Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poverty and turmoil in Assam leave women and girls vulnerable to south Asia sex trade

Assam is a north east state in India. It has experienced a separatist movement since the 1980’s that has resulted in ongoing violence. The fighting has displaced large numbers of people and has impacted negatively on the social structure of its various communities. This deterioration of local society takes its toll on the weakest. For example, Assam has one of the worse areas in India for child abuse -- according to a study over 86% of the children in the region suffer sexual abuse of one form or another.

Other victims of this turmoil are women and girls. Approximately, two females a day from Assam disappear. Most of them end up as commodities in south Asia’s sex trade.

This is from the BBC:
The biggest problem in India's north-eastern state of Assam is separatist militancy. But it faces another, less well known issue. Thousands of its women, old and young, have gone missing over the past 10 years.

A recent police report says 3,184 women and 3,840 female children have gone missing in the state since 1996.

That's around two females a day on average.

The report was compiled by Assam police and their research branch, the Bureau of Police Research and Development.

The local police are far too busy, according to Assam police intelligence chief Khagen Sarmah, fighting insurgents.

"Our counter-insurgency commitments affects our normal policing duties like checking trafficking."

"Too many policemen are involved fighting the insurgents rather than following up on other crimes," Mr Sarmah said.

The Assam police recently rescued some girls working as call-girls around Delhi or used as "sex slaves" by wealthy landlords in states like Punjab and Haryana.

Most of them are from camps of internally displaced people dotting Assam, particularly the Kokrajhar district.

That area is home to nearly a quarter of a million people who were displaced in the late 1990s.

Nearly 800 people died in ethnic fighting in Kokrajhar and adjoining districts between Bodo tribes people and non-Bodo communities over a decade long period from 1994.

The police survey revealed an organised racket of "recruiters" who lured good-looking women with job offers outside the state.

"We arrested some recruiters but could never put an end to the rackets fully," said police official Anil Phukan.

The modus operandi is simple: good looking women in the displaced peoples camps are offered jobs.

The parents are paid a few thousand rupees in advance, and told the daughters will send back money once they start working.

Once they go away, that rarely happens.

The Calcutta Research Group, in its recent study on conflict-induced displacement says that the displaced people in Assam live in acute poverty.

The situation has led the women in particular to desperately seek work elsewhere; even if the offers come from dubious people.

"This is because the government officials running the camps never created viable livelihood options," says Uddipana Goswami of the Calcutta-based Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS).

Ms Goswami has worked on the displaced camps in Assam.

"Many displaced women have such exquisite craftsmanship but nobody ever tried to convert that into income alternatives," she says.

Professor Banerjee says trafficking ignores borders therefore solutions cannot be left to local agencies alone.

"This is not a local or even a national problem."

"This reflects the global reality, so intervention by international organisations may help check trafficking."
You can read the entire story here.

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