In a bid to stop adolescent and teenage girls from entering prostitution, a sex workers’ organization is using X-Ray test as a tool to determine the age of the girls who are about to join flesh trade.
The idea of using X-ray to stop underage girls from getting into the trade is being conducted across West Bengal by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a sex workers’ organisation with around 1.30 lakh members.
"We don’t want teenagers and adolescent girls to enter this trade. But at times agents, and even parents of poor families, try to present underage girls as above 18 years," said Mahashweta, a senior official of Durbar.
"We first ask them if they are above 18. Most of the time they lie. By looking at a 16-year-old girl, it is really tough to say whether she is 16 or 18. So we conduct an X-ray test to determine their real age," Maheshweta said.
"By conducting an X-Ray of wrist and waist, the age of a woman can be easily determined. It is the easiest way and has been in practice in western nations to prevent underage girls from entering flesh trade," said Samarjit Jana, principal of Sonagachi Research and Training Institute (SRTI), an NGO which works with Durbar.
"This procedure is yet to be widely adopted in India. We hope that this Bengal model will show the way to others in days to come," Jana said.
Asia’s largest red light zone, Sonagachi in the city, is the first to roll out such an initiative.
Durbar officials said they have started a campaign, with the help of state government, against adolescent girls being pushed into sex trade.
Besides Kolkata, the campaign has gained momentum in districts like Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Malda, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad, where flesh trade and women trafficking are rampant.
"When we see a new teenaged girl in the trade, we question her. We ask her age, whether she has come on her own, whether she knows what she will be asked to do, etc," another Durbar official said.
"If it is proved after the queries that she has been forced into it, we send her to government homes or to her parents. But in all cases we put them through X-Ray test," the official said adding hundreds of adolescent girls have been saved by the X-Ray test.
To make the process more effective, a self regulatory board has been set up in Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, and some other bordering areas, with a public representative heading it.
The board has two sex workers, the chief district medical officer, a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker.