Controversy over Commonwealth

Games marred by child labour and prostitution

By: Bianca Brais

Young children are being used for child labour and trafficking and thousands of women have been hired by escort agencies for the Commonwealth Games, which began on Monday in North East India.

Dehli, Mumbai (Bombay) and Calcutta are some of the few major Indian cities where girls are brought year-round from all parts of India as well as other South Asian countries. Harvard graduate and trafficking expert, Siddharth Kara, told Becky Anderson, a CNN reporter, that child labour is a widespread and well-known issue in New Delhi.

“We are indeed very worried for our girls because so many of them have been recruited for escort services. They have been lured by good money and future jobs,” Hasina Kharbih, chairperson of Impulse NGO Network, said. The association is a rights group that rescues women trafficked from North Eastern states.

Over 40,000 women have been hired from seven states, each promised a profitably salary. Impulse NGO Network explained to BBC News that they fear that girls will be pushed into prostitution.

The North East Support Centre and Helpline, a Delhi-based NGO, said girls from the North East were often enlisted to operate stalls at international trade fairs. “Some of the fresh recruitment could be for legitimate Games events, but some may be for escort services,” Madhu Chander of the Helpline told the BBC.

“We are extremely concerned at reports that many North East girls [have been] lured by dubious placement agencies for the Games. We fear they may fall into wrong hands,” he added.

Recent police investigations in some North Eastern states have indicated that more than 15,000 girls and young women have gone missing over the past decade.

“Indian officials struggle to deal with mounting international criticism toward the safety and security of Commonwealth Game athletes, new evidence has emerged that show children as young as seven are being used in the construction of game venues,” CNN reported.

“I reliably documented in just a few days 32 cases of forced labour and 14 cases of child labour all for construction related to the Commonwealth Games,” Kara said on Connect the World.

The children are forced to work under hard conditions for several hours. They were forced to pick hammers, pave entryways, and plant grass along the road. “The conditions are sub-human and that’s really the only word I can apply,” Kara said.

“The children, especially the young ones, don’t have a sense of what’s going on. They’re told to do the work and they just do the work. They don’t know that they should be in school or that they should be playing,” he added.

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