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Delhi is sex crime capital of India
Abhimanyu Singh & Sagnik Dutta  NEW DELHI | 18th Mar 2012

City streets are teeming with sex workers after nighfall. | Photos: Abhishek Shukla

t appears 8 p.m. is the deadline for women to head home not just in Gurgaon, but also in Delhi. After a spate of rapes shook the city and its neighbourhoods, this newspaper took stock of Delhi's streets, particularly in Central and South Delhi to find policemen missing, and pimps, prostitutes and men in expensive cars cruising the streets to pick up women, men and eunuchs.

Instances of molestation are not unheard of in these areas, with men misbehaving with women often under the guise of picking up sex-workers. Soliciting is not only confined to desolate stretches and parks, but goes on in posh residential localities.

Moolchand Flyover, Lajpat Nagar, 10.00 p.m.: We spot a middle-aged woman dressed in an orange salwar-kameez standing under a streetlight close to the bus-stop. At first, we move past her, but when we see her continuing to stand there, we come back.

By then, she has moved away towards a car that has stopped on the main road. As the woman stands close to the car and converses with the driver, we see she is accompanied by a man, her pimp, who keeps a calm watch, astride his bicycle, dressed in a striped T-shirt and trousers.

But the woman does not get into the car, which speeds away. An SUV screeches past our taxi and stops right in front. The woman passes by our vehicle and goes to the SUV. A man gets down and starts talking to her. He takes out his phone, presumably to take her number. The SUV leaves after that.

The woman passes by our taxi once again. We call her in our direction but she refuses to come closer. The taxi-driver suggests that it might be because his is a taxi. Apparently, sex-workers do not like to get inside a taxi. A private car suggests affluence and safety, he says.

She continues to walk, a cell-phone clasped tightly to her cheek. It is just to give the impression of being occupied. She is clearly not talking. Our taxi follows her for a while. We call her again, but when she does not respond, we leave. Her pimp follows her on the bicycle throughout.

Katwaria Sarai, 11.00 p.m.: The desolate stretch of bushes opposite Sri Aurobindo Society comes alive around this time with a couple of eunuchs wearing colourful dresses approaching prospective customers.

As we reach the area, our car slows down, and one of the eunuchs dressed in a bright pink salwar kameez, her face sporting an excess of rouge, walks towards our car. She speaks in a nonchalant, practised tone. "The rate for one person is Rs 300," she says brusquely, careful to stand at a distance.Image 2nd

She also specifies what the "rate" is for and the details of her "services". She says that she offers her services in the bushes, and that she was not ready to get into the car. As she stood by our car, she cautioned us to park our car a little further away and come into the bushes at once as there was the risk of police raids at any time.

A young man dressed in formals comes around. The eunuch, who has lost her patience with us, brokers a quick deal with the new arrival and moves inside the bushes.

Another eunuch dressed in a bright white salwar-kameez comes out of the bushes and approaches us. She quotes a rate of Rs 200 per person. As we try to engage her in conversation, she speaks in a professional tone, "I have no time to talk. I can't lower my rates."

She also is approached by a new customer and the two go into the bushes. We drive aimlessly for a while and come back in a bit. The first eunuch has finished her business and is waiting on the pavement. She motions us to follow her into the bushes. The photographer is aiming at her, hidden in the car, to take a picture. She seems to have noticed and goes inside quickly. We follow her but she has simply disappeared without a trace. So has her companion. We wait for them to come out, but leave when they don't.

Outside Jangpura DDA Park, 12.00 a.m.: In a park close to Jangpura, stand a group of eunuchs who look more sophisticated compared to their counterparts in Katwaria Sarai. A couple of them are dressed in short clothes and are heavily made up. We leave the taxi outside and go inside the park. One of them, wearing a short skirt and top, is free. Right next to her, her friend is providing her services to a customer. Some young men are loitering around, trying to strike a deal with them.

The transvestite in the short skirt, Monica, charges Rs 500. While we negotiate with her, another of her friends turns up. Called Naina, she is originally from Kolkata. "I left home many years ago, after my effeminate nature became obvious to my parents," she says. She came to Delhi a few years ago. She has three sisters and two elder brothers. "My eldest sister is married. So are the two brothers. I do not have any contact with any of them. But every once in a while, I go home to meet my ailing mother and stay for a few months with her, caring for her," she adds. Naina does not know what else she can do. "This is all I know. I have to do this to feed myself," she says. She earns around Rs 15,000 a month. She shares a place in Daryaganj with her friends. Her guru also lives with her. "He is old and sick. I take care of him," she says.Image 3rd

The business is difficult. "People do not pay up. Or pay much less. Sometimes, they do not pay at all and say they did not enjoy it. At other times, they pick us up in cars and take us to their places. We find out that we would have to service a group of friends instead of one person as originally planned. But we cannot do anything. We have to do it. They do not pay us extra," complains Naina. Her friend Monica seconds her. "Men behave like bastards," she says.

Suddenly, they flee towards another corner of the park. We turn back to see a security guard approaching. The guard comes closer. He reassures the girls that he would not harm them. Emboldened, Naina sweet-talks him, pinching his cheeks. The guard enjoys her entreaties and seems gratified.

The girls are done talking and want to concentrate on their business. We leave them there, standing on the road, looking for their next customers. The stretch has been rendered completely unusable for the residents of the adjoining colonies because of illegal activities like drug peddling near the DDA park and the presence of lumpen elements because of the soliciting prostitutes.

However, both the police and some RWA members seemed blissfully unaware of the problem. S.S. Hitkari, general secretary, RWA, Jangpura Extension, accepted that it was a notorious area where people earlier assembled to consume liquor and drugs. "However, all that has stopped now," he claimed. He expressed ignorance about the soliciting going on in the park and assured us that he would initiate action.

Near Krishna Market, Lajpat Nagar, 9.15 p.m. next day: A Tata Sumo stops not too far away from the liquor shop. A middle-aged man steps out of the vehicle and gestures to someone on the other end of the street. A few minutes later, two women — one wearing a pair of Capri pants and T-shirt and the other clad in a knee-length skirt and blouse — emerge from the side of the liquor shop. They speak to the man, share a cigarette, enter the car and speed away. In the 20 minutes that we waited at the spot, it was like watching an action replay, only the players changed each time.

"It used to be much worse a few years ago. Women from our homes couldn't step out of the gate after 9 p.m. Now, we have regular police patrolling. It has helped a lot, but I still see these things happening now and then," says a senior citizen from the area.

But even police presence is no deterrence, says a shopkeeper: "Until a few years ago, they also used the lane near the Gurudwara to pick up men. Central Market has many of badly-lit places and it's easier for them to get clients." Residents also talk about the presence of women from East European countries who engage in open solicitation in the area. However, the patrolling policemen vehemently denied any such activities.

While the SHOs of Defence Colony and Jangpura were unavailable for comment, the SHOs of Vasant Vihar and Hauz Khas said that the area near Sri Aurobindo Society did not come under their jurisdiction. The former said that the Vasant Kunj police should be contacted while the latter named Malviya Nagar police as the right authority. Both were again unavailable for comments.

With inputs from Lakshmy Devi Venkiteswaran

 
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