Checking new forms of flesh trade

Money is the single most important factor driving women into prostitution, feels Prashant Pandey

Trafficking of women for prostitution is a problem that the law enforcement agencies, the Delhi Police included, have always found difficult to solve. Now, even as the police are trying to curb newer forms of prostitution, experts feel that the current socio-economic situation is actually helping the menace grow.

Just to recall a trend, prostitution under the garb of massage parlours in the Capital has virtually come to symbolise the new form of the flesh trade. According to a Delhi Police officer, it is the factor of "voluntarism" in such rackets that makes the new trend markedly different from the previous modus operandi employed in trafficking of women. Money, as such, seems to be the single most important factor driving the women into prostitution "voluntarily".

Many of the arrested women and pimps have revealed that they were in the trade for money. Notwithstanding the fact that quite a few of them came from good backgrounds, in a few cases, the prostitutes had first met women pimps looking for a job.

These pimps then lured them into prostitution by promising them "handsome returns". Add to this list some wannabe models, starlets and actresses ending up in the prostitution rings for money.

Apart from women coming from various cities within the country, women from foreign countries -- particularly Central Asia -- also come to India and join the flesh trade.

"Previously, many of them went to Mumbai. But the Capital is fast replacing Mumbai as a favourite haunt for foreign sex workers on account of the comparatively low cost of living and the possibility of having a wide and established clientele. With the dance bars being closed, the bar girls are also shifting to Delhi," the officer added. But, experts say, women coming from abroad to indulge in the flesh trade is only one aspect of what has now become an organised trade on a global scale. It is quite akin to a multi-national enterprise.

According to them, the beneficiaries in this trade are not only the pimps and the sex workers, but an entire "syndicate" comprising owners of brothels (in whatever form), corrupt police officers and unscrupulous politicians. Even some governments who have legalised prostitution stand to gain huge profits from sale of sex services. Further, they add, prostitution is getting a fillip on the sidelines of tourism and entertainment industry that are being encouraged in many countries to boost their revenues. Police officers feel that merely busting prostitution rackets, though effective for the time being, will not help in curbing the problem in the long run. One reason for this is that the prostitutes themselves are seldom treated as victims.

The public often believes that these young women are victimising others and "polluting" the streets and neighbourhoods. Thus the women, who may have been victims of circumstances when they ended up in a prostitution racket, are actually victimised twice over when they are arrested in a police raid.

One possible way to curb the menace is to take steps to reduce the demand for victims of trafficking and prostitution. This would entail penalising men who pay for such services, the pimps and traffickers, say police officers.

They also warn against a growing tendency to accord legitimacy to prostitution by treating it as just another service industry. "Prostitution is a globalised industry that fetches enormous profits to every player in the syndicate, but the women end up as helpless victims in the entire deal."

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