Corban Addison’s A Walk Across the Sun changed my world vision and altered me for life. I had to read it twice to really grasp the underlying, horrifying and mindblowing reality of sex-trafficking in the world and especially in India. Yes, especially in India. Greed, poverty, religion, police corruption, political immobility and a huge market, all come together to rouse and trigger a huge monster called sex-trafficking, enslaving millions of kids and women through out the globe.

“This is bigger and meaner than the slave industry we had centuries ago,” said Addison in an interview with IPM.

Since Addison’s book, which was a revelation to me, I read a lot more on this. The facts are horrifying, shocking and revolting. Such inhumanity, such greed and such lack of accountability for ruining and stealing the innocence of millions of human beings is not only gut-wrenching but extremely scary. To what lengths would a human being go to satisfy his greed and hunger for money?

Prostitution, which was glorified by Indian movies with stars like Rekha, Meena Kumari and such, in reality is nightmare of sexual abuse, unending bondage and life threatening sexual diseases not to mention mental and physical trauma scarring one for life. It is generations of ruinations.

Sex-trafficking has become the second most lucrative business, world-wide, second only to drugs and weapon trade. Innocent children, as young as five are being forced into this trade as many men globally believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them of sexual diseases such as AIDS and syphilis amongst others.

India's federal police said in 2009 that they believed around 1.2 million children in India to be involved in prostitution. A CBI statement said that studies and surveys sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development estimated about 40 percent of India's prostitutes to be children. Since then, the number has doubled.1 An article about the Rescue Foundation in New Internationalist magazine states that "according to Save the Children India, clients now prefer ten to 12-year-old girls.” The same article attributes the rising number of prostitutes believed to have contracted HIV in India’s brothels as a factor in India becoming the country with the second- largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, behind South Africa.

In cross border trafficking, India is a sending, receiving and transit nation. Receiving children from Bangladesh and Nepal and sending women and children to Middle Eastern nations is a daily occurrence. (Executive Director of SANLAAP, Indrani Sinha, Paper on Globalization and Human Rights")

The red light district in Bombay generates at least $400 million a year in revenue, with 100,000 prostitutes servicing men 365 days a year, averaging 6 customers a day, at $2 each. (Robert I. Freidman, "India’s Shame: Sexual Slavery and Political Corruption Are Leading to An AIDS Catastrophe," The Nation, 8 April 1996) The largest red light district in India, perhaps in the world, is the Falkland Road Kamatipura area of Bombay. (Film,"The Selling of Innocents" 1997). In India, the majority supplier remains Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka too is not less.

In Bombay, on average the girls are bought by six men a day, who pay US $1.10 - 2 per sex act, the madam gets the money up front. To pay for movies, clothes, make-up and extra food to supplement a diet of rice and dal, the girls have to borrow from moneylenders at an interest rate of up to 500 percent. They are perpetually in debt. (Robert I. Freidman, "India’s Shame: Sexual Slavery and Political Corruption Are Leading to An AIDS Catastrophe," The Nation, 8 April 1996). Sick women are thrown away on roads to perish and new fresh virgin girls are brought in.

Child pornography, sex tourism and human trafficking remain fast-growing industries, according to the Wikepedia. In Bombay, top politicians and police officials are in league with the mafia who control the sex industry, exchanging protection for cash payoffs and donations to campaign war chests. Corruption reaches all levels of the ruling Congress Party in New Delhi. Many politicians view prostitutes as an expendable commodity. (Robert I. Freidman, "India’s Shame: Sexual Slavery and Political Corruption Are Leading to An AIDS Catastrophe," The Nation, 8 April 1996)

In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development estimated that there are around 2.8 million sex workers in India, with 35.47 percent of them entering the trade before the age of 18 years.The number of prostitutes has also doubled in the recent decade. One news article states that an estimated 200,000 Nepalese girls have been trafficked to red light areas of India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are reportedly favored in India because of their fair skin and young looks. One report estimates that every year between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities, and that many of the girls may only be 9 or 10 years old.

But behind all these odious facts one stands outs in its ugly, disturbing and repugnant reality: sexual-trafficking in such large numbers exists because there is a demand for it. Men buy sex at whatever cost. Poor men at $2 and rich men at $2000. Mixed with ignorant, religious and twisted needs, sex-trafficking is rearing its ugly head and roaring in victory, corrupting not just the innocence but also the health conditions.

What can we do?
Read, empower, and talk openly about the problem. This is the first step. Youngsters are the ones that can really help because of their innocent, pure and equality-based world view: Not corrupted yet by global prejudices, they can bring a huge change in the thinking process. Many NGOs work in India trying to save atleast one child a day. Though the problem is multi-faceted (health, poverty, greed, corruption) the solution lies not in just rescuing one or two victims and punishing a few traffickers but also by (and hugely) cutting down demand. Demand for sex should be looked down upon, punished severely and talked about. Spread the word through open and frequent debate.

Cool men dont buy sex.


Editor’s Note: IPM is bringing out a special issue dedicated to this problem. Leaders, NGOs, volunteers will be interviewed and solutions sought. However, such a huge problem cannot be addressed without your help. We sincerely seek your support in bringing out this issue. If you have any information, articles and know of people involved, both helpers and victims, please let us know and help us bring out a useful, helpful and informative issue.

Meena Yeggina