Where are the young women disappearing?

Sep 23, 2011, 08:30 IST | Shiva Devnath

With the number of complaints lodged for missing women in the age group of 18-30 years having shot up from 113 to 232 this year, cops and social workers are examining the modus operandi of pimps and traffickers

With the number of complaints lodged for missing women in the age group of 18-30 years having shot up from 113 to 232 this year, cops and social workers are examining the modus operandi of pimps and traffickers

With the number of missing complaints lodged for girls in the age-group 18-30 years having risen by an alarming 119 cases by August this year, cops and social workers are trying to diagnose the reasons behind the sudden escalation. 

Studies have revealed that a majority of the girls in this age group that go missing are usually lured to distant locations on false pretexts after which they are pushed into prostitution rackets. Most of these girls are victimised when most vulnerable, on the brink of being forced into marriages that they aren't ready for. Others are gulled into believing that they will be living lives of luxury and glamour, if they abscond or elope with their partners, who take advantage of their naivete and end up prostituting them. 

In a majority of cases, these investigations yield that the missing girls were duped by placement agencies, which they contacted in order to strike it rich.

Girl eloped
In other cases, sleuths discovered that the girl eloped with a partner of her choice, fearing the family's disapproval. In many cases, it is seen that the boyfriends, or the placement agents eventually thrust the girls into the flesh trade, sending them abroad with job visas on false pretexts.

According to a police officials who have been directly involved with a number of such investigations, "Whenever a family approaches us with a missing complaint, we first investigate if the girl has fled or not, especially in the absence of ransom calls. Most of these families belong to the lower-middle classes, which would not be targeted by kidnappers, normally. However, families are often reluctant to accept the truth, as a result of which we carry out parallel investigations."

Talking to MiD DAY on the condition of anonymity, an officer from the missing person's bureau revealed, "There have been a number of cases in which girls were trafficked to places like Netherlands, Dubai, Nepal, Europe and even USA. They are usually trafficked abroad on fake passports, and then absorbed into the flesh trade. They are gulled into believing that they will strike it rich abroad, and often go to great lengths to acquire fake marriage certificates and other sham documents. Once they land abroad, they have no option but to submit."

Triveni Acharya of the Rescue Foundation, an organisation that works to rehabilitate victims of trafficking, said, "Most of the girls in the age group 18-30 years who go missing are victims of trafficking. Once trafficked, they find it impossible to return home, as their documents are fake. They often unsuspectingly marry their agents, without realising that they are being duped into joining the flesh trade."

She added, "There have been cases of girls in the same age group being taken to places like Goa and Bangalore, and forced into prostitution thereafter. Some victims, who succeed in breaking free from captivity, come to us for help, and we shelter them. Many of these girls are vulnerable and willingly run away
from home, as their parents want to force them into arranged marriages, against their wishes."

Shocking figures
Since 2008, the gradually escalating number of missing girls in the age group of 18-30 years tells a shocking story. In 2008, 78 girls went missing. The figure jumped to 162 in 2009. While matters seemed to have been reined in with 113 cases in 2010, they shot up to an alarming 232 by August this year.

Case studies
>> This August, a 25 year-old Sarita, (name changed) was working as a domestic help in a Malabar Hills apartment. She was befriended by another maid, who took her to Pune, promising her a lucrative job. The latter however sold her in Pune's red-light district. She was recently rescued by the Pune police, and handed over to the Rescue Foundation forrehabilitation. 

>> Back in 2008, 19-year-old Manju (name changed) was desperate for a profitable job, and was referred to an agent by a friend. The agent arranged for her passport, and she was sent off to the Netherlands, where she was thrust into prostitution. She was rescued just two months back, and flown back to India last Saturday. She is presently undergoing counselling and rehabilitation.

>> A year back, Reay Road resident Sharmila (22) married a local, who sold her to a pimp in Pune. Workers of an NGO recently rescued her.

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