Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Girls lured to Delhi Games for work being sold to brothels

UNDER-aged girls are being lured to Delhi for work at the Commonwealth Games, only to be sold into prostitution.

The Indian Government has issued an alert, after receiving numerous reports that girls from the country's poor tribal states are being exploited by sex-traffickers.

The advisory by India's Home Ministry, obtained by The Australian, says: "The victims are mostly those who are promised work in Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games by fraudulent placement agencies but instead are likely to be trafficked.

"Minor girls are the main target. Strict action is urgently required against those involved in such trafficking, both in the source, transit and destination areas."

Hundreds of young girls from poverty-stricken rural states are believed to have been successfully trafficked into the city's burgeoning number of brothels, massage parlours and escort agencies.

Kailash Pathak, from rural West Bengal, fears his 13-year-old daughter, Khushbu, is among them.

The Australian accompanied Mr Pathak this week as he searched seedy Delhi's red-light-district for any sign of her.

He said he had tracked down a man he claims stole his daughter and reported him to police. "I rang him and said, 'Have you taken my girl?' And he said, 'What if I have? What can you do about it?'"

The man, Pappu Bagel, confessed to The Australian from a police cell that he led Khushbu away from her home but denied it had been against her will.

Delhi's illegal but thriving prostitution racket has been gearing up for several months for the Commonwealth Games.

Several establishments have reportedly been running basic English classes for their workers and renovating premises for foreign visitors.

Inside one brothel, The Australian saw a large flat-screen television fitted to the wall.

"It's so we can watch the Commonwealth Games," a middle-aged female worker explained as two men worked on renovations in one of the adjacent tiled and toilet-sized rooms in which women ply their trade.

The woman said she had no under-aged workers in the brothel and did not tolerate traffickers peddling young girls.

Outside another nearby brothel, where a 16-year-old girl trafficked from Nepal was rescued by police just two days earlier, The Australian counted more than 100 men in the space of just 10 minutes descending the dingy, narrow stairs in packs of 20 or more.

Delhi police have raided a number of brothels in the city's red-light district in recent weeks.

A police superintendent from one inner-city district said about 80 young girls had been seized from brothels and traffickers in the past six months.

Nishi Kant, from Delhi-based anti-trafficking network Shakhti Vahini, said his organisation had rescued 54 under-aged girls from the red-light district and the nearby New Delhi railway station in the past six weeks.

"The traffickers tell the girls and their families that they can get them good jobs in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, but once they land here they're trafficked to various suburbs of Delhi and forced into prostitution," he said.

"The Commonwealth Games has become a disaster in the context of child-trafficking because we're seeing a clear rise in the number of cases."

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