What a Shame!

by Sahadev Komaragiri

It’s a shame that there are millions of children in India who are forced into prostitution. They are severely beaten for refusing to co-operate. Such inhumanity is shamelessly sustained by clients who pay for their services. It is a bigger shame that the rest of India behaves like if nothing is wrong. It is a shame of Himalayan proportions when those in charge of fixing the problem give up saying there is nothing that they can do.

Millions of children and women live in squalid conditions of stench and dirt. It is impossible to comprehend the problems faced by the children living in such uninhabitable conditions. The only source of sustenance for them is prostitution that they are forced into. It is a one way street for them. Once they land in such a profession the society will never accept them back into its fold. For reasons equally incomprehensible, scores of children are born out of such a profession. These children invariably inherit the stigma associated with the profession. A child leaves the house, if one can call it a house, so that the mother can entertain her customer. If it is a boy, he will be a tea boy who arranges for the tea for the customers and eventually aim to be a pimp at best. If it is a girl, the owner waits patiently until she is ready. The cycle continues. Millions of children continue to live in such lousy conditions. These children cannot imagine that life can be different and better.

Can we blame it on our gods and goddesses?

If we examine the root causes of prostitution in India, poverty stands out tall. However, there are other little known causes emanating from several irrational customs and practices.  Take for instance Mathammas in some southern states.  When a girl child falls ill, she is taken to a Mathamma temple. If the child recovers from the illness, she is then dedicated, for the rest of her life, to the Goddess. This dedication makes the child a public property which obligates her to satisfy the needs of the men in the community. Because the child is already dedicated to the Goddess, she can never get married as it may invoke the wrath of the goddess! This dedication eventually leads to prostitution. Since these practices are mostly in remote villages across India, there are no reliable statistics on the extent of the problem. Those who suffer, suffer silently. They offer their prayers to gods hoping for relief. The intervention of gods is very unlikely.

What about the Government?

So what exactly is the government doing to address these problems? In all the national censuses conducted prior to 2001, prostitutes were clubbed with beggars. Things changed with 2001 census when they were categorized as self-employed. Almost all of them would have registered themselves as forced slaves if there were such a category. There are a few laws that were enacted and yet the numbers keep climbing up.

There are laws out there to prevent trafficking of women and children from across the border. Yet hundreds of women and children are trafficked each day across the borders of Nepal and Bangladesh.

In effect the government is doing nothing. Day in and day out these governments fight for their own survival. Can we expect them to do anything?

Will these kids ever get educated?

There is a very high possibility of these kids getting themselves into a trade that is forced upon their mothers. The single most potent weapon to end this cycle of slavery is education. When the kids who live in the red light areas get educated they can lead a life that is significantly different from the life led by their mothers. It’s a shame that there is no sincere attempt to provide education for these millions of children.

Education for the children of sex workers is a complicated problem. To begin with, getting an admission in a school is a nightmare. Cost of education is least of the problems. The schools consider these children as a nuisance value and always find ways to bar them from entering the schools. The tactics employed range from asking for names of both the parents, ever elusive birth certificates, insisting on owning on all the required textbooks and so on. Such pressures in addition to general social stigma eventually lead to dropouts. The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1999 that it would be illegal to ask for names of both the parents for admissions in schools. Illegal? Try the word inhuman if you want, but does it have any effect? Do you still want to talk about Right to Education?

Is there a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for these kids? Can this cycle be broken? Can we do something so that we can feel a little bit less ashamed? What do you think?

In India the poor and the destitute are called daridra naarayan – the poor who are dear to Lord Narayan. The untouchables were addressed as Harijans – the people who are dear to Lord Hari. What about these destitute woman and children who grow up in the red light areas? They are just used by the society and discarded in utter disdain. There are no gods who are ready to own them and take them out of the vicious cycle. Is there anyone out there who can act as a sounding board for these choked voices?

In the next post let us look at some of the few people who are making a difference in the lives of some of these desperate souls…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bidyut January 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Dear Sahadev,

I and my wife has been looking forward to get involved in a project to help such girl children. I had contacted CRY, but no response from CRY the only thing that is quite prominent about CRY is donation.

I would like to sync-up with credible individuals who are transparent, dedicated, result-oriented and farsighted.


sevachallenge2012 February 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Dear Mr.Sahadev,

Is the devadasi and Mathamma still practiced ?.I am reading that in some areas of Karnataka and Andhra it is practiced ?.It was a big shock for me when I read about the little girls given to temples…trafficking could be abolished only with a holistic approach , collaboration with NGOs, media, government and the civil society is required….


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