Despite pandemic, flesh trade thriving as demand persists, say social workers
Goa’s flesh trade rackets appear to be immune to the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, if the recent raids conducted by the state police are any pointer to the thriving illicit trade that appears to flourish because of the economic hardships triggered by the pandemic.
Goa Police has conducted three raids in eight days – between July 20 and 28 -- to bust flesh trade rackets and mushrooming human trafficking networks.
Four women commercial sex workers were rescued and five pimps were arrested during these raids.
Organisations working for the rehabilitation of sex workers have warned that the Covid-19-triggered economic downturn would push more victims into the sordid trade.
“We have been tracking around 300 women, who were rescued in Goa and sent back to their respective native places. These were women, who were rehabilitated and had started a new life as sales girls in shopping malls or similar kinds of jobs. However, many of them became unemployed because of the pandemic and a majority of them have said that they have been approached by the traffickers, who are keen to lure them back into the trade,” said Arun Pandey, director of Anyay Rahit Zindagi, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that exclusively works for the rehabilitation of sex-trafficking victims.
“Some enter the trade because of an acute fund crunch and mounting debts. Besides, the pandemic hasn’t deterred customers, who are willing to pay for sex,” Pandey added.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t ebbed the sex trade much like two decades ago, when the world was in the grip of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) outbreak.
Goa Police is cracking the whip against the errant human traffickers.
“We have zero tolerance for human trafficking in any form. We take strict legal action in any instance pertaining to trafficking. The law does not make any distinction on the basis of tourism or otherwise,” said Shobit Saksena, spokesperson, Goa Police.
The authorities have conducted three separate raids against human trafficking over the past eight days.
On Tuesday, a joint raid was conducted by the crime branch and the women police station in Calangute, where a victim (33), a resident of Assagao, a village in Bardez, was rescued and a pimp, Nandini Pawar (26), a native of Jalana in Maharashtra, was arrested for running a prostitution racket,
On July 26, another pimp, Anita Karapurkar (30), was apprehended and two women were rescued from a hotel at Mapusa, North Goa.
While on July 24, three pimps -- Deepak Kumar (25) and Anil Kumar (42) from Uttar Pradesh and Dinesh Sakes (41) from Maharashtra --- were arrested and a commercial sex worker was rescued.
“A concerted effort needs to be launched to crack down on the customers, who create a demand for the illicit sex trade. The demand fuels the traffickers to lure the unsuspecting victims in the trade. Such is the demand that traffickers are willing to arrange flight tickets for commercial sex workers and even prepared to wait it out for them to undergo mandatory quarantine protocols,” Pandey said.
‘It’s a social trend that comes to the fore, especially during natural calamities such as droughts and famines. The Covid-19 outbreak is no exception because the contagion has battered the economy beyond imagination pushing many to enter sex trade to make both ends meet,” he added.