Crippled by Poverty: Kerala Women and The Gulf Prostitution Racket

Crippled by Poverty: Kerala Women and The Gulf Prostitution Racket

Submitted by Subeditor on Tue, 2016-02-02 17:46 Bahrain: Recently, the Middle East media reported the arrest of Kerala-based couple Abdul Naseer and his wife Shajitha Mansoor, who were nabbed in Mumbai by the anti-terror squad in connection with the Bahrain human trafficking case. The couple, who reached Mumbai from Bahrain, was arrested while trying to escape to Chennai. An alert and look out notice had already been issued for the couple at the airport following an intelligence report. The two were taken into custody as soon as they landed from Bahrain. Naseer and his wife, acting as agents in the sordid practice of human trafficking, are not isolated cases. Thousands of women from different parts of India are regularly sent by agents to the GCC as housemaids, beauticians, and tailors. But on setting foot in the new country, they are forced into prostitution.  Take the case of Asha, a woman in her thirties, who arrived in Bahrain on a beautician’s visa offered by an agent in Cochin, Kerala. Sitting in her grimy flat in west Hura, Bahrain, Asha spoke of her nightmarish ordeal to the newspaper Gulf Madhyamam. Her heartbreaking story was published in the paper’s online edition but was later withdrawn for unknown reasons. Asha was promised a well-paid job in Bahrain as a beautician. But it never materialised. On arriving in Bahrain, Asha was handed over to Kerala-based couples, who were managing hundreds of Indian girls trafficked on false promises. The people incharge of the racket seized her travel documents and phones and confined Asha with 18 others in one room in a rundown apartment for four months. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, there were 3,517 incidents relating to human trafficking in India in 2014 compared with 3,422 the previous year. Most involved women, often from very poor backgrounds, who are either seized forcibly or lured into prostitution through deception. Police and activists have begun uncovering illegal operations which smuggle women to countries such as Bahrain and United Arab Emirates. According to officials, agents take the help of airport officials to make the travel hassle free.  Last month, an Air India employee was arrested at Delhi airport for falsifying boarding passes to allow workers to travel overseas illegally. A police officer was also involved in the scam. The seven rescued girls were from Kerala.    Even substantial bribes to officials do not dent profits. There is a lot of money in this business, according to one Bahrain-based activist who works with Indian workers, especially domestic workers in the Gulf. Once in the Gulf, workers have little protection. Running away is not an option. Those who try to question the agents will be handed over to police, who make sure that they land in deportation centre without being deported. Trapped in this cruel dilemma, many succumb to pressure and give in to the agents’ demands. In August last year, authorities in Bahrain arrested four people accused of running a prostitution ring, after members allegedly beat up a Kerala-based woman. The woman was reportedly held in a cell where she was raped and pimped to paying customers. In UAE, a decades-old business — thriving on impoverished Indian women who had been promised jobs in supermarkets or as housemaids and later forced into prostitution — was uncovered by the police in November.