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Reaching Out to the Brothel Children

Mumbai is the largest city in India and the epicenter of one of the most populous urban regions in the world. It is a documented “high supply zone’ for women trafficked from  Bangladesh and Nepal, a wealthy but corrupt city that gives human trafficking syndicates a lucrative and steady flow of income and red light districts where the industry can thrive. Here children as young as 9 are bought for up to 60,000 rupees, or US$2,000, at auctions where Arabs bid against Indian men who believe sleeping with a virgin cures gonorrhea and syphilis.

According to an article published in India’s prominent Outlook magazine,

“Every year between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepali girls are trafficked into the filthy red-light areas of our metros. Many of them barely nine or 10 years old. Traumatised children, teenagers and young women who are trapped into the Indian sex trade that already has about 200,000 Nepali girls on offer. Sold by their ignorant, poor parents or hoodwinked into fraudulent marriages or promised employment in towns, these vulnerable, unsuspecting girls are lured out of their remote hilly homes and deprived lives, only to find themselves in Hindustan’s depressingly dingy brothels. Where they’re locked up for days, starved and beaten till they learn how to service up to 25 clients a day. Till they learn how to cope with cigarette butts being stubbed out on their young bodies. Till they learn to live with the festering diseases they earn in their business.”

Some girls go through ‘training’ before being initiated into prostitution, which can include constant exposure to pornographic films, tutorials in how to ‘please’ customers, repeated rapes. (Soma Wadhwa, For Sale Childhood, Outlook, 1998)

About the time this article was published, a university graduate from Philadelphia by the name of Vera Fernandes, who had originally grown up in Mumbai, started making return visits to investigate the plight of such girls. By 2001 she rented a room near the red light district in the center of the city, not far from where she grew up, and dedicated her life to serve the abandoned women and children of the brothels…

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