INDIA is source, transit and destination country from women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Bangladeshi and Nepali women are trafficked to India for sexual exploitation.
Among the States in the country, A.P. unfortunately supplies a large number of women and girls for sexual exploitation. In raids conducted across the country in recent years, large number of Telugu girls have been rescued from brothels in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa.
In A.P. there are traditional sex practices/customs involving certain communities such as Devadasis, Jogins, Basavis, Bogums, Dommaras, where girls are exploited for sexual purposes. The Social Welfare Department reviews schemes for the benefit of these communities.
There is the growing problem of prostitution / trafficking within the State. High supply zones in A.P. are Kadiri and Guntakal in Anantapur district; Rayachoti in Cuddapah district; Tirupati and Srikalahasti in Chittoor district; Peddapuram, Rajahmundry in E.G. district Tadepalligudem in W.G. district; chilakaluripeta, mangalagiri, guntur in Guntur dist, Ongole, markapuram, chirala, Inkollu, Materamitla in prakasam dist besides many other places in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
There is a growing problem of prostitution with truck-drivers in dhabas along the National Highway in Coastal A.P.
Commercial sexual exploitation takes place not only among traditional communities and in brothels, but has spread to hotels, lodges, cinema halls, bus/railway stations, parks, highways, massage parlours, etc. While poverty, patriarchal attitudes and low status of girl child are largely responsible for the situation, factors such as large-scale migration and pornograpy in media [Internet cybercafes, Telugu movies] have contributed much to growing sexual exploitation. There are also the factors of dysfunctional home-life; commodification of women because of growing consumerism; etc.
Due to the rise in trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, India has been kept on the Tier 2 Watch List of Govt of USA, which is not a favourable situation for the country. Hence Govt of India has taken up the issue seriously and has been constantly reviewing the subject in the Central Advisory Committee meetings and also by involving International Agencies and NGOs to combat this heinous crime. Recently the Union Home Minister has written a D.O. letter to the Chief Minister on the subject, expressing the need to develop holistic policies to combat this disgraceful crime. He also wanted the police to carry out special drives in vulnerable areas to book traffickers.
One of the major problems is in the implementation of the ITPA. Though in the past victims were arrested more frequently than the traffickers, efforts are now being made to implement the Act in a more victim friendly manner, while targeting the traffickers.
As regards the shelter facilities available for the rescued victims, the quality is not upto the mark, and the staff and officials have to be trained to adequately handle the psychological and medical needs of the rescued women. The DWCD has come up with a Swadhar programme to provide rehabilitation to the trafficked victims. NGOs are being encouraged to take up activities in the area of rescue, relief and rehabilitation.
During Seminars and Workshops held on Trafficking this year, it was felt that a large number of sex workers come from weaker sections and many of them are girls below 18 years. There are also gangs operating in several districts to lure the victims with false promises of jobs/marriages. Proper database on the gangs, their modus operandi and details of high-risk areas, is not available. There has to be a special focus on missing children. There is need also to create toll-free help lines in every district to help distressed women. There is need to conduct a special survey of this problem within A.P. as was done by NHRC in its Action research Study by PM Nair. There is need to share information between districts and States on this growing menace. There is also need to prevent second generation prostitution. Some NGOs have done commendable work in this area.
It is also necessary to learn from some of the progressive steps taken by the Governments of TamilNadu and Maharashtra in this regard. There is need to have close coordination with NGOs, who have emerged as front-runners in the fight against this terrible crime against women and children.
Sensitization of Govt. officials remains a big hurdle; and many departments need to be made aware of the gravity of the trafficking problem, so that special benefits are made available to the rescued victims. One way of sensitizing the officers is showing them the excellent documentaries and IEC materials prepared by H E L P . Bureaucratic approach alone will not solve the problem, and there is need for committed and dynamic officers in this sector.
Linked with the problem of trafficking is the problem of HIV/AIDS. A.P. is one of the leading States in the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
HELP has played a lead roll in promoting network of NGOs in Andhra Pradesh called NATSAP Network Against Trafficking & Sexual exploitation in Andhra Pradesh. Presently HELP is acting as convener of the NATSAP.