Indo-Asian News Service,New Delhi, January 20, 2006
Trafficking in children and women to and from India is now a booming business and, believe it or not, a young woman can be ‘bought’ for as low as Rs.1,000 (about $20).
And in brazen violation of the law, even minor girls are being trafficked, to places as far as the Middle East and the Philippines for prostitution as well as pornography, with the Indian law enforcing agencies looking the other way.
These are among the shocking facts revealed in a path-breaking survey by the New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences on "Trafficking in Women and Children in India".
The victims in the trade are from poor families, some of which are forced to "sell" their women because of grinding poverty, or girls lured to cities often with promises of finding them a place in Bollywood.
"Trafficking is, without doubt, a very lucrative business," says the 748-page study, which was sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission and funded by USAID. "It requires a low investment but ensures a high profit."
Over a quarter of the 160 traffickers interviewed said they spent less than Rs. 5,000 to procure a girl, and the cheapest price they paid was just Rs. 1,000.
In some cases, however, women cost as high as Rs. 90,000.
Women were sourced from within India and from Nepal and Bangladesh. They were supplied within India to Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir as well as Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman.
The traffickers admitted even sending women to the Gulf, Britain, South Korea and the Philippines for pornographic purposes.
"One of the traffickers disclosed that he had seen the pornographic material produced by exploiting the children he had trafficked."
The study came down heavily on the traffickers, calling them "merchants of human misery", and took a strong view of the police colluding with the criminals in many states.
The methods used to lure young girls to the sex industry included promises of jobs as domestic servants or in factories or the film industry, offers of money or pleasure trips, promises of marriage, or simple coercion.
"Attraction to the glamour world of films was exploited to dupe the victims," the study outlined. "Many young girls from Nepal are lured by promises of jobs in the film industry in Mumbai."
In contrast to the low amounts traffickers paid to procure young women, they themselves earned huge profits. Almost a third of them made more than Rs.100,000 annually. Another 20 percent put their income at Rs.50,000 to Rs.100,000.
"These figures (confirm) the widely acknowledged fact that trafficking is a highly profitable business generating a substantial surplus."