A recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state and a large hotel association could go a long way in curbing flesh trade in private hotels and lodges, which experts say are slowly replacing traditional brothels. The alumni group of Maharashtra State Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology has agreed to train its hotel staff across India in identifying possible trafficked victims.
India serves as both a supplier and destination for trafficked women and children, with Maharashtra and West Bengal the biggest buyers. In Maharashtra, 7,597 trafficked survivors were rescued in the past three years.
The Maharashtra State Commission For Women will provide training to an estimated 20 lakh hotels all over India under the alumni group, that forms one of the largest network of hotels in the country. “Sex trade needs a location for point of contact. Hotels are usually that point.
If a staff is alert and spot a scared girl who does not produce an identity card or seems to be forced around by some one else, a possible trafficking victim has been identified,” said Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of the women’s commission.
The hotel staff will be trained to remain vigilant of rooms that put ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs for days at stretch, or of girls who are too cautious and exhibit suspicious behaviour while checking in. Several such victims are accompanied by agents. Receptionists will be trained to try and spot if a girl is too dependent on the accompanying person while answering questions.
A mobile application called Rescue Me is also underway to connect hotels with social workers and the nearest police stations. Mumbai has several hot spots for sex trade — Kamathipura has the maximum sex workers followed by Bhiwandi, Borivali, Turbhe and Mira Road. According to activists, social media and other online portals are slowly replacing traditional methods, where clients would simply visit hot spots for services. “The shift to online portals makes tracking of sex trafficking even more difficult,” said Sunitha Krishnan, founder of Prajwala, an anti-trafficking organisation.
According to Sanee Awsermmel, chairman of the alumni group of Maharashtra State Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, staffers will be trained on 50 signs indicative of sex trade, such as request for change of bed linen too frequently, male guest with minor in a room for too long, suspicious requests by guests and of absence of identification proof by girls who check in.