The younger the girl better. Such seems to be the sexual preferences of South Asian men. That urge has inevitably led to more trafficking in younger women and trafficking syndicates target them in places like Nepal, Bangladesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh (in southern India) says Gary Lewis, South Asia head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Wednesday.
Nepal and other places mentioned are known trafficking hotspots.
A horrific consequence of quest for younger girls is that more and more of them are afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
In 1980s, girls between 14-16 were preferred, then the age in 1990s went down to 10-14 and now it is even less than 10 years. "I have come across cases where even five year-old girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation," Lewis said, but adding that such cases were not very rampant.
Well it is not so much a perverse desire for child sex as a growing fear of catching sexually transmitted diseases from older women.
Also many seem to believe that having sex with younger women is a cure for many diseases.
What most of these girls get in return at a tender age is the dreaded HIV/AIDS. Study of trafficked women in Nepal showed that 60 per cent of positive HIV cases were of girls below the age of 15. And, all of them had got the disease from their male clients going for unprotected sex because the kids are not in a position to protest. It showed, Lewis said, lower the age higher the risk of HIV/AIDS.
For these HIV positive girls, life has been cut short. Maru, one such victim of sexual exploitation after being trafficked, died recently in a rehabilitation home in Hyderabad.
Lewis said trafficking in south Asia is a most organized crime and third most profit earner after weapon smuggling and drugs. "It is worth billion of dollars," he said. To have an organized effort against trafficking, UNODC will launch a unique programme next week called UN Gift. "Corporate, civil society and government will join hands to check growing trafficking in south Asia," he said.