Trafficking: When women are brutalised as “assets”
By Nita Bhalla APRIL 10, 2012
Last month I was writing on an “asset” widely traded globally: Women.
In early March, I came across the Saraniya tribe of the west Indian region of Gujarat, where women in a drought-ridden village have for decades been pimped by their male relatives for “easy money”.
Then, there were Bangladesh’s teenage girls trapped in the squalid brothels – forced to take cattle steroids to fatten them up and “make them look healthy” for the clients who prefer girls with a bit of meat on them.
Of course, the buying and selling of women happens not just in far-flung, “exotic” destinations. It’s here, there and everywhere, in virtually every town and city across the world.
Latest statistics report that 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given time, 80 percent of them as sexual slaves.
The human trafficking industry is estimated to generate around $32 billion a year. And South Asia is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Over 150,000 people are known to be trafficked within South Asia every year – mostly for sex work, but also for labour, forced marriages and as part of the organ trade. Actual numbers are likely to be higher as the trade is underground.
India alone sees thousands of young girls being trafficked, including many from Nepal and Bangladesh, forced into bonded sex work unable to escape and return home for years, if at all.
Rural girls from poor families, lured by female traffickers with promises of jobs as maids in the cities, end up locked in dirty rooms in flea-pit guesthouses, forced to have sex with many men without any sexual protection.
They are an “asset” to their traffickers.
“An item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies,” says the Oxford Dictionary in its definition of “asset”.
And unfortunately, this asset will continue to be traded for as long as there is demand and for as long as that demand is deemed acceptable.
Photo Credit: The shadow of a woman is cast on paddy crop at a marketplace on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Amit Dave