Alappuzha (Kerala), June 28: Tourism in the backwaters of Kerala is not as hunky-dory as it seems. It is easy to forget everything amidst the beauty of the greeneries, but what lies within is rather not revealed. A recent report published by the Deccan Chronicle reveals how Kerala has become a den for sex tourism, gradually taking the form of a racket. The entire story revolves around the much-acclaimed and sought-after houseboats in the backwaters of the state, that has become a lurking spot for the paedophiles and sex mongers.
Who is running this racket?
Three women-Jessy, Zeenath and Shehna, who operate an entire gang here. As investigation conducted by the Deccan Chronicle revealed, the three depend on a 'youth brigade' for their 'worthy' catches. This brigade comprises young boys, who can be easily spotted loitering in front of schools and colleges. Their responsibilities include luring young girls in a love trap and handing them over to their bosses.
The trio then negotiate with customers, depending on their 'urgency' and their nationality. As per trend, the youngest of the lot are sold at very high prices since they are considered to be 'disease-free'. Agencies operating within the racket, hence, charge more for such deals and pocket 50% of the amount as commissions. "The three are experienced hands in the industry with influential connections.
Zeenath is the top gun and has bought lands in several areas near town," reveals a sex worker, indicating that the industry has a lot of money.
A study titled 'Trafficking in Women and Children in India' was conducted in 2006 by the New Delhi based Institute of Social Sciences and sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission, revealed that Alappuzha reported the highest number of child sex incidents; so much so that it has toppled Goa.
While national and international tourists form a major part of the clientele, there are top executives too, who come here for some 'fun'. They hire a houseboat in the backwaters because there is no interference from any quarter. Arabs too form a large part of the customer base as they mean "quick money", chipped the sex worker.
In a recent incident, a 20-year-old woman was lured by one of the 'youth brigade' into the racket, said the report. She was sold to an Arab for three days by Jessy for a sum of Rs 45,000. Zeenath and Shehna helped Jessy in transporting her to the Arab in a car. The deal was to divide Rs 35,000 among themselves and give this girl Rs 10,000.
However, things took a reverse turn when this girl from Adoor in Pathanamthitta district tried to escape, a day later, unable to bear her tormentor any more. "It is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of women are supplied to tourists on houseboats this way ," the sex worker said.
Interestingly, this industry is not run by unsuspected victims only. There are others who choose the profession for quick pocket money. A total of 1860 such sex workers have been spotted who, mostly, hail from villages or broken families. Some, however, are drawn by the luxury that the industry brings.
Despite reports and complaints by social activists fighting the rights of women and children, the state administration seems to turn a deaf ear. Whether it is a conscious effort to let the 'show' go on is a question that remains unanswered. Economic pundits, are however, concerned with another issue altogether. Being one of the biggest contributors in the Indian economy with a GDP of 1,025,080, Kerala might not be the most 'sought-after' destination anymore.