Red-light area razed in Goa, sex industry and trafficking takes new look

From massage parlours to fishing trawlers, highways to starred hotels, migrants to Goan girls, after the tearing down of Baina's red light area, trafficking in Goa has undergone a sea change


* In the last three raids on massage parlours in Porvorim, Mapusa and Arpora, police rescued four Goans. The girls had joined the parlours for "better pay" and "a better future".


* Sudha, 16, a school dropout from Sanvordem wanted fancy mobiles, money to spend on clothes, food and friends. Traffickers would lure her with the promise of a mobile phone every night for serveral months. She was later rescued from a hotel in Margao and the traffickers arrested.


* Three young girlsa Kannadiga, Manipuri and Goanwere recently rescued from a massage parlour in Vagator. They were lured with the promise of "good money" and "promotion" after a year. The promotion included training in beauty treatment and a near doubling of salary to between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000.


Five years after bulldozers razed Baina's red light area in the state's port town of Vasco, the mode and form of trafficking has changed.


Baina's dingy rooms have given way to fancy cubicles in massage parlours and air-conditioned rooms in starred hotels. Taxi drivers and motorcycle pilots as contact points have made way for waiters, chai boys and beach hawkers. The modus operandi too has adapted to the needs of the solicitors and the solicited.


Perhaps the biggest change, however, point out police and NGO sources, are the finding of local girls among those rescued.


"Goan girls are being lured, often by Goan women, with the promise of easy money and the belief that they can lead a comfortable life with less hardwork," says Auda Viegas, president, Bailancho Ekvott and member of the State Protective Home that looks after rescued trafficking victims.


With the contact point shifting from the cramped lanes in Baina to just about everywhere: beaches, parlours, hotels, lodges, bars, restaurants, streets, markets, even fishing trawlers, the modus operandi nowadays is to pre-arrange a meeting point for the customer and the girl. Alternatively, women are also sent to certain areas to directly solicit, finds a study by Baina-based NGO, Arz.


The 2007-08 study, whose findings will be released soon, focused on Goa's prostitution phenomenon after the demolition of Baina and the closure of dance bars in Mumbai. Information was collected by talking to sex workers, pimps, legislators, government authorities, hoteliers etc. The study reports that nowadays, it is not uncommon to find girls, including foreigners, soliciting on beaches, bars, restaurants, shacks and even at tourist bazaars.


Another common meeting point are night clubs where couple entry is the rule. Some girls solicit around major crossroads, traffic circles, junctions, gardens and bus stands. In Margao, Colva and other parts of Salcete taluka, women are seen soliciting on the roads, municipal garden and bus stands. Most are migrants settled in Goa, reports the study.


"After the demolition in Baina, prostitution has spread all over the state," says Dr Pramod Salgaonkar, chairperson, Goa State Commission for Women. "While middle-budget prostitution is flourishing in the tourist belt in the form of massage parlours, prostitution along highways, hotels and houses is also on the increase," she adds.


Arun Pandey of Arz, says, "The Baina demolition has led to an escalation in highway prostitution, prostitution in isolated places like jungles and prostitution in vehicles (private four wheelers)."


"There is an increased vulnerability of women and children in prostitution to forced sex acts and rapes. Clients would not be able to film prostituted women and children or have group sex in a brothel. Now this is possible," he adds.


Goa police's public information officer SP AV Deshpande calls it "old wine in a new bottle". "The business is the same. But girls are now better educated and pimps are using the latest technology to operate and attract high paying clients. The business has become more sophisticated." Moreover, new destination points for trafficking in Goa and in neighboring states have developed, he says.


As for local girls entering the trade, Dr Pramod Salgaonkar shrugs off the matter, "There are few Goan girls who are misguided and pushed into prostitution. But the number is minuscule."


Auda Viegas, emphasizes, "We have to get out of denial mode and accept that in the changing scenario our Goan girls are also being lured into commercial sex work and in most cases by Goan women. It's the lure of easy money and a false belief that it's an easy life."


TNN / 10 June 2009