Knot is not sure way to quell prostitution

A community service organisation in Gujarat faces grave threats after it embarked a year ago to oppose the traditional social drawback of prostitution.

It held a mass marriage last year to lure the girls away from the profession but people described as pimps are holding out threats to them for holding a similar ceremony this year.  

The families of Sarania community in Vadia village in Sabarkantha district in north Gujarat are now facing the heat for holding the mass marriage, challenging the villagers’ age-old practice of pushing their daughters into prostitution.

“Until last year, no one had taken the effort to disengage the community from its age old trade very seriously,” says Mittal Patel from Vicharta Samuday Smarthan Manch (VSSM), the organisation that has been working with the community since 2005.

“But the trouble started the moment we organised the first (mass) marriage that immediately threatened institutionalised prostitution in the area and now the pimps are up in arms against us and are threatening the community, which too is steadily moving towards a fresh start of life,” she adds.

As far back as 1963, the state government had given the community 208 acres of barren land to cultivate, so that they could give up dependence on prostitution. Sporadic half-hearted government measures were ineffective and the people of the village kept up the traditional trade in an unorganised fashion.

In the late 1990s, sensing the money and opportunity, some outsiders moved in. “It was largely the outsiders who gave it an organised structure and started supplying the girls to clients far and wide,” Mittal Patel says. Last year’s mass marriage, depleted the number of girls in the trade, and the pimps suffered a major jolt.

“They issued threats even before we organised the marriage last year, but as there was tremendous media presence, they could not do much,” says Sharda Bhati, an activist from that area. “However this year when we got some more girls ready for marriage, they (the pimps) have now gotten desperate and are issuing threats,” she adds.

Abduction threat

“I got a threatening call this (Monday) morning as well and they have asked me if I venture into the village, or try to get these girls married, they’ll abduct my daughter,” she adds. She has lodged a complaint with the police in this regard.

“The pimps have now got real desperate and would not even stop at killing us if need be,” says Babu Sarania from Vadia. Babu belongs to one of those families who are now refusing to push their daughters into the trade.

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