We all have problems. We are all caught up in the rigmaroles of life, busy handling heart-aches and heart-breaks, busy writing poetry, busy trying to get in touch with our ex-flames and in trying to placate them, busy with our married life, busy in trying to device new ways to get laid, in trying to make money, busy in trying to forget our ex-flames by performing rituals - reading GITA, QURAN etc. - busy getting and giving more fundae on philosophy, busy eating food, exotic food, busy trying to get attention, busy working out - trying to stay healthy and getting a great body, busy writing blogs and posting stuff on discssion boards about heartaches and then spamming the whole discussion board, trying _ hard to be oblivious of pain and suffering around us and succeeding in the same. kudos!!! All of us are doing a great job at that - being busy.
NOW, I would greatly appreciate if you took three minutes off this busy schedule of yours and read what follows. After reading this, I know some of you will feel bad, go on long guilt trips and then forget about it, part of you will just yawn and then listen to some music and go to the restroom, most of you may not even read the whole thing at one go or not read it at all, but there will be a part who will read and decide to do something about it. ANYBODY in that category, please respond. MY mail address is aishwarya_rao at lycos dot com
LET'S DO SOMETHING.
There are more than 23,00,000 Women in Prostitution (WIP) in India. Increasingly, women’s bodies are treated as a commodity. With a parallel increase in global pornography, sex tourism and associated activities, there has been an increase in demand for young girls. The epidemic of AIDS/HIV has further worsened the situation. It should be noted that after drugs & weapons, trafficking of women has become the third largest illegal trade, generating income to the traffickers of around $10 billion per year. Each year 7000 girls are trafficked from Nepal to India. 700,000 persons, primarily women, are trafficked across international borders (US Victims of Trafficking & Violence Protection Act, 2000).
In India, every day the trade of prostitution is being carried out by the nexus of pimps, procurers, brothel keepers and associated mafias with the backing of the police. Brothel prostitution is invariably forced prostitution, and the major supply factors are poverty, unequal gender relations (e.g. widows, divorcees, fake marriages etc.), physical coercion (kidnapping) and family traditions – as in Bedia, Nat, Gandharva, Dehradar and other communities. In the family tradition environment, the girl internalises the traits of the profession, including singing & dancing, at a very tender age; that is, when she cannot take her own decisions. By the time she realises what has happened to her, it is too late. Generally, they are made to feel that they are doing a big service to their family.
The institution of prostitution is based on the assumption that sex is an automatic right of man and a commodity that can be purchased or sold. The women and children involved in this transaction have been denied the right over their bodies and are reduced to mere commodities of pleasure. The clients, society, the women and their families consider music and dance as a mere supplement to the sex industry; in order to make it more lucrative in this competitive market. Today, it is difficult to separate the two. Therefore, the music and dance part has never been able to itself pullout from the red light areas. Its growth has been in one direction only - struggling within the nexus of prostitution. The nexus is such that even genuine police raids increase the dependence of the women on the same exploitative structure for legal and emotional security - thwarting all efforts at rehabilitation. Chances that the nexus can be broken by active government support are bleak. Meanwhile the criminal sanctions against the women and the social stigmatizataion they endure, isolate them from the “civilized” world and expose them to various forms of exploitation because they have to rely on the vested interests for all day-to-day needs. The police, a part of the nexus, are not sensitive to the women’s needs even when the women are attempting to run cultural programs. A music or dance performance in the red light area (kotha) is considered part of prostitution.
A prostitute is not a criminal. She does not violate anybody or anything, but is herself violated. Penal sanctions against the women or their clients are too simplistic. The economic, political, social ramification needs have to be understood in all their complexity and cannot be dealt with by penal sanctions alone. Most of the prostitutes’ income is pocketed by pimps and brothel madams. They are fleeced by the policemen, over charged by shopkeepers. They get pregnant and give birth to children, who also are destined to live an almost meaningless life with out being able to receive or see the love of the parents. Worse still, the children of the women in prostitution are always stigmatized and discriminated against for no fault of their own. Prostitution is a severe, all encompassing form of exploitation. It dehumanizes the women and their children. It denies them the opportunity to develop on their own and determine the course of their lives. Even if they wish, the mothers, because of their dependence and fear of criminal elements, are in a vulnerable situation and unlike the mothers in the mainstream, are unable to educate their children.
Though there are a number of studies and reports on commercial sexual exploitation of women and children there are no accurate estimates of the extent and magnitude of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in India. Even though, the overall population of victims, even to a casual observer, appears to be grossly under estimated, the following is the results of a survey conducted in 1991 and applies to only six cities.
A survey sponsored by the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) 1991 in six metropolitan cities of India indicated that the population of women and child victims of commercial sexual exploitation would be between 70,000 and 1,00,000. It also revealed that about 30% of them are below 18 years of age. Nearly 40% of them were inducted when they were less than 18 years of age. The major contributory factor for the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children are poverty and unemployment or lack of appropriate rehabilitation. 70% of them are illiterates. 43% of them desire to be rescued. Most of those who want to leave have given the reasons of desire to save their children from commercial sexual exploitation and protection of the future of their children, fear of diseases etc. The others continue to be exploited due to absence of alternative sources of income, social non-acceptability, family customs, poverty, ill health and their despondence.
Source: Plan of Action, Government of India 1998
The problem of red light areas is extensive and severe in nature; and considered to be a “vulgar” topic. The women and their children continue to lead a vulnerable life. They are deprived of everything that can be termed “appropriate”- whether it is food, clothing, shelter, health or security.
Most of the eastern UP, MP, and Bihar districts, by virtue of having well established red light areas (Varanasi, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Mau, Ballia, Allahabad, Muzaffarpur, Munger, Purnia, Saharsa, Bhagalpur, Ujjain, Ganjbasoda, Guna, Shivpuri etc.) have the infrastructure to accommodate thousands of trafficked girls and traditional prostitutes from all over the country. Their proximity to Nepal and Bangladesh, and well-linked air, rail, road routes make them ideal transit points on the busiest trafficking routes to destinations all over India. Varanasi, though one of the largest tourist and pilgrimage centers in India, provides the required base for the flourishing flesh trade in India. Eastern UP, MP, and Bihar are also places of origin for girls being trafficked due to their socio-economic vulnerability, traditionally unequal gender relations and high rates of organised criminal activity.
UP, MP, & Bihar are also notorious for family based traditional prostitution e.g. the Gandharva, Dehredar, Bedia, Nat, Kanjar and other communities who are a major source for girls in red light areas (57% in UP alone). Most of the women with traditional backgrounds have a history of being good singers and dancers. In the past they had the patronage and protection from kings and the aristocracy. They could survive on their talents and, at the same time, keep the culture alive. However, not all the traditional communities are singers and dancers. Some are exclusively into the sex trade. UP, Bihar, Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, M.P. and Tamilnadu are the worst in this regard.With the increasing demand for young girls due to the various dimensions that the industry has acquired, and with a lessening demand for the singing girls because of their inability to cope with the changing market, the comparatively highly rewarding sex industry has lured them into its totality. Due to the lack of sustainability, the women are not passing their art on to their children. This is a big blow to our cultural heritage; one that they kept alive through the ages. The demand for song and dance programs within the red light areas is shrinking and there is no consistency in the programs and incomes of the women. In contrast, the entertainment industry nationally and globally is on the rise. On top of this, there never has been any effort by the exclusively appointed Department of Culture of the government of India, to support the dying art and the artists. Their talent was never “recognized” though it existed in society and can be seen every day. Lack of patronage is one of the causes of complete acceptance of prostitution as a source of livelihood. Earlier, traditional family based prostitutes had sex as only an additional service to offer. Now, it is just the opposite. However, even today what ever is left of the art is sufficient to be used for their rehabilitation. In spite of every thing against the singing and dancing culture, almost all the red light areas of UP, Bihar and MP have 10 to 40% of their population as artists. Society, the clients, the women & their families need to understand the immense economic potential of their art and their ability to grow - away from the red-light areas. In short, we need to urgently separate the sex from the music and dance and pull it out of the red light areas. At least, to begin with, a model needs to be created which the families could themselves follow.
Life in the red light areas is hell – for the psyche as well as for health. Late night work, sleepless nights, quarrels, criminal activity, police harassment, lack of personal space, health hazards, financial hardship, loneliness, home sickness, absence of serious relationships, sexual intercourse without emotional involvements, etc. are enough to drive any person insane. Most of the women have lost their roots and have an uncertain present and a blank future - socially and economically. Their health is at risk and they are very vulnerable financially. There is no space for creativity, particularly required by the artistic demands of music and dance. The environment they live in is totally incompatible with any artistic work. Such is the pressure over their body that they look much older by the time they enter their thirties and as a consequence, they loose their competitiveness in the market. They are virtually thrown on the streets, weak and sick, with no family, health or economic backup or support to depend upon. This economic and social insecurity forces the women to introduce their daughters to prostitution or procure a girl from outside, as a source of continuing income.
For a holistic approach, apart from counseling at each stage, we need to replace the dependence of the women on the parasites (police, pimps, brothel keepers, and family members) and simultaneously take over as "mothers" - taking care of their minutest needs. Ignorance by "straight people" and neglect by the government has further aggravated the situation. We need to focus on the dependencies of the women because the whole institution of prostitution is built on it. This dependence on the vested interests is the hallmark of the institution all over the country. It perpetuates and strengthens the core structure of prostitution. Set free from this dependence, they will be able to take alternate and better decisions, about their life, their future and that of their children.
TABLE: NATURE OF NEGATIVE IMPACT OF THE TRADE ON THE MIND, AS EXPRESSED BY 588 VICTIMS
Nature of negative impact Number Percentage
1. Feeling of insecurity 309 52.55
2. Feeling of inferiority 297 50.51
3. Feeling of mental disturbance 424 72.11
4. Feeling of fear of police, “goondas”
pimps, procurers and brothel-keepers 188 31.97
5. Feeling of loneliness 115 19.56
6. Feeling of guilt 75 12.76
Manifestation of the negative impact can be further explained in the words of the victims.
Insecurity that looms large in the victims' life is explicit from their own opinions like "we have no tomorrow, it is only today"; "who knows what tomorrow will bring for us"; "in our business there is no scope to think and plan for tomorrow"; "what surety is there in a prostitute's life?” "the business provides for our today’s, not the tomorrows", "all relationships are based on convenience and utility" etc. Victims do not know whom to trust and how long any relationship will last.
Many of the victims spoke in similar vein as Sheela, Shanti and Rani who consider themselves to be "untouchables" and equivalent to "worms in a drain". Women with this feeling of inferiority have come to believe that once having got involved in the flesh trade, no matter what they do, they can never be on par with other members of society. They are condemned to live a lonely life.
Rekha broke down narrating her story and insisted that she is very unhappy in the trade. Munni, Kamla, Saroj and Bina unanimously opined that since their involvement in flesh trade they are in a confused state of mind - unable to decide what is best for them. Feeling of mental disturbances was generally explained as mental conflicts - conflicts between their sense of right and wrong, conflicts between their present occupation and their sense of values and morals - unhappiness, worries, anxieties, hatred, etc. They feel incapacitated to return home because of the nature of their work, overpowering them with feeling of isolation and loneliness.
SOURCE: FLESH TRADE - A REPORT (Report on Flesh Trade/ trafficking in girls and women in prostitution.
THANKS FOR READING IT. I APPRECIATE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO FOR THESE WOMEN.
GANDHI WAS BEING A _ MCP, WHEN HE SAID "Contraceptives are an insult to womanhood" HE JUST CONFIRMED IT. BUT THERE WERE TIMES WHEN HE WAS SANE (VERY FEW OCCASIONS AT THAT) WHEN HE SAID THE FOLLOWING:
"Women are special custodians of all that is pure and religious in life."
PLEASE TREAT HER LIKE THAT.
P. S. And I really wish that for everything else, there really is the "fullhyd.com"