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India turns to prostituttes to help beat trafficking

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India turns to prostitutes to help beat

Fri Jan 11 07:02:55 UTC 2008. By Bappa Majumdar

KOLKATA, India, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Authorities in eastern India

have teamed up with prostitutes as the officials accelerate a drive

against the trafficking of girls into the trade.

It is a rare display of official approval for the efforts of

prostitutes in West Bengal's Sonagachhi area, one of Asia's largest

red-light districts.

In the past year alone a prostitutes' organisation has rescued more

than 550 women and girls from brothels and from traffickers, the

state's social welfare department officials said.

" The state government had no choice but to join hands with the sex

workers as they seem to be doing a better job in tackling

trafficking, " said Samarajit Jana, an official from India's AIDS

control programme, which helps run the project.

Younger girls are usually helped to get back to their home village.

Adults are usually given housing and job training.

" I was kidnapped and forced to entertain old men, but now all that is

past as I am trying to make a new beginning in life, " said Anjali, a

16-year-old girl who was rescued last month by prostitutes from one

of the brothels crammed into Sonagacchi's crowded maze of alleyways.

Anjali is among hundreds of poor girls shifted to one of six new

government-sponsored rescue centres across the state. They learn

embroidery and sewing among other crafts.

This has been possible after the government formed an alliance last

month with the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya (DMSC), an organisation

founded in 1995 that now represents 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal.

DMSC focuses its rescue efforts on minors entering the trade and

those who were deceived into joining it.

" We have realised that we are the most effective weapon against this

social evil that forces minor girls into sex trade, " said Bharati

Dey, a former prostitute, who leads the campaign.

At least 20,000 women and girls are kidnapped and forced into

prostitution in India every year, the government said. Many pass

through West Bengal on their way to Mumbai, Delhi and other cities in

India, as well as the United Arab Emirates, police said.

Most of these girls are from India's northeast and neighbouring

Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, they said.

In India, trafficking and profiting by selling a person for sex is

illegal, but paying for sex with an adult prostitute is not. India's

Ministry of Women and Child Development wants to change the laws to

allow police take stern action against clients, but critics have

stalled the plan.

Prostitutes and groups working with them fear such a move would force

the trade deeper into the shadows.

The DMSC now plans to spread its campaign across the state and

elsewhere in India. (Editing by and Jerry Norton)




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