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As with all things, whorehouses must adapt and change with the times. Prostitutes must become better, stronger, digitised and more resistant to disease. Some brothels endeavor to offer more than just a stained mattress and a greedy companion. At least hundreds of thousands, and probably more than a million women and children are employed in Indian brothels. Many are victims of the increasingly widespread practice of trafficking across international borders thanks to smart use of Internet.

In India, a large percentage of the victims are women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh. This report focuses on the trafficking of girls and women from Nepal to brothels in Mumbai, where NGOs say they comprise up to half of the city’s estimated 100,000 brothel workers. Majority of brothel population is thought to be girls under the age of eighteen, and half of that population may be STD infected.

Trafficking victims in India are subjected to conditions tantamount to slavery and to serious physical abuse. Held in debt bondage for years at a time, they are raped and subjected to other forms of torture, to severe beatings, exposure to AIDS, and arbitrary imprisonment.

Many are young women from remote hill villages and poor border communities of Nepal who are lured from their villages by local recruiters, relatives or neighbors promising jobs or marriage, and sold for amounts as small as Nepali Rs.200 to brokers who deliver them to brothel owners in India for anywhere from Rs.15,000 to Rs.40,000. This purchase price, plus interest, becomes the “debt” that the women must work to pay off — a process that can stretch on indefinitely.

Only the brothel owner knows the terms of the debt, and most women have no idea how much they owe or the terms for repayment. Brothels are tightly controlled, and the girls are under constant surveillance. Escape is virtually impossible. Owners use threats and severe beatings to keep inmates in line. In addition, women fear capture by other brothel agents and arrest by the police if they are found on the streets; some of these police are the brothel owner’s best clients. Many of the girls and women are brought to India as virgins; many return to Nepal with the HIV virus.

Both the Indian and Nepali governments are complicit in the abuses suffered by trafficking victims. These abuses are not only violations of internationally recognized human rights but are specifically prohibited under the domestic laws of both countries. The willingness of Indian and Nepali government officials to tolerate, and, in some cases, participate in the burgeoning flesh trade exacerbates abuse. Although human rights organizations in Nepal have reported extensively on the forced trafficking of Nepali girls to Indian brothels, and sensationalist coverage of trafficking issues is a regular feature of the local press, the great majority of cases is never publicized, and even when traffickers have been identified, there have been few arrests and fewer prosecutions.

In India, police and local officials patronize brothels and protect brothel owners and traffickers. Brothel owners pay protection money and bribes to the police to prevent raids and to bail out under-age girls who are arrested. Police who frequent brothels as clients sometimes seek out under-age girls and return later to arrest them — a way of extorting bigger bribes. Girls and women who complain to the police about rape or abduction, or those who are arrested in raids or for vagrancy, are held in “protective custody” — a form of detention. Corrupt authorities reportedly allow brothel owners to buy back detainees.

Full report at https://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/India.htm

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