Shankarampet-R (Medak): Sensational arrests of brothel organisers and rescue of sex workers from Japtishivnoor village of Shankarampet-R mandal, located just a few kilo metres away from Ramayampet mandal headquarters a few days ago by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) sleuths have left several questions unanswered.
Though the arrests were long-awaited, an absence of mechanism to rehabilitate the sex workers and to bust the robust flesh-trade inter-linked network which enjoys the support of political establishment raises serious doubts on whether the sincere efforts of the CID may just turn out to be yet another effort gone in vain.
Out of the 65 arrested women alleged to have been involved in sex trade, 10 of them turned out to be minors. A total of 35 women have been lodged in Kandi jail and 20 of them were kept in a home. The 10 minors are believed to have been kept in an undisclosed location.
Sarojini Nagar, the red-light area which was raided by CID officers in filmi style without even informing the local police in advance wouldn’t have been possible, had the information been leaked in advance. It’s been more than 30 years since four families belonging to Dommara community (BC-A) made that area their home.
Traditionally, the people of Dommara community have been nomadic who indulged in stitching mats, raising pigs and performing gymnastic feats in public known as ‘Dommari Aata.’ Just like Joginis, women in Dommara community used to be offered to village elders to give them sexual pleasure after a ceremony. Once the village elder had them, the entire village used to exploit the young girls who may have reached puberty by just then.
“From each family we sacrifice one girl child for sex work. They never get married. But we let other children study and come up in their lives. Whatever we are doing, we are doing it openly in a well-regulated way. They are targeting us for indulging in prostitution, but there are women in the society who have money and live a comfortable life.
They also indulge in sex work but they are spared. Is this fair?” asked Anasuya, one of the sex workers who were not arrested on the eventful night of the raid. According to the locals in Shankarampet-R mandal, Sarojini Nagar is just the tip of the iceberg. Links of this red-light area extend as far as Bhongir, Parigi, Siddipet and several places in Andhra Pradesh and so on.
“Only a few Dommara families live here. They used to be sex workers long back, but they have become sex contractors now. Young girls including minors come here and work here for a few months, share their earnings with these Dommara contractors on a 50/50 basis and they hop on to the next red-light area to avoid getting into the eyes of the police,” said a senior journalist who is well familiar with the area.
Youngsters in the colony are well educated but stay in the colony after education due to the huge cash flows in the sex work business. They guard the area and are notorious to be looting the customers of their money. A few years ago, a police constable was murdered by the people of this colony and his dead body was thrown on the road. Many of the women in the colony have illegitimate children with no fathers in their families.
In 1993, efforts were made by the then District Collector to rehabilitate these families by giving 13 acres of agricultural land to seven families. However, after he was transferred, the land was taken back by the Forest Department which claimed the land belonged to them. People in this community spent lakhs of rupees in levelling the land and installing bore-wells and transformers. The rehabilitation effort eventually failed.
Some 15 years ago, Thupran DSP also tried to encourage the community to give up sex work, but all his assurances went for a toss.
There is no Anganwadi centre in the colony and the only teacher who works in a small Mandal Parishad Primary School in the colony is paid Rs 2,000 salary by this community itself.
There are almost 150 children under the age of 16 living in Sarojini Nagar. A few years ago, Kavitha, a sex worker in this community, wanted to give up sex work and join the mainstream. She was selected for Vidya Volunteer’s position in ZPHS Japtishivnoor. However, the villagers were united in preventing her from taking up teaching as a profession because she was from Dommara community. Stigmatised and victimised yet again, Kavitha went back to sex work.
Today, the women who are sex workers in this community are educating their children in corporate schools and colleges, giving them a good life. Apart from making money by selling their skin, they don’t see any other way to provide their children a better life. “If the government is serious about rehabilitating us, let them educate our children free of cost. Then we don’t have to carry on with this profession. It is only for their future we are doing this,” said Anasuya.
On the night when CID officers raided the red-light area, a female home guard and her sister, a PG student, a security guard working in a private company and even a Class VII student were arrested and taken away. The victims now fear losing their jobs and education. They also fear being labelled as sex workers in the society.
Unfortunately, people in Japtishivnoor and nearby areas feel that the business will once again flourish once the tide sets in. This was evident in The Hans India’s conversation with the sex workers. When asked what they would do if they were not allowed to continue with the sex work business, Prameela, another sex work contractor who was not arrested by CID, said, “If they don’t let us do it here, we will go and do it elsewhere.”