Guwahati, July 17: Ask what her name is and it draws a blank. Raped by her “customer”, this child sex worker lost her speech and all but her sanity. Admitted to a deaf-mute school, she is trying to fight her trauma and painful memories that refuse to fade.
If this makes you wince, there is more. A study conducted by Global Organisation for Life Development, an NGO, in co-ordination with Guwahati police has revealed that a startling 14 per cent of those involved in prostitution are children aged between 10 and 17. And those who gratify their lurid and perverse desires by exploiting children are not part of the city’s underbelly but affluent, well-heeled people who lend Guwahati much of its sheen.
The NGO submitted the report on Rise in Child Prostitution in the City to the police recently. The findings have left experts working to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers dumbfounded.
Behind every minor languishing in the flesh trade is a heartrending tale. Some have been forced into prostitution by acquaintances or relatives, while others have been lured by the hope of a better life. For a few, the parents themselves turned into pimps.
Police have identified Kalapahar, Nabin Nagar, Rajgarh, Pandu, Dispur, Beltola, Ganeshguri and Hatigaon areas of Guwahati as hubs of prostitution and trafficking.
Most of the child sex workers come from neighbouring villages and char areas where poverty is acute.
The men who visit brothels in these areas more often than not choose child prostitutes.
“The demand for child prostitutes is rising at an alarming rate in the city. Children are being increasingly used for commercial sex. One reason is the fear of AIDS. Many believe that children are low risk partners and have less chance of being infected with the disease. The overall percentage of child sex workers is around 15,” revealed a police source.
“Although the city has no specific red-light area, prostitution thrives in brothels, beauty parlours, hotels and even homes. The vice is so deep-rooted in the city that even if we raid one place following specific information, the racketeers obtain bail only to start their business at a different location,” he said.
“Poverty is probably the most important factor contributing to the rise in child prostitution. Parents, especially those who are destitute, thrust their young daughters into prostitution,” he added.
The city has also turned into a transit point for the region’s trafficking network.
“Children are easy to lure or coerce. Many girls are brutally tortured and denied food for days on end if they refuse to give in. Bodily scars aside, most of the rescued child sex workers are traumatised for life. Their rehabilitation involves psychological and medical counselling,” a senior police official said.
“Poverty, urbanisation, migration, unemployment, disintegration of the joint family system and rise in insurgency related crimes have led to this,” said a social worker.
Are the offenders and the government listening'