While tourist numbers swell in Mysore, thanks to the historic ‘Dasara’, several persons hope to make a good profit by the end of it. Dasara also exposes the dark underbelly of the cultural hub, as ‘flesh trade’, which has grown by three to four fold, caters to the demands and tastes of ‘customers’, who throng the city.
Though human trafficking to the city is a well known fact, use of juveniles in the trade however, has raised concerns. Juveniles are much in ‘demand’ among the customers due to various myths prevalent among the ‘customers’.
Despite best efforts of non-governmental organisations and the police, instances of human trafficking remain rampant, with the culprits behind instances of trafficking rarely put behind bars. Venkatesh N T, President of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Mysore said that young girls who are below 18 years of age, most of the time, if not always, are part of the groups that is being trafficked into the city.
“Though it is hard to assess the number of juveniles forced into flesh trade, who end up in the city, at least five to six in a group of 20 women are juveniles,” he said. Though a few of the women take up employment as 'sex-workers' owing to poor economic conditions at home, the rest are forced into it. The women hail from Nepal, Bangaldesh, West Bengal, parts of North India and even neighbouring States such as Kerala and Maharashtra.
Demand for young boys
However, women are not the only victims of trafficking. Young boys are also being trafficked. These boys are hired against payment to offer sexual service.
Among the problems faced by non-governmental organisations is that all the victims who are rescued in a raid by the police, often tend to lie about their age. “Despite this, CWC hears cases of juveniles forced into flesh trade at least once every three months,” Venkatesh said.
Ashok Kumar T, inspector of Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU), Mysore agreed that the ‘demand for young girls’ are always high. Almost all the girls rescued are between the age of 18 to 25. The older they grow, the lesser their demand, he said.
K V Stanley, founder of Odanadi Seva Trust said that despite the presence of AHTU, human trafficking has not been affected. “The victims who are willfully take up the profession or who are forced into flesh trade evade scrutiny, as they rarely visit the city.
Stanley, who has been working against human trafficking maintained that juveniles being trafficked during Dasara is not a new phenomenon and has been occurring for years.
AHTU sources denied that human trafficking instances peak by three to four fold, as claimed by NGO’s and activists, during Dasara. “In a tourist destination like Mysore, sex-workers of young age are in perennial demand’.
M A Saleem, Commissioner of Police, Mysore said the police are aware that juveniles are being trafficked into the city. “We will co-ordinate with the rural police to prevent such instances during Dasara this year,” he said.