What did you want when you were six? I wanted to read Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda‘, beat my brother at Boggle and I wanted a pet kitten. I thought babies came form the sky and parents would ‘choose’ which baby they wanted; thus loving the baby forever. Such were my thoughts at six — a tiny glimpse into my privileged world. Now, I don’t think every little kid my age was as happy or fortunate as I was; I certainly never expected this.
My friend showed me this news exposé last week (linked to Headlines Today) and I got the wind knocked out of me, just sitting in front of my computer screen. Here’s a quick background report -
- A few reporters noticed a skewed sex-ratio in one of the interior villages of Rajasthan; where the ratio was 23 girls to 19 boys. Far from thinking this is a cause for celebration, this ratio obviously is entirely unnatural as most states of India prefer the Y-chromosome. There are many campaigns and NGOs that try to revert this scale; however we see a clear difference.
- Upon further investigation, we find these villages have been dubbed as the ‘prostitution hubs’ of the state. Apparently, the flesh-trade is a tradition of this village; as most of the people are actively engaged in it. Like the devdasis, this tradition is only the burden of the Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes; call it a residual gift of the caste system, if you will.
- The police and other administrative authorities turn a blind eye towards this because this is a ‘tradition’. Many openly acknowledge that the revenue of the entire village is dependent on women’s bodies.
- This village also has a history of kidnapping girls from all over the country and raising them there. Sometimes, babies as young as six months old are kidnapped and brought to the village. Till about the age of six years old, they are showered with ‘love’, ‘affection’ and even proper nourishment (in fact, boys in this village go malnourished).
- From the age of six to ten, they are pumped with the hormone Oxytocin. Usually this hormone is injected in cattle to make them yield more milk. The same dose is administered to these girls to make them mature faster sexually so they can be sold off in the flesh trade. This hormone is available over-the-counter for less than a rupee.
- Oxytocin is also called as the ‘love hormone’ as it induces feelings of love, lust, trust, affection in these girls.
For the last few months, Greenpeace in India has been rallying to make sure artificial hormones aren’t injected in vegetables as it’s not healthy for the environment and neither does it support the goal of a sustainable future. We signed petitions, wrote letters of protest to the Home Minister, opposing the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill. We don’t support Genetically Engineered (GE) crops but not a word about this blatant abuse?
These girls are as young as my second and third grade students who will learn alphabets only if drawn inside hippo bellies. Only, their days aren’t spent speculating on just what to do with their crayons. They look like they are fifteen, have the sexual maturity of adolescents while they are six-year old mentally. They are smuggled to places like Mumbai, Dubai and Gulf countries. They are sold off as sex-slaves. They send a steady income home till they are 30. If they haven’t contracted any STD’s, AIDS and are still alive, these girls come back home to be married off to pimps and other lowlifes.
They don’t have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, never know just how much fun it is to make bubbles, play with other children their age, never have silly fights, never just be. We make such a fuss about the ‘innocence of children’, read books like Peter Pan and the Little Prince even well into adulthood, reveling in the beauty of the childhood dream. But when faced with this reality, we’d rather turn a blind eye to such mass exploitation.
Prostitution is the oldest trade in the world; that I know. There is nothing wrong with selling one’s body if one has to, if CONSENT is involved. Please note that I’m not condemning sex-workers or the very act of selling one’s body. What is important to see here is the complete and total violation of consent, tainting the very potential of a childhood. Also note, this trade banks exclusively on the bodies of little girls.
Why is it so easy to take away the agency of women’s bodies? Is it because our culture believes the woman’s worth is less than her Y-chromosomed counterparts? Why is the sale of a girl’s body considered a tradition? What gives anyone this right to just take these girls childhood? Have we become this inhuman? If so, I don’t want to be a part of such a world.
P.S. If any one knows of any Human Rights Organizations that can help these girls please contact me here.
(This piece is published in Womanist Musings)