‘Mangalore is transit point for Mumbai, Pune and Goa’

It could happen to anyone from anywhere at anytime. The message was loud, while the picture was grim. Plucked out of their homes — for reasons varying from poverty to the promise of better jobs elsewhere — millions of children and women are trafficked, sold and exploited sexually and economically, said speakers at a programme to raise awareness against trafficking here on Monday.

The magnitude of the problem resonates in the examples narrated by Premanand Kalmadi, an activist working for the Udupi-based human rights organisation Breakthrough, who called the trade a $ 40 billion (Rs. 2,12,000 crore) industry that was comparable to the illicit arms and drugs trade. “The demand for 8 to 10 year-olds is very high here. India itself generates Rs. 12.5 crore a day out of this revenue that comes out of sexually exploiting girls. A rescued 11-year-old girl was asked to ‘serve’ 270 customers a week or 13,000 men a year. Can you imagine the mental state of the girl? Or, the anguish of a four-year-old girl who after being exploited contracts and dies from a sexually transmitted disease,” he told an audience shocked into silence.

He said Mangalore was the key transit point to Mumbai, Pune, and Goa networks of trafficking, which are just a few of the at least 21 networks identified across the country.

N. Yogish Bhat, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, expressed concern over the growing number of missing children in the district, a statistic that is often linked to trafficking. While 16 boys and 15 girls had been reported missing in the year, six boys and five girls remain untraced. “It is of paramount importance to trace them, so that they don’t fall into the trap of traffickers,” said Mr. Bhat.

Apart from strengthening vigilance, committees and cells to curb the menace, he said hostels and boarding homes should be audited to investigate missing persons or causes for suicides there.

Chairperson of Child Welfare Committee Asha Nayak said the district recorded about 10 cases of trafficking this year, where little action had been taken against the traffickers or against the officials who were a part of the system. She called for greater awareness and rehabilitation of victims to reduce trafficking.

Rameela Shekhar, Dean at the Roshni Nilaya, said factors that fuel trafficking were poverty, sexual and economic exploitation and gender discrimination.

“Girls are sold or they are lured to other cities with promises of better jobs. As they are considered as being lesser than boys, the parents take part in selling them or sending them elsewhere. They are then sold to brothels or as cheap labour. Women from all classes of society are affected,” she said.

Procession

Earlier, carrying placards against female infanticide, child marriage, sexual exploitation of children and women, several citizens carried out an awareness rally from Jyothi Circle to Town Hall.

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