SILIGURI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Girls and women trafficked from the poorest states in India and sold for sexual exploitation to brothels in the Indian capital face a sad and horrible life with little hope of escaping, a senior Delhi government official said on Friday.
Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), said she had recently visited the city's red light district of Garstin Bastion Road, popularly known as G.B. Road, where she was shocked by the lack of support given to sex workers.
"Every day, girls and women are being brought there. They are bought and sold there for between 5,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees ($75 to $1,500) depending on whether they are virgins or not," Maliwal told an anti-trafficking event in the eastern town of Siliguri.
"They are forced to sleep with up to 30 men daily. Most of the time, they are not given any money as most of it goes to the pimp. It is extremely sad and cannot be justified in independent India. It's just horrible."
Almost 36 million people are enslaved worldwide -- trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude, says the 2014 Global Slavery Index.
Almost half - 16 million - are in India. Many are from poor rural regions and are lured with the promise good jobs or marriage, but end up sold into domestic work, prostitution, or industries such as brick kilns or textile units.
Maliwal, who was appointed in July as chairperson of the DCW - a government body which focuses on implementing the safeguards provided for women under the constitution - said little had been done in the past to protect trafficked sex workers.
Despite a committee being set up in 2012 to look into anti-trafficking measures and rehabilitation in Delhi, she said, the committee had not met once until October last year when she had pushed for it.
"I really don't understand how the highest levels of the government could do something like that. We had a meeting in October and some good decisions have now come out of it," Maliwal told the gathering of civil society organisations, lawyers, judges and government officials.
"Delhi doesn't have a rehabilitation policy, there is no restoration policy for victims and now after this committee met, we are trying to work on it," she added.
The DCW is also starting a pilot project where it will partner with the private sector and select up to 50 rescued women and girls to provide them with training and jobs as well as set up residential schools for the children of sex workers.
Maliwal said she also found many other problems faced by the 5,000 sex workers residing in G.B. Road which she said could be easily resolved.
Despite an estimated 600,000 condoms being used monthly, none had been distributed by the government for five months due a "technical glitch," she said.
"This is very strange and very sorry. You can imagine that if 600,000 condoms are normally being used there, and then there are none, the kind of infection that might spread. It is almost like an epidemic that we are creating," said Maliwal.
"We have now issued a notice and ensured that condoms are being distributed."
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
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