She's 10 and May Be Sold to a Brothel
M. is an ebullient girl, age 10, who ranks near the top of her fourth-grade class and dreams of being a doctor. Yet she, like all of India, is at a turning point, and it looks as if her family may instead sell her to a brothel.
Her mother is a prostitute here in Kolkata, the city better known to the world as Calcutta. Ruchira Gupta, who runs an organization called Apne Aap that fights human trafficking, estimates that 90 percent of the daughters of Indian prostitutes end up in the sex trade as well. And M. has the extra burden that she belongs to a subcaste whose girls are often expected to become prostitutes.
M. seemed poised to escape this fate with the help of one of my heroes, Urmi Basu, a social worker who in 2000 started the New Light shelter program for prostitutes and their children.
M., with her winning personality and keen mind, began to bloom with the help of New Light. Both her parents are illiterate, but she learned English and earned excellent grades in an English-language school for middle-class children outside the red-light district. I’m concealing her identity to protect her from gibes from schoolmates.
Unfortunately, brains and personality aren’t always enough, and India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.
If M. is sold to a brothel, she will have no defense against H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions about using a condom are made by the customer or the brothel owner, not by the girl. In one brothel I slipped into to conduct some interviews, there was not a single condom available.
The police make more effort to help girls like M. than they did a few years ago, and in a column a week ago I described a police raid on a brothel and the rescue of girls inside ages 5, 10 and 15. Yet the police force’s progress is uneven, with one prostitute explaining why brothels hide young girls from police: “Because when the police come through, they confiscate the very young girls, and then the brothel owners have to pay a bribe to get the girls back from the police.”
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this is heartbreaking.
HIV guidelines to help homosexuals, trans-gender people
Homosexual men and trans-gender people should get equal access to HIV/AIDS programmes under the World Health Organisation’s first guidelines aimed at ending stigma that denies quality care to many, the U.N. agency said on Tuesday.
WHO also reported evidence of HIV infections surging again among men who have sex with men and people who change their gender, particularly in Western countries. The two groups are already hard hit by the AIDS epidemic that began 30 years ago.
“This is the first time that WHO, as a U.N. agency together with other partners, is putting this forward. It is sensitive but is right to the point and is really critical for the epidemic,” Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV/AIDS department at the WHO, told a news briefing.