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Prostitution is killing childhood in northeast, says study By Maitreyee Boruah

Guwahati, May 31 (IANS) All is not well with children in India's northeast. A study conducted by a Guwahati-based NGO along with the police has revealed that a shocking20 percent involved in prostitution in the region are aged between 11 and 17 years.The survey conducted this year by the Global Organisation for Life Development(GOLD) also pointed out that there was a five percent rise in children taking to sex work over last year.Titled "Rise in Child Prostitution in Northeast", the study lists poverty and displacement of population because of violence as prime reasons behind the increase in the number of children as commercial sex workers in the region."It is mostly the children of poor parents who are forced to take to prostitution to earn money for the family," director of GOLD Rajeev Sarma told IANS. The study, spanning three months and released last month, saw field workers interviewing 350 child sex workers throughout the region.

In addition, the report also states that most of the children are victims of acute physical torture. "They are initially raped and flogged almost to death to take up the profession," the report said.Almost half of the child prostitutes were from Assam, followed by Meghalaya,Manipur,Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, said Sarma. Some of the victims were are also sold to brothels in Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad."We have reports that sheikhs from the Middle East are also buying northeastern girls from these brothels. Also, trafficking gangs from Southeast Asian countries are taking a keen interest in the girls because of their Mongoloid features," Sarma said.Experts working in the field believe that prostitution and trafficking are flourishing in the region, as these crimes are invisible in nature.The latest study has come up as a shock for the police force across the region."The demand for child sex workers is rising at an alarming rate in the region and we have to do something drastic," said a senior police officer in Guwahati."Police forces across six states except Sikkim are working in a coordinated manner to ameliorate the situation. We are also involving various NGOs to assist us."Hasina Kharbhih, a team leader of the Meghalaya-based NGO, Impluse, who has been working in this area for many years, said that child prostitution is the immediate result of human trafficking."On an average, 50 cases of human trafficking are registered in the northeast daily and Assam has emerged as a hub for human trafficking and prostitution in the entire region," she says."We have helped more than 500 victims from the region who have been rescued from different parts of country in tracing their actual homes. This clearly shows that trafficking is flourishing in the region. The victims are mainly from poor families who are lured by traffickers in the garb of providing them jobs," Kharbhih told IANS.The region is vulnerable as it shares international borders with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.