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Indian probes sex trafficking in UK

Mega Arumugam's project will probe reports on 'slave auctions' of women at British airports.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 14:01 IST

Amidst reports of 'slave auctions' of women at British airports before initiating them into prostitution, an Indian origin student has embarked upon a study to investigate how society and culture influence the process of sex trafficking.

The project of the University of Leicester's Department of Criminology aims to gather information from "the world's most silent and abused women - women who have been exploited by the people they trust".

The study is being led by Mega Arumugam, a doctoral student of Indian origin at the university.

Using a combination of in-depth interviews, the study will investigate the prevalence of 'bride trade' and its link to forced marriage in Britain.

According to Arumugam, "By-products such as forced marriage and bride trade culminate out of certain practices embedded in family and kinship relations within some of Britain's ethnic communities.

"These practices not only condone exploitation and sexualised violence against women, but can actually encourage sexual trafficking of young girls and women."

Her study will highlight the striking parallel between traditional violence stemming out of culturally-condoned exploitation of women and that of sex trafficking, the modern day slavery.

Arumugam said: "Marriage can be an attractive tool for sex traffickers. The legality of marriage often offers a false sense of security that there is no victimisation, coercion or exploitation involved, hence providing a veil for the perpetrators, and could possibly lead to a means of trafficking women across the UK.

"When the process of trafficking begins at a more domestic level - with perpetrators ranging from spouses and partners to parents and other family members, the familial relationship between trafficking agents and victims often leads to barriers in disclosure.

This provides the perpetrators with a coercive tool to use and abuse these women at every step of the trafficking game."

She, however, said practices such as arranged marriage were not exploitative in nature by themselves.

"My identity as a south Indian woman enables me to appreciate that these practices and customs do play a vital role in the preservation of culture and tradition.

As such, I do not denounce the notion of traditional customs such as arranged marriages, but rather wish to make those who abuse the system as the focal point of my research".