Vimukthi, a collective consisting of survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation based in Andhra Pradesh, have written to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy seeking issuance of ration cards and monetary relief by the state government.
The representation argues that with the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, many of the survivors have been left in the lurch and are unable to fend for themselves.
Explaining the rationale behind the requested support, the collective cites points made by human rights activists working with the United Nations to help safeguard the welfare of millions of children worldwide who may be more exposed to violence, sale, trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"House owners are asking for rent and there are mouths to feed. With almost no source of revenue, it is difficult to safeguard their children who are now at home all the time due to shutdown. These women cannot even benefit from the benevolence of the general public who are coming forward to lend a helping hand to other women (due to stigma)," the letter states.
The Collective also said that the health condition of many of the survivors, especially those suffering from HIV, was deteriorating, due to lack of access to proper healthcare.
"In addition to their woes, they are falling prey to money lenders who lend them money at higher rates of interest, taking advantage of their situation during this lockdown...disasters always lead to distress and lack of economic opportunity and to meet the ends, the young children can be easily lured for commercial sexual exploitation," the letter adds.
In the letter, the collective also points out that Andhra Pradesh is considered a 'supply state' for women and children, as over 266 women were trafficked in 2018, as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, which accounts for a total of 9.7% of India's human trafficking. After examining 567 cases filed between 2015 and 2017, it also said that the state government had a poor conviction rate of 1.2% when it came to punishing the traffickers.
"Women and children from deprived backgrounds are coerced into prostitution by false promises of economic prosperity, marriage, and employment. The flesh trade often leaves these girls addicted to substances, suffering with HIV besides severe psychological scars," the letter states.
Vimukthi suggested that the government should appoint district level committees to implement an earlier Government Order (GO) by the state, which promised free houses and various welfare schemes to prevent children, especially those of sex workers, from being trafficked; and thereby help another generation from falling prey to sexual exploitation.
As of Tuesday, Andhra Pradesh has reported 757 cases of COVID-19, of which 22 people have died and 96 have been discharged, leaving the state with 639 active cases.