It was in July that the police said they found 11 minors, including girls as young as five, being raised to be allegedly pushed into commercial sexual exploitation.

Cops snatched our kids Yadadri sex racket accused allege false case foisted on themImage for representation
news Crime Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 16:44

 

33-year-old Laxmi* says that she is in deep anguish. "Both my children have been snatched from me. I raised them with love and only wanted the best for them. Now, they are not even letting me meet them," she says, trying not to break down. Laxmi is one of the accused in the Yadadri sex racket which was uncovered earlier this year by the Rachakonda police in Telangana.

It was in July that the police said they found 11 minors, including girls as young as five, being raised to be allegedly pushed into commercial sexual exploitation. The minors were allegedly administered hormonal injections so they would mature faster. At the time, the police also said that the alleged traffickers picked up minor orphan girls, kept them in the brothel and looked after their welfare until their teenage years, before pushing them into the trade.

However, some of the accused in the case deny the charge and said that while they were not the parents of the children by birth, they were raising the children as their own, after the latter were orphaned.  

Laxmi, along with seven others accused in the case, have filed a petition with the Hyderabad High Court asking authorities to allow them to visit the children, who are now lodged in a home. 

Speaking to TNM, she says that both the children she has been accused of trafficking, were abandoned in her custody by a sex worker with HIV AIDS, when they were infants. She adds that she remembers the incidents that played out in the last week of July clearly.

"There was one woman who was housing a sex worker and a fight broke out. A neighbour then called the authorities on them and the police summoned all of us living in the area. If the allegation was true, we would have run away. We agreed to cooperate with the authorities, and the local police in turn, slapped such serious charges against us," she alleges.   

"They accused us of raising the children for sex work and snatched them away from us. They have separated children from their mothers and have lied and defamed us. Do they even understand our pain?" Laxmi asks.  

While the police have maintained that birth certificates and Aadhaar cards for the minors were created with fake details, the accused claim that the documents were original. 

The petition

“We were born and brought up in this area surrounding the temple town of Yadagirigutta. We belong to the caste of Dommera, which is a nomadic caste that is traditionally used to performing various acrobatic tricks and thus earning our livelihood from the collections at these shows…Being in extreme poverty, many of the women of our community were sexually exploited by the upper caste and the wealthy men of the temple town. Over the years, the women who were subjected to sexual abuse were put to sex work and gradually it became a mainstay of some of the women of the Dommera caste,” the petition states. 

"Power structures were also at play because we were scared to refuse an upper caste man, as they could potentially ruin our lives. So, most of us agreed. Things have changed now though," Laxmi explains. 

The petitioners stated that in the last two decades, HIV/AIDS spread among the men and women in their families and several of them were witness to their mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers falling prey to the dreaded disease.

“Children became orphaned and our poverty and destitution only deepened. The government often promised us rehabilitation in terms of land and employment but none of these polices got implemented sincerely. Finally, the fear of the disease acted as a deterrent to the elders in our families and the occupation of sex work got reduced considerably among our families,” the petition adds.

The petitioners claimed that many of them had begun taking up an alternative source of livelihood, whether it was working at restaurants or selling flowers and coconuts, with some even taking up tailoring.

“It has also been our resolve to not put our children into prostitution and to educate them to the best of our ability. The transition into respectability has not been easy as we have been identified as prostitutes and have been forced to carry all the stigmas associated with sex work. Even if we have forsaken this activity, we are routinely abused and humiliated by the locals and occasionally cases are registered against us by the local police. Often, it has been a vicious cycle from which there appears no escape,” the petitioners said.

So far, the authorities have arrested around 26 women and sent 33 children to shelter homes in the state, the petition states.

“Within no time, our entire lives collapsed in front of our eyes,” the petitioners said, adding, “In our families, because of the deaths of our sisters, several children became orphaned. In the case of such an orphaned child, the healthy relative in the family would take the child in her custody and begin to care for the child. It is in such circumstances that we cared not only for our children but also other women’s children. We were not able to provide the children with quality education but we sent them to the nearby government school. However, it has not been easy to explain the circumstances to people in the mainstream and we thereby became vulnerable to charges of trafficking children,” it adds.

The petition also details how each of the accused women were related to the children in question.

Police case

Meanwhile, the police, who had conducted medical tests on the children to ascertain the chemicals allegedly being administered to them, say that they are yet to see the results of the tests.

“Investigation is ongoing. The court has sought for a speedy trial and is even mulling to fast-track the process. As far as the medical test results are concerned, they are with the court. We have applied for a copy. Once we get that, we will act swiftly and wrap up investigation as quickly as possible,” Bhongir DCP E Ramachandra Reddy told TNM.

“The children’s statements were also recorded, but it is under sealed covers. The police are saying that they will conclude the case within two months, but in the meantime, the women continue to suffer,” says advocate Vasudha Nagaraj, who is representing the accused in the case.

"We have been living here for 80 years now. I used to be a sex worker. A decade or so, we had no other option, but today we are tired. We have all been looking at alternate means of livelihood and we want the menace to end with our generation. We are sincere about getting are children educated and ensuring that they have a better future, but the state is not letting us shed the past," says Laxmi, who works as a labourer and also volunteers for an NGO working on social issues in the town.  

“I don’t want people to call them orphans. They should also know that we are with them. Even if they are made to study and we are allowed to visit them once a week, we will be more than happy. We are trying to lead a life of dignity and we only wish the best for our children,” she adds.  

 

*Name changed.

 

 


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