Unlike rest of the world, the lust of men in South Asia, especially India, is growing for younger women, said Gary Lewis, South Asia head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Wednesday. This is resulting in trafficking syndicates targeting younger women in Nepal, Bangladesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, trafficking hot spots in south Asia.
Lewis said that a recent study of trafficked women in Nepal to India had revealed that there is an increased demand for younger women. In 1980s, women between 14-16 were preferred, then the age in 1990s went down to 10-14 and now it is even less than 10 years. “I have come across cases where even five year-old girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation,” Lewis told HT but added that such cases are not very rampant.
Desire for younger women is not the prime reason. The growing fear of catching sexually transmitted diseases from older women and belief that having sex with younger women is a cure for many diseases had caused this increase in demand. “Many believe having sex with young virgin girls would cure them of diseases. For others, chances of catching STD from younger girls is less,” Lewis said.
What most of these girls get in return at a tender age is the dreaded HIV/AIDS. Study of trafficked women in Nepal showed that 60 per cent of positive HIV cases were of girls below the age of 15. And, all of them had got the disease from their male clients going for unprotected sex because the kids are not in a position to protest. It showed, Lewis said, lower the age higher the risk to get HIV/AIDS.
For these HIV positive girls, life has been cut short. Maru, one such victim of sexual exploitation after being trafficked, died recently in a rehabilitation home in Hyderabad. She got the disease from the person who had sexually exploited her. UNODC showed a clip of the girl celebrating her birthday in December 2006 with other victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, all in the age group of 8-10 years. “Such had been trauma that couple of girls have lost their speaking power,” Lewis recalled, claiming that there are thousands of such girls all over India.
Lewis said trafficking in south Asia is a most organized crime and third most profit earner after weapon smuggling and drugs. “It is worth billion of dollars,” he said. To have an organized effort against trafficking, UNODC will launch a unique programme next week called UN Gift. “Corporate, civil society and government will join hand to check growing trafficking in south Asia,” he said.