Last week, in a major operation in the red light area of Bihar’s Sitamarhi district National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), district child protection unit (DCPU) and state police rescued 9 minor girls from prostitution racketeers. The operation was initiated following a complaint filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organization working for protection of child rights.
All the girls rescued from the red light area are between 14 years to 17 years of age and were trafficked from Uttarakhand, Patna and Assam on the false promises of marriage and employment. During investigation the girls revealed that they were blindfolded by the ground agents of the prostitution racket and trafficked from their homes. Seven accused persons were arrested, including five women and two male customers. This is not an isolated instance of trafficking of minor girls from interior parts of the country for the sole purpose of prostitution.
In May this year, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of Uddham Nagar police in Uttarakhand arrested 21 people from a hotel in Kashipur, including 9 women for trafficking two 16-year-old minor girls for prostitution. Similarly, last November, the Puducherry police arrested three people, including one member of the Friends of Police for forcing a trafficked minor girl into the prostitution ring.
These instances show the alarming rise in incidents of child prostitution that thrives across our country, where minor girls are trafficked and forced into prostitution in hotels, massage parlours and red light areas.
According to the data available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of 2020, a total of 2,914 child trafficking cases were registered in 2019, which is little higher than the 2,834 cases registered in 2018.
The trend of rise in child trafficking is alarming but it gets murkier when it is linked to prostitution in multiple forms. Minor girls are found to be sold to resorts, hotels, massage parlours, red light operators, in some cases as child brides and even to pedophiles.
Recently, in May this year, a 14-year-old girl was trafficked from Bihar and was sold as a “child bride” to a family in Kaithal for Rs. 1.7 lakhs. The girl was fortunate to be rescued from her mental and physical torture by a joint operation of a team comprising Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), AHTU, district child protection units (DCPU) and Haryana police.
These examples show the audacity of the traffickers, who commodify minor girls commercial purpose and the hapless girls lose their agency and natural right to a free life. Confined to the diktat of their traffickers, the innocent girls lose all hopes of solace and freedom.
Innocent minor girls trafficked for prostitution undergo severe physical and mental agony resulting in major health issues. Girls have been found with sexually transmitted diseases due to unsafe sexual exploitation, severe infections in internal reproductive organs due to unsafe and multiple abortions. Additionally, many minor girls especially those trafficked from remote places face acute mental problems. These innocent lives lose their self-confidence, some indulge in substance abuse in hope of forgetting their traumatic experiences.
Continuous violence both physical and mental faced by the girls makes the experience linger in their minds for longer duration that fails to fade away even with extensive psychological counselling after rescue.
Government agencies like – NCPCR, AHTU, district child protection units (DCPU), policing authorities and social organisations like – Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), Shaktivahini and others are though being actively engaged in thwarting these nefarious activities but more needs to be done.
In this context, we as “One Nation and One Society” must remind ourselves of the wise words of the renowned child rights activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi who had once Tweeted, “The silent cry of millions of India’s children who are trafficked and trapped into slavery, prostitution is knocking on the doors of your heart”.
The deepest feelings embedded in these words makes it extremely important and raising a sense of urgency for the Union government to pass and enact the pending anti-trafficking bill in the Parliament at the earliest. But the buck doesn’t stop here with only the enactment of the bill, all stakeholders – the law enforcement agencies of the central government and state governments must make their respective intelligence and vigilance units much stronger and sharper. In this regard, specialized training and sensitization of the policing and anti-human trafficking units must be organized to effectively track, collect and analyse information to trap the culprits including the traffickers, middlemen and the end customer to stop the menace.
We also as a sensitive and progressive society must do our bit by keeping an eye and reporting about such instances that happens around us. Constant vigilance and proactive intelligence gathering becomes an integral tool in preventing and stopping the incidents of minor child being trafficked into prostitution.
The author is a radio presenter and an independent social thinker.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed above are of the author and do not reflect those of DNA.)