Over the last three decades, Goa’s reputation has been developed as a sex and drugs destination, in the national and international media. Several websites have also been promoting and proffering such services, with Indian domestic tourist topping the list of seekers. While women forums and several other citizens groups have made concerted efforts to shut these down, but the government and other concerned authorities have taken no cognizance of this menace by turning a blind eye to it.
Goan citizens, particularly women’s groups, are once again up in arms against another website that is advising tourists how to ‘find a girl in Goa’. Spiraling into a parallel business of tourism over the last 30 years, the emergence of large scale sex-trafficking in Goa is deeply disturbing phenomena.
A website called Hookup Travels has recently come into the limelight for portraying Goa as a Sex Destination. This website says “Goa dating guide advises how to pick up tourist girls and how to hook up with local women in Goa. Travel, enjoy and have fun with hot single girls and you might even meet the love of your life. Read more on how to date Indian women, where to find sex and how to get laid in Goa.“
A look at the websites like these will indicate countless websites selling sex in Goa, complete with 24-hour cell phone contacts. They are offering college girls, high profile girls and housewives, foreign girls, especially Russians, and with separately hourly rates for each. Even religious places have not been spared with one website using the name of the Basilica of Bom Jesus to sell escorts. The rise of lurid massage parlors is another upsetting trend.
Speaking to the Times of India, Arunendra Pandey of Arz (an anti-trafficking NGO) had pointed out that, “The demand is mainly created by Indian tourists who come in groups without their families. Many young boys and middle-aged men coming from neighboring cities are looking for sexual gratification,” he says adding that, ”From the time, people disembark at Dabolim visitors to Goa are bombarded with casino advertisements featuring attractive women and taglines like ‘feeling lucky?’ It would seem Goa is peddling itself as a state of vice.”
In a report on Express News, UK, Goa attracts over 12,000 British families every year, but this number is overrun by traffickers using to ferry at least a 1000 children and girls into the sex trade.
According to India Today, a report compiled by local NGO Arz, women from as many as 18 states across India, including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are trafficked into Goa’s sex industry, which also encompasses the many shady massage parlors used as a front by the prostitution mafia.
Express News, UK also states that nearly 100 girls on an average are rescued from the former Portuguese colony every year, but ARZ estimates that the number constitutes just 10 percent of the number of girls trafficked into the sex industry through Goa. Statistics according to the source show that in Calangute alone, north Goa’s most popular tourist town, the police rounded up 560 sex touts who were charged with trafficking in 2017.
Fr Maverick Fernandes of the Centre for Responsible Tourism also revealed that tourists often book sex sessions with children through the internet before they arrive on their holiday, knowing that they are less likely to face prosecution than in their home countries. According to an anonymous police source, tourists who are arrested avoid conviction by fleeing the country while on bail.
And the problem continues to worsen, with law enforcement, licensing authorities and traders reliant on tourism such as taxi drivers and hotel workers turning a blind eye to the issue
Workers trying to stem the flow of sex workers have said that the number of girls being trafficked to the idyllic state will only continue to grow unless proper facilities are established offering a viable alternative to the exploitative trade.
According to this source, one person in the business indicated that their ‘hafta’ to the police depends on the size of the operation and how many women we have on the premises.
According to a report in the Times of India, over the last five years or so, over 500 women have been arrested and an equal number rescued. But the actual numbers far outweigh these.
Over the years, the Panjim Goa Women’s Forum and other authorities have made repeated appeals to the concerned authorities, to no avail. On the contrary, the industry seems to be thriving.
They point out that although warning signals were given during the protest against the tourism master plan in 1987, the situation has continued to escalate in Goa due to the lethargic attitude of various government agencies, including the Department of Tourism, Directorate of Women and Child and police over the last 30 years.
Speaking to the Times of India, Director of Arz, Pandey, says, “In other states there In India there is a lot of intervention in the sex trade, but such action is conspicuously absent in Goa, where civil society would prefer not to admit anything is happening in the first place.”
According to this source, the Panjim Goa Women’s Forum (GWF) had requested the mayor and commissioner as well as municipalities from Mapusa, Vasco, Ponda Margao, Bicholim and Curchorem to urgently pass a resolution demanding that the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police do what is required by the law to shut down escort service websites that are openly promoting sex tourism in these towns.
“The situation has reached such proportions that the escort service websites are selling services by offering college girls, housewives and have not even spared religious places,” they said.
“In one of the letters addressed to CCP, the forum pointed out “you will agree if this type of promotion of sex tourism carries on unchecked, it will seriously affect the images and life of residents of Goa. It will also result in criminals using residences and hotel rooms to facilitate the supply of call girls, created by the promotion of these websites
In the past, according to Forum Convenor, Lorna Fernandes had informed that letters to this effect had also been sent to Chancellor of Goa University, SP of police North and South Goa and Director of tourism, but no positive action has been taken by these officials to either shut down or block these websites. In fact, in 2017, the Forum had conducted a week-long Campaign in September against sex tourism in Goa ‘Say No to Sex Tourism in Goa’. The GWF had also urged all the MLAs to prepare an action plan to end sex tourism in the State.
The authorities need to cognizance and on a war-footing, if we are to retain our identity as a premier tourist destination and not one that has degraded it, particularly its women, that only sells drugs and sex.