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City witnessing rise in child prostitution

By Kabita Duarah

GUWAHATI, July 30 � This is not a story picked up from a movie or a best seller. Ranjita Das (name changed) is 12 years old now and despite having a family of mother, father and sisters, is forced by destiny to live under the roof of Global Organization for Life Development (GOLD), a non-government organization which has been for long working in the field of rehabilitating commercial sex workers and trafficked victims.

Hailing from a village in lower Assam, Ranjita was send to the capital city at the age of nine to work as a domestic help, as her father and mother � both daily wage earners � were unable to provide food to all the hungry mouths in the family. The tragic saga of Ranjita�s life began since then as she was forced to have sex with the employer. The employer also forced Ranjita to have sex with his friends and many other men.

She was rescued by GOLD and in the last three years she has been trying to forget the painful past.

Ranjita�s is the not the lone case of a child being forced into prostitution. Over the years, rescue workers have come across many girls below the age of 18 years forced or lured into the flesh trade. As per a study by GOLD, the demand for child prostitutes in the city has risen and the clientele list includes the educated and the rich in the age group of 15 to 60 years.

It is worth mentioning here that since May this year, GOLD has rescued five girls below the age of 18 from different parts of the capital city. All these girls were compelled by circumstances to work as sex workers.

Behind the swanky malls and high rises of the fast growing capital city there are many sordid nooks, and child prostitution has emerged as one of those sore areas which if left untreated for long will pose a serious problem to the society.

�In the last couple of years, the city has witnessed more girl child working as sex workers,� said Kaveri Sarma, assistant general secretary of GOLD.

Most of the girl child prostitutes have been rescued from the rental quarters in the city. Of late, the rental quarters are seen to function as brothel houses, and some of the hotels too are serving the purpose of the perverted who are seeking out a girl child. Guwahati till date has no licensed brothel house.

A host of factors are behind the increase in child prostitution in the city. One of the crucial reasons is the livelihood crisis in the rural and remote areas of the State which has triggered large-scale migration to the city.

These migrants find accommodation in the poverty pockets including the slum areas in the city.

Rejia (name changed) is 16 years old and she has to fend her family that migrated to the city eight years back. She waits at the labour market in Hatigaon to get employment for the day, but very often she lands up in bed with a male partner. �The income is more in this trade. I have no other option of earning money for my family,� she said.

A comprehensive study on the issue of child prostitution in the city is yet to be undertaken. The Bhootnath slum, 2 No Gate, Paltanbazar, Ganeshguri, etc., are some of the points where sex is traded.

This thriving flesh trade has not disturbed the acquired nonchalance of the denizens of Guwahati so far. But the need of the hour is a concerted effort from various organizations as well as the official agencies to find a solution to child prostitution.

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