Sex tourism flourishing in Kerala house boats; youths lure college girls into racket

sex tourism Kerala.jpg

 
Alappuzha, Kerala: It’s the dark side of tourism, operating in clandestine nooks of lakes where the houseboats are stationed and in tourist spots where paedophiles lurk to satisfy their unholy lust.
 
A spurt in tourism , so important for the state's economy,  has brought with it both foreign and domestic tourists looking to enjoy sexual encounters with local women and sometimes even children.
 
The queens of this lucrative sex trade in this houseboats capital are three women - Jessy, Zeenath and Shehna, Deccan Chronicle discovered in a week-long investigation.
 
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.
 
The trio depends on a ‘youth brigade’ to lure young girls into the trade, she says.  “We often see the boys in the brigade in front of colleges. They are experts at winning the hearts of the girls and then dragging them into the racket,” the woman adds.
 
Only a couple of weeks ago a young girl was supplied to an Arab tourist on a houseboat this way, according to her.
 
"It was her first sexual encounter. The 20-year-old girl from Adoor in Pathanamthitta district was taken by Jessy, an agent living in a rented house in Edathva here, to the Arab tourist for three days for a sum of Rs 45,000 with the help of Zeenath and Shehna. 
 

 
“She was taken by car to the houseboat, but a day later the girl escaped unable to bear the relentless encounter with the tourist,” says the sex worker, adding that the girl is very depressed and  now in Zeenath's custody. “She  was given just Rs 10,000 and the rest was distributed among the trio. It is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of women are supplied to tourists on houseboats this way ,” she says.
 
The young girls are more in demand as they are seen as disease-free by tourists, according to others in the trade. The agents therefore charge double for supplying them, pocketing 50 per cent of the amount as commission. The younger the better for some as Alappuzha appears to have become a hunting ground for paedophiles as well.
 
A 2006 a study titled 'Trafficking in Women and Children in India', conducted by the New Delhi based Institute of Social Sciences and sponsored by National Human Rights Commission  last year  found that Alappuzha was a  hotspot for child sex and Kerala had overtaken Goa in exploiting children.
 
Most tourists looking for some 'fun' on the side  are top  executives who come in search of houseboat and backwater tourism as it is thought to be  safe with  no interference from outside and the police.
 
While most girls are unsuspectingly lured into the trade, some college students see it as a way of making pocket money. “We have identified 1860  sex workers in the district.  Some  college girls take to the trade to  earn pocket money and  lead a luxurious life.  A few are from broken families. Many have come from  villages,” he says. Although effort is made to register these   young workers, most shun any kind of effort to reform them, he regrets.
 
And although studies like the one carried out by the likes of the Institute of Social Sciences have brought the thriving sex racket of Kerala to light,  nothing has  changed, even where exploitation of young children is concerned, with enforcement agencies appearing to wear blinkers where the problem is concerned. Activists working to fight the trade, wonder when they will wake up to the fact that  their apathy is only fueling its rise. 

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