Cops and pimps:Meerut sex workers cry freedom

Cops and pimps—who’s the bigger pimp? This is the question which we should be asking. India has one of the biggest and elaborate human trafficking network which keeps women in slavery from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bihar, and other poor states.

Meerut sex workers cry freedom
11 Jan 2009

LUCKNOW: As many as 200 sex workers hailing from 20-odd brothels in Meerut have petitioned chief minister Mayawati requesting her to save them from clutches of a racket comprising pimps, police officers and rescue officers. These women are facing life threats after they said no to the racketeers who are forcing them to introduce their own children and minors from rural UP, Rajasthan, Nepal and Bangladesh into prostitution.

Residents of Kabadi Bazar, the red light area under Meerut city police circle, these sex workers want to quit prostitution and lead a normal lie. Many have even put their children in schools. But the pimps and police are demanding huge money for `freedom’. The cost also includes introducing new girls into the profession to compensate for loss. A recent diktat asked sex workers to pay Rs 6,000 each which reportedly would go to police and government officers.

“From the National Commission for Women (NCW) to senior officers in police and district administration, we knocked at all doors but our pleas have gone unheard. Now we hope the chief minister being a woman will come to our rescue,” said 29-year-old Pinki, who is leading these sex workers. After living in hell for 10 years, Pinki married a local, Umesh, last year and decided to join mainstream. But pimps have demanded Rs 12 lakh as `compensation’.

Pinki belongs to Bedia, a denotified tribe found in MP and Rajasthan, which originally was skilled in folk dance and music and rural acrobatics but during British period adopted prostitution for a living. A large number of Bedia sex workers are found in Agra and Meerut. After her parent’s death when she was just 15, Pinki was introduced to bar dancing in Mumbai but after closure of bars she joined her aunt Poonam who runs a brother in Meerut.

After quitting the profession, Pinki married Umesh last year in May. She also put her five-year-old son born out of wedlock in a local school. But dreams crashed within a month when influential flesh traders forced her to go back to brothel and pay hefty amount as compensation. “I don’t `practice’ anymore but have to run the brothel for these devils. I have refused to introduce minors in the profession. Since then they are after my life,” she told TOI.

Pinki was forced to take her son out of school and keep him in hiding after one of her fellow sex workers Radha’s daughter was kidnapped. There are many like Pinki and Radha who are ready to fight. Pooja has put her daughter in a school in Darjeeling. The change came following efforts of some social activists who are encouraging these women to settle down after registered marriage with customers with whom they have been close to.

Kabadi Bazar has 400-odd brothels with over 1,450 active sex workers. Run in congested two-room apartments, accommodating 20 to 30 workers, these brothels are a living hell. A worker has to entertain at least 10 customers daily to earn Rs 100-150 after paying pimps and police. “Many of these women have become our peer educators,” said Atul Sharma, director of social organisation working in the area against child trafficking and HIV/AIDS.

When contacted, Raghuveer Lal, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Meerut, feigned ignorance about the case, although it was reported in the local media. “I don’t have any knowledge,” the officer said cutting short the conversation. Sri Ram Kushwaha, government rescue officer, Meerut, said “Without any inquiry, I cannot comment on the issue. These sex workers are in the habit of lodging false complaints at the behest of their `masters’.

Sex workers have pinned all their hope on chief minister. “We know that she doesn’t have time to read all the mails posted to her but if media will highlight our plight, we are sure she will come to our rescue,” they said.

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