did anyone approach me.”
Although the child was often seen walking her employer’s dog or going to buy groceries, nobody had spoken to her. “I noticed injury marks on her hand once, but didn’t ask her about it,” said an employee at a local shop.

In her statement to the State Commission, the child said, “If I ever spoke to anyone while coming or going from the lift, she (Sneha) would get angry.” Unable to confide in anyone, she spent the day doing “all the housework, cooking food, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, washing clothes, bathing the dog and combing its fur”.

In her statement, she also said that “there were cameras all over didi’s house”. “She would check the cameras every evening, see what work had been done. Only after that would she give me food,” the girl said.

Police sources said a lot of the footage from the cameras is missing. Commissioner of Police Hanif Qureshi said, “The footage the cameras may or may not have captured is a matter of investigation.”

Recalling her escape bid, the child stated: “That day, didi had been hitting me since night. My head had been spinning since morning but she forced me to work. When she was in the bathroom, I decided to jump from the 11th floor and run away. But she saw me and grabbed my hand. I slipped and fell on the 10th-floor balcony.”

She was rescued by residents, who took her to the police station, and then to the Child Welfare Committee. While Faridabad Police is preparing to challenge the accused’s bail order in a sessions court, the girl has been admitted to a hospital. She has also been put under police protection so that she is not coerced into changing her statement.

“The child is in desperate need of medical attention. We will not hand over her custody to her parents. This appears to be a case of bonded labour, and they were the ones who put her into it,” Bal Krishan Goel, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said.

Bengal girl escapes traffickers’ clutches

By DNA:

The 16-year-old had been abducted a month ago and was about to be forced into prostitution; she was re-united with her family on Eid

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This Eid has turned out to be nothing less than miraculous for a West Bengal family that was reunited with their 16-year-old daughter Nazia (name changed), over a month after she went missing from home.

Nazia was abducted by some local men in 24 Parganas district. The month of horrors saw the young girl face torture, sexual harassment, starvation, and the dreadful possibility of being forced into prostitution.

But showing commendable courage, the teen managed to escape the clutches of her tormentors.

“She was trapped by the lure of a better future. Some local men abducted her from near her school and took her to Mumbai. She was assaulted, left to starve, and was about to be pushed into prostitution. But now, she has been saved and has returned home on the occasion of Eid,” Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini said.

Nazia had been confined to a flat on the first-floor in outer Delhi.

The entire episode came to light last week, when she jumped off a window. She injured her leg in the process but still kept running.

After a few meters, she bumped into a stranger and pleaded for help. She then called her father from his phone, who immediately alerted a senior police officer and the girl’s rescue was initiated without delay.

The matter was then brought to the notice of Delhi Police and NGO Shakti Vahini, after which the premises were raided. Another girl, who was abducted from Haryana, was also recovered from there. Recalling her ordeal, Nazia told the police that after her abduction, she was taken to Mumbai, where she was employed as a bar dancer. She was then brought to Delhi and was soon to be shifted to GB Road.

A case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 363 (punishment for kidnapping) and 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) has been registered.

Counselling sessions will be arranged for both girls to help them overcome the trauma and lead normal lives, an officer said.

Woman trafficked from Assam rescued

By The Hindu:

A 35-year-old woman, who was allegedly trafficked from Assam after being promised a job in a private company, was rescued from a flat at Unitech Residency in Sector 33 here.

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The woman was working as a domestic help in the flat. She had allegedly not been paid her dues and was also not allowed to step outside the house. She has also accused her employer of not giving her enough food.

No legal action

SHO, Sadar Bazar, Inspector Vijay Yadav said no case has been registered in this regard since the woman refused to initiate legal action against her employer or the placement agency.

The woman was rescued on August 18 after Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for trafficked women, received information from Seema Suraksha Bal in Assam that a resident of Chirang district was taken to Gurugram and held captive in a house. The woman had purportedly called her family to tell them she was in Gurugram, but could not give the complete address. She had borrowed a phone from someone in the housing society to make the call. The NGO then contacted the police, which mounted technical surveillance and rescued the woman.

Salary Reduced

“The woman told our counsellor that an acquaintance in Assam had lured her with a job offer in Delhi and put her in touch with one Puja. Once she was in Delhi, Puja told her that she would be given a job in a company as a sweeper, but instead placed her as a domestic help. Puja took ₹25,000 from the employer as commission. Her salary was fixed at ₹7,000 per month, but for two months, she was paid only ₹5,000,” said Nazish from Shakti Vahini.

The police summoned Puja, who runs a placement agency at Kotla Mubarakpur in Delhi, but was let off after the victim refused to pursue legal action in the case. The woman has been moved to a shelter home in Delhi and her family has been informed.

 

Business of prostitution an organized crime: Court

By TOI:

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A special court here has held that running brothels or prostitution business and procuring girls with the obvious intent of monetary gain forms part of a “continuing unlawful activity,” which is at the core of an organized crime committed either individually or as member of an organized crime syndicate.

Special judge J T Utpat upheld in a recent order the city police’s move to invoke the stringent provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against Jayashree alias Kalyani Deshpande, an alleged sex racket operator. Deshpande was arrested after a sex racket was busted in Bhusari colony , a residential area in Kothrud in July last year. Deshpande’s aide was arrested after that and three girls were rescued from the premises.

In October last year, the police invoked MCOCA charges against Deshpande, and she is since lodged in judicial custody at Yerawada jail.

The court rejected her plea seeking discharge from the MCOCA offence and transfer of the case to a special court for Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act (PITA) offences. “We will move an appeal in the high court against the trial court’s order,” her lawyer Vidyadhar Koshe told TOI on Saturday .

Deshpande had argued that she had neither committed any organized crime nor was a member of an organized syndicate with a history of violence linked with monetary gain.

The cases against her were for offences under the PITA, which is a code in itself and offences under PITA were triable by a dedicated court for this enactment.

Also, she argued that PITA was a central enactment while MCOCA was a state enactment. As such, offences relating to PITA did not fall within the ambit of MCOCA.

 Special public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar had opposed the plea, arguing that in the last 10 years, 15 chargesheets under PITA were filed against the applicant accused and that the applicant is the leader of an organized crime syndicate that procures girls from Maharashtra and other states and runs prostitution business, besides maintaining themselves from the money thus earned.

The court referred to the definition of “continuing unlawful activity” under the MCOCA and observed that organized crime was nothing, but continuing unlawful activity either individually or jointly as member of a crime syndicate.

The court referred to a crime chart provided by the prosecution in relation to 15 cases against her and three and two cases against her aides, and held, “The accused is the head of an organized crime syndicate and she is involved in continuing unlawful activity . Prima facie, provisions of MCOCA are certainly applicable to the facts of the present case.”

Teenager Survives rape, Torture and Sex trade for 5 years.

By Mail Today :

15-year-old girl was brought to Delhi on the pretext of job, but was raped repeatedly for five years.
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Teenager Survives rape, Torture and Sex trade for 5 years

She was brought to Delhi at the age of 15 on pretext of job. Since then she has been confined and raped repeatedly. She was also forced into prostitution and few days back when she refused to sell her body, the person who brought her to Delhi tied her and left her starved for more than three days.

The accused assaulted her, raped her, sodomised her and beat her up. He had even tried to pluck her tongue using pliers.

On Tuesday when the accused, identified as Litu Mitra, 30, stepped out of his residence in Southeast Delhi’s Govindpuri area, he left the door open. Taking the advantage of the situation, the captive Jyoti (name changed), who is 19 now, managed to escape. She reached an NGO in that area, which helped her to approach the police.

CASE REGISTERED

A case has been registered and Mitra was arrested on Friday. Narrating her ordeal, Jyoti toldMail Todaythat in 2013 she met Mitra, while she at a railway station in West Bengal. The man promised her a job in Delhi and boarded the train with her. Mitra asked her to stay at his rented residence in Govindpuri.

After two days, he raped her and filmed it. He used to blackmail with the tape and raped her repeatedly. Few months later, he allegedly forced her into prostitution. “His friends and customers have raped me, for which he got paid. Whenever I resisted, they complained about it to Mitra and he had beaten me up in front of them. And then I was forced to do what they wanted,” a pained Jyoti told Mail Today.

She had tried to escape a number of times but to no avail. Mitra has been unemployed and Jyoti became a source of income for her. She told police that there have been days when Mitra brought along seven to eight clients a day. Her medical report is with Mail Today.WHAT HAPPENED

On April 22 she was asked to serve some clients in Noida. When she objected Mitra beat her with iron rod and pipe. Then having tied her with a rope he raped her. He allegedly sodomised her as well. Jyoti has severe injuries on her chest too. “Whenever I had raised my voice, he grabbed my mouth and held my tongue with pliers.”

“On Tuesday at around 5pm, when Mitra stepped out, I noticed the door was left open. After I managed to escape, I reached a shop, luckily the owner of which ran an NGO. He helped me to approach the police,” she said.

Speaking to Mail Today, Naresh Kumar, the mentioned shop owner recalled that when she reached his shop, she was shivering. She narrated her woes and showed her injuries.

A call was made to the police control room and she was taken to Govindpuri police station. From there she was taken to the hospital for medical aide and check-up.

“Based on her statement, a case under Section 376, 366A, 323, 354C of the IPC and 6/12 POCSO Act has been booked against Mitra, who remained absconding for up to four days,” Romil Baaniya, DCP (southeast) said, adding he has been arrested on Friday evening.

 

Couple accused of trafficking HUNDREDS of girls for brothels are arrested in joint sting by Delhi and West Bengal police

By Chayyanika Nigam and Debbie White For MailToday:

  • Before their arrest, the pair had been living a lavish life in Delhi
  • During the police investigation, it was revealed that minors who were trafficked from West Bengal were then sold to brothels in Delhi and Agra
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A couple in their late thirties who have allegedly trafficked more than 500 girls, mostly from West Bengal over the past eight years, are now in police custody.

The arrest of the pair, named as Pinki and Radhey, was made by the Sunderban police in West Bengal along with Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for anti-human trafficking.

They received help from the Delhi Police in arresting the couple at their rented accommodation on Friday.

They had been living a lavish life in Delhi’s trans Yamuna’s Geeta Colony area.

A West Bengal Police official said: ‘The couple has been living in the area for the past few years.

‘However, it is not their permanent residence. Whenever a gang member was arrested or any girl trafficked by them was rescued, they would change their hideout and used to go underground for a few weeks before returning to their residence in Geeta Colony.’

During the investigation, it was revealed that the couple used to traffick the girls from West Bengal, who were then sold to brothels in Delhi and Agra.

According to sources, the accused couple has two daughters, who stay at their grandparents’ house in Delhi.

A senior officer explained: ‘They have been intentionally kept away so that they do not get affected from the dirty business they do.’

On June 3, Mail Today reported on a rescue operation centred on six Muslim teenagers, from the Sundarbans area, who had been trapped by a prostitution syndicate.

They were lured with an offer of being taken on a tour to Agra city.

Tathagata Basu, Superintendent of Police, Sundarban, said: ‘When a 19 year old girl was trafficked to a brothel in Agra she managed to call her parents.

‘The police then arrested a lady named Meena, who used the alias Meenu (42), along with her two henchmen — Faraq and Kalimuddin Seikh. During a joint interrogation, they (the accused) informed us about the kingpin Pinki.’

He added that the police had undertaken a technical surveillance of Pinki’s phone number, which had been revealed during raids in Delhi and Bengaluru.

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The Superintendent said: ‘They (the accused) are in police custody and will be sent to West Bengal Police on transit remand. After that they will appear in the city’s court on Saturday.’

Rishi Kant, co-founder of anti-human trafficking NGO-Shakti Vahini, described the couple’s arrest as a ‘big catch’.

‘They are among the main source of trafficking from West Bengal,’ he alleged.

Mail Today has previously exposed the modus operandi following by the arrest of the henchmen of this racket.

Gang members obtained mobile numbers of these girls from the mobile shopkeepers. They were then contacted and lured for a job before being trafficked.

Haryana shocker: 13-year-old domestic help reveals details of horrific torture by her employer

By : , International Business Times:

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Representative Image 

The child who was recently rescued after she tried to kill herself bears multiple burn scars on her body. Read on to know how she for the injury marks.

A few days after a 13-year-old domestic help, who had attempted suicide by jumping from a building in an attempt to escape torture by her employer in Haryana’s Faridabad district, was saved by other residents of the apartment, the minor has revealed horrific details about the ordeal that she had been going through.

Bengaluru: Maid strangled to death by minor cousin for revealing her affair to parents

Fortunately, the child who leapt from the 11th floor of the apartment had fallen into a bird net on the 10th-floor balcony.

The child, who had been kept captive for two years by her employer — a 23-year-old woman identified as one Sneha Yadav — was handed over to a NGO called Shakti Vahini.

Brutal torture

The minor, who was covered in fresh scars and burn marks, has now revealed awful details of the torture she was subjected to by her didi — or “elder sister,” a term many domestic helps use to refer to their female employers.

“One time, in anger, didi took off all my clothes and threw hot water from the geyser on my back. Didi hit me on the head with a rolling pin and split it open. She hit me on my hand with loha (iron) or the rolling pin,” said the teen.

“She tied my hands behind my back with the doggy belt and my legs with a chunni. Then she tied a polythene on my mouth to stop me from breathing,” she recounted.

Neighbors heard her cries

When the child was rescued, the neighbours had said she looked starved. “We would often hear cries. But the woman, who told us that she studies at a private university, would tell us to mind our own business,” a neighbour was quoted as saying by News18.

Another neighbour who chose to remain anonymous told the Indian Express that Yadav refused to interact with them.

“Supervisors and guards knew about it [the torture], and they tried to convince the woman to stop troubling the girl. Apparently, she promised to send her back to Patna, so they dropped the matter,” said another resident.

The child also did not engage in any conversation with the neighbours. “If I ever spoke to anyone while coming or going from the lift, she (Sneha) would get angry,” said the child, adding that she would do all the household chores like cooking food, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, washing clothes, bathing the dog and combing its fur.

The accused was arrested by the police following these allegations by the teen, but was granted bail by a district court on Friday.

Child still in custody

Though the child’s parents have reached Faridabad, the minor will not be handed over to them as they could  be equally responsible for her trauma.

“The child is in desperate need of medical attention. We will not hand over her custody to her parents. This appears to be a case of bonded labour, and they were the ones who put her into it,” Bal Krishan Goel, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told IE.

São Paulo Joins New Delhi as World’s Worst Mega city for Women Rape

BY NITA BHALLA AND KARLA MENDESThomson Reuters Foundation: 

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Five years after the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi, the Indian capital was on Monday paired with Brazil’s São Paulo as the world’s worst mega city for sexual violence against women in a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The December 2012 attack of a 23-year-old woman was a watershed in the fight for women’s rights in India, the world’s largest democracy, prompting thousands to take to the streets demanding action against rising sex attacks.

The public outcry not only forced authorities to strengthen gender laws, establish speedy courts for rape and set up a fund for rape victims, but also opened up the conversation on sexual violence in the largely conservative, patriarchal nation.

However Delhi – a metropolis of more than 26 million people – remains known as India’s “rape capital”.

And alongside São Paulo, it came joint bottom in the survey when experts on women’s issues were polled about the risk women run of encountering sexual violence in 19 different megacities.

“I’m not surprised by the results as they’re based on perceptions. India and Brazil have seen a lot of media attention on sexual violence in recent years,” said Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, head of U.N. Women in India who also worked in Brazil.

“Sexual violence in both these cities is, of course, a reality, but there isn’t any definitive data to suggest that rates are higher in Delhi and São Paulo than any other city.”

The survey asked 380 experts in cities with populations of more than 10 million to assess the risk of sexual violence and harmful cultural practices to women, as well as rank women’s access to health care and economic opportunities.

The Egyptian capital Cairo was rated the most dangerous city for women overall and rated third worst for sexual violence, followed by Mexico city and Dhaka. Tokyo was seen as the safest city for women in terms of sexual violence.

High-profile Rapes

Public awareness on sex attacks in Delhi has surged since the Delhi bus attack and thrown a global spotlight on gender violence in the world’s second most populous nation.

Indian newspapers offer a daily array of sex crimes. Girls molested in school, professional women raped by taxi drivers while commuting home, village teens duped, trafficked and sold to brothels in the red-light districts of cities.

Brazilians are fed a similar diet, with multiple reports of assaults on women and girls in São Paulo – Brazil’s most populous city with 21 million people, according to U.N. figures.

In September, thousands of Brazilian women took to social media to demand better support and access to justice after a series of sex attacks on buses where the accused were released due to a lack of evidence.

In one case, the released man was re-arrested two days later after he was accused of attacking another woman on a bus.

“I do not believe in the system. If I file a police report, I’m afraid the accused will come after me,” said Clara Averbuck, a writer who was assaulted by a taxi driver and started an online campaign – #MyAbuserDriver – that went viral.

Checkpoints, Safety Apps

In India, authorities have been forced to act.

This includes stricter punishments for gender crimes, a 24-hour women’s helpline and fast-track courts for rape cases as well as a fund to finance crisis centers for victims.

Women’s desks in many of the city’s police stations have been established, thousands of police received gender sensitization classes, and there is increased patrolling, surveillance and more checkpoints across Delhi at night.

Companies, charities, students and even individuals have also launched countless initiatives – from smart phone safety apps and gender lessons for taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers to women’s self-defense classes and female cab services.

Voracious media reporting on sex crimes in both countries has helped break the silence, shame and fear of rape, but reports of sex crimes continue to rise.

There were 2,155 rapes recorded in Delhi in 2016 – a rise of 67 percent from 2012, according to police data.

São Paulo had 2,287 rapes reported in July this year compared to 2,868 in all 2016, according to government figures, but Brazilian think-tank, the Institute of Applied Economic Research, estimates only 10 percent of rape cases are reported.

Gislaine Caresia, coordinator of policies for women at São Paulo’s city hall, said authorities were looking for private partners to implement a project to track violence against women which could help indicate how to target the crime.

“Everyone has this perception that domestic and family violence has increased but we do not have specific data of it,” Caresia told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In a slum in Delhi’s outskirts, auto-rickshaw driver Suresh sits on a bed in a one-roomed concrete house, telling how his teenage sister was dragged to a nearby wasteland and raped by a neighbor as she walked home from college in March.

“This city is unsafe. We know it is, but what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to lock her up?,” he said. “We see the stories every day in the news. Nothing has changed since the Delhi gang rape. Nothing.”

Authorities attribute the surge in numbers to more victims reporting crimes, rather than more sexual violence occurring.

Activists say it is probably a combination of both.

Campaigners said sex attacks were often not reported due the “dishonor” associated with rape, as well as a lack of faith in a male-dominated, often insensitive police and judicial system.

“For too long, the perpetrators have acted with a sense of impunity. Certainty of punishment is the best deterrent,” said Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer and activist from Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based charity that supports victims.

INDIA’S BRIDE TRAFFICKING FUELLED BY SKEWED SEX RATIOS

A brother from West Bengal district of Dinajpur after a long search was able to rescue his sister who was trafficked for forced Marriage in Uttar Pradesh

A brother from West Bengal district of Dinajpur after a long search was able to rescue his sister who was trafficked for forced Marriage in Uttar Pradesh

PUBLISHED IN THE GUARDIAN-BY ANU ANAND

Business in brides is booming in north-west India as a result of female foeticide, but the women bought and sold are often trapped in lives of slavery and abuse

Just 90 minutes’ drive from the thriving city of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a business hub in India and home to corporate giants Google and Microsoft, Hari Singh Yadav, landowner, farmer and eldest of seven brothers sits outside his front door and bemoans his bachelor status.

“There are not enough girls from my caste in our village, and I’m already 34 years old, so now no one wants to marry me,” he says. Only three of his brothers have found wives. “Here, if you don’t marry, people shun you. I want to go to [the southern city of] Hyderabad and get a wife but it will cost $1,500. Will you loan it to me?”

In the north-west of India, the business in brides is booming. Skewed sex ratios in states including Haryana, where there are only 830 girls for every 1,000 boys(pdf) and young women being lured away to jobs in India’s booming cities, means men like Yadav are increasingly left with few options when it comes to finding a wife.

“Among land-owning castes in rural areas, female foeticide is rampant because people bitterly oppose laws which say girls should inherit equally,” said Reena Kukreja, who teaches gender studies at Queens University in Ontario, Canada. “So they make sure daughters are never born.”

Nearly 50 years after the introduction of ultrasound technology, which campaigners say has led to the sex-selective termination of up to 10 million healthy female foetuses, families in search of wives are increasingly turning to traffickers to counter their sons’ diminishing marriage prospects.

There are no official statistics on trafficked and migrant brides in India, but according to a survey conducted across 1,300 villages in Haryana and Rajasthan by Queens University, there has been a 30% increase over the past three years in the numbers of women lured or coerced into marriage.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has identified organised bride trafficking rings increasingly operating in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, where gender ratios are among the least balanced in the country. A 2013 UNODC report (pdf) cites a survey of 92 villages in Haryana which shows that in 10,000 households, 9,000 married women had been bought from poor villages in other states.

The business of bride trafficking is proving so lucrative that local people are setting themselves up as dealers or brokers, sourcing women for families seeking partners for their sons.

Bashir, who refused to give his surname, is from Tijara in the north-western state of Rajasthan. He used to make his living harvesting crops or quarrying rocks. Now he supplements his meagre income by travelling to Assam twice a year – with his own purchased wife – to bring back brides for local village families.

“We tell them they’ll get good husbands here. We pay the families $70-100 [£45-65],” Bashir says, sitting outside his family home. “It’s a community service. We are poor, they are poor, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Yet the reality of these marriages for women bought and sold as brides is often a life of slavery and abuse. The UNODC says thousands of these women are raped, abused, used as domestic slaves and often eventually abandoned.

Sahiba was only 16 when a distant relative told her family in Assam that he could marry the poor teenager into a good home. He took her away, raped her twice and sold her as a bride to a family in Palwal, Haryana, 60km from the Indian capital Delhi. “I didn’t want to be raped again, so I went along with it,” she says. “And I thought it was a real marriage.”

She later discovered from her sister-in law that she had been bought for 13,500 rupees (£135) for her mentally ill husband, whom the family thought no one else would marry. “My blood began to boil and I decided to escape,” Sahiba says. “When I refused to sleep with my new husband, I was beaten and attacked with a knife. ‘We bought you,’ his family told me. ‘You have to obey.’”

Shafiq ur-Rehman is an activist and founder of Empower People, a charity that works with trafficked brides in 10 Indian states, including Haryana, where his offices have been set on fire and his employees shot at by locals. He says women who are bought and sold into marriage are often used as unpaid labourers. “It’s simple economics,” he says. “A local day labourer costs $140 for a season. But a girl only costs $100 for life. If it doesn’t work out, she can be resold and there’s no family nearby to help her. It’s no different from the former slave plantations of the US.”

Ghaushia Khan, 40, an activist, was sold into marriage in Haryana as a young woman and now provides legal aid to other trafficked brides. She says that, once sold, many women are considered worthless by the community they find themselves in. “In 1992, a [trafficked bride] in my neighbourhood was doused in kerosene and burnt alive,” Khan says. “Her skin began to peel off and I would hear her crying out, ‘please give me water’.”

Khan travels throughout Haryana trying to help these brides get access to legal support and assistance. She says few of the women she encounters are prepared to go to the police because they believe that, far from delivering justice, a complaint will leave them further isolated.

Some women, like Farida, have spent decades in villages far away from their families. Only 11 when, 20 years ago, she was sold to a 70-year-old man, her first experience of marriage was rape and violence. She gave birth to the first of seven children soon after. “That same day, I was ordered to get up and cook for everyone,” says Farida.

What is most painful, she says, is that her children have been taught to hate her. “My eldest son says to his grandmother, ‘Why don’t we sell her on? There are many others like her,’” she says. “What can I do? I don’t think I’ll ever see my sister again. I don’t even remember how to get back home.”

Others, like Sahiba, have managed to escape their marriages. Sahiba’s brother spent months tracking her down with the help of lawyers and activists with the Delhi-based Save the Childhood Movement. However, the chances of Sahiba getting any kind of justice or compensation are slim. Save the Childhood Movement estimates that, despite thousands of women being affected, there have been only two or three convictions a year for bride trafficking.

“There’s a very low conviction rate in cases of bride trafficking because the law is so fragmented,” says Rakesh Senger, an activist with the organisation. “One section deals with kidnapping, another with trafficking, another with rape, so cases usually took up to five years to prosecute. There is no inter-state police cooperation either, so it’s difficult to get victims to court to testify. However, with the new rape laws, we’re hopeful things will improve as cases have to be tried within a year.”

Ravi Kant, president of Shakti Vahini, one of India’s most high-profile anti-trafficking organisations, agrees. He says that, despite successfully bringing cases of forced labour – where they have prosecuted families for buying women from another state and forcing them into domestic servitude – they have persistently failed to bring cases of bride trafficking to court.

“We’ve tried to prosecute traffickers and men who’ve purchased wives in at least 20 different cases,” Kant says. “They stay in jail for two to three months, get bail and then either the prosecutor doesn’t actively pursue the case, or the victim never testifies because she’s afraid to face her tormentor again. The local police don’t see the accused as having committed any crime, so they don’t investigate properly, and they make no effort to cross state lines to bring victims to court.”

Sahiba’s future remains uncertain. She says that although she has been rescued, the end of her marriage means she can’t go home to her family. “I can’t go back because of the shame of leaving a husband,” she says.