Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Sex racket in Dubai

Two girls from Kerala who escaped from the
clutches of flesh-traders have unearthed organised
gangs involving Keralites luring girls from the
southern Indian state to the UAE with job offers and
then forcing them into prostitution.
The two separate cases have prompted Indian consulate
officials in Dubai to caution Indian women travelling
alone to anywhere in the Gulf on visit visas or
employment visas given to them by unknown parties
should verify the authenticity of the sponsor or
arrange to have a relative or a friend or someone
deemed reliable to receive them upon arrival.
It was always known that there were Keralite girls in
Dubai engaged in prostitution in small discreet, one-
or two-bedroom apartments in places like Deira, Bur
Dubai and Karama. However, it is the first time that
two of them have managed to escape and recounted
stories of how they were brought to the UAE on visit
was — with promises of employment —  and then whisked
away from the airport to virtual bondage and pressed
into the oldest profession against their will.
Rajni, 25, (name changed) from central Kerala, is a
graduate in hotel management. She was working in
Bangalore, but tensions within the family prompted her
to take up what then appeared to be a "chance" offer
of employment in the UAE. She came to Dubai and was
picked up from the airport and driven to what she
learnt later was "the godown" — a place where girls
like her are told that their job is to sexually
entertain "clients."
The process of turning girls like Rajani into
prostitutes is known in the trade as "training" and
involved other Keralite women who are either already
in the trade or arrange "clients" for prostitutes and
take a commission.
Rajni refused, and next thing she knew was she was
raped and severely beaten up. She was locked up in a
room and denied food and water for several days until
she agreed to engage in prostitution.
All her "operators" as well as "clients" were from
Whenever she refused to "co-operate" she was beaten up
and starved. After a few days, she was being moved
from apartment to apartment at three-day or four-day
She was kept under constant watch and was not allowed
to contact her family except on certain days when she
was handed a mobile phone and permitted to speak a few
words of pleasantries and niceties.
It took her more than three months to find a
"sympathetic client" — again, a Keralite — who agreed
to help her.
Rajni managed her escape while she was being moved
from one apartment to another in a taxi. She contacted
the man who promised to help her and she ended up at
a centre run by the Indian Welfare Association from
where she was flown home last week after the consulate
here issued her an outpass (since her passport was
held by her "operator") air passage provided by
well-wishing donors.
Chandni, 30, (name changed) a divorced mother of three
children, came to Dubai to work as a housemaid but on
a visit visa and ended up "entertaining" men.
After several weeks of an ordeal very similar to
Rajni, Chandni, with help from a "client," fled from
her "operator." However, her problems did not end
there. Her "operator" threatened the man who helped
her and took from him 7,000 dirhams in order to
"release" Chandni.
Chandni flew home on Monday.
These two cases are only the tip of an iceberg, by
most accounts.
Sources familiar with the racket say that a dozen or
so men and women are at its helm and they have
"agents" throughout Kerala always on the lookout for
vulnerable women — divorcees, those having serious
family problems, and those in financial crises — in
small villages and towns.
They approach such women with job offers in the Gulf
and the bait is easily swallowed, particularly that
the women are promised that they would be able to sent
home at least Rs15,000 a month.
Once they end up in the flesh trade here, they are
trapped. They cannot break away from from the gangs
and would not want to inform their family of the
reality of the situation — even if they had the
opportunity —  because of the social stigma.
According to the sources, there are several hundred
Keralite women who have been brought here and forces
into prostitution.
"Only a small percentage of them knew beforehand that
they would be working as prostitutes here," said one

As more cases emerge of Keralite women being brought
to Dubai on promises of employment and forced into
prostitution, police sources say they are unable to
act against the culprits in the absence of specific
"We take immediate and stern action whenever a
complaint is filed," said a source. "We cannot act
based on generalities or media reports."
Wherever specifics are brought to their attention, the
immigration authorities conduct raids and detain
suspects on charges of violating immigration laws,
which is a regular feature in most cases, according to
the sources.
In the cases of Rajni and Chandni, complaints were
filed and those involved have been detained pending
An Indian source familiar with the approach of the
immigration authorities revealed several recent cases,
all of them involving only Keralites.
One of them involved a former employee of the defence
department who was engaged in strong-arm tactics. The
man used proxies to procure Keralite girls engaged in
prostitution and keep them as hostages in areas
outside Dubai. Other proxies will then inform the
"operator" of the girls that the issue could be
settled if the man was named as mediator.
The "mediator" then acts on behalf of the operator to
secure the release of the girls on payment of several
thousand dirhams, with no one suspecting him to be the
real culprit. Inevitably, the girls were sent back to
the "operator."
"He continued for some time and made some big money,
but then the authorities caught him on a specific
complaint some eight weeks ago," said the Indian
source. "He was found to have violated immigration
laws and was deported, with a ban on re-entry for one
"However, the authorities found out that the man had
returned carrying a different passport after three
weeks. Apparently he sneaked back through Buraimi (in
Oman on the border of Al Ain, but administered by the
"The man went underground when he suspected that he
was being hunted and spread word that he left the
country, but the authorities know that he is still
around and they are determined to nab him," said the
During a recent raid of an apartment where 10 Russian
and two Indian girls were found engaged in
prostitution, a man who stood guard at the door jumped
down from the fourth-floor and injured himself. The
youth turned out to be the first man's nephew."
In another case, a middle-aged man was found to have
brought his 20-year-old unmarried niece to Dubai and
handed her over to flesh traders. The reason: He was
settling a score with his sister, the girl's mother,
in a dispute over property.
The authorities caught him and deported him on
immigration charges when the girl filed a complaint.
Rates for the girls range from 50 dirhams for a
one-time engagement upwards depending on a
classification of "regulars," "newcomers," "VIP," and
"VVIP" commanding up to 1,000 dirhams for a night.
"The charges are split among several parties, with the
girl getting less than 15 or 10 per cent," according
to the source. "For example, she might get 10 dirhams
from the 50 dirhams a customer paid. If she is lucky,
she might get some tip from the client."
Another case involved a young Keralite girl settled in
Tamil Nadu brought her as employed as an office
executive. Things went well for several weeks before
she was confronted by the Keralite manager who accused
her of being responsible for the company's alleged
loss of tens of thousands of dirhams. She was told she
had to make good the loss or be ready to go to prison
for at least two years. The third alternative:
"Entertain" some of the company's "clients."
Several weeks later, the girl found herself unable to
do anything but to continue to have sex with dozens of
"clients" everyday from a two-bedroom apartment in
Deira. She has by now realised the company, her
employment and the company's losses were all stage
managed into trapping her.
Now she does not want to go back home. "All I want is
to make enough money for me to buy a small house
somewhere far away from my family and settle down
there," she says. "I can't face my family." Shoba (not
real name), 31, a widowed mother of two from a village
near Trichur, recalls that she was brought here three
years ago to work a housemaid. "I was taken to an
apartment in Dubai and told my job was to sleep with
men," she said. "I refused, and they locked me up and
starved me for more than two weeks and regularly beat
me up until I lost my ability to resist and agreed to
whatever they told me to do."
Shoba was rescued by a Keralite customer, who paid her
"operator" 11,000 dirhams for her "release." Prakash
(not real name) married her. Subsequently, he lost his
job and he had no option but to draw from his
experience and that of his wife Shoba to run a
brothel themselves.
However, they swore that they never brought any girl
to the UAE to work as a prostitute.
"We just used our apartment for clients to have sex
with girls, who were sent her as a regular rotation by
other operators with whom we had an understanding,"
said Prakash in a conversation before he and Shoba
left the UAE two months ago. "We used to make 300 to
400 dirhams every day."
For those Malayalis who might take a fancy to any of
the girls and want her as a discreet "keep" and could
afford to pay, the charge for her to be "released"
from the bondage of her "operator" is anywhere upwards
of 15,000 dirhams in cash. Then she, her maintenance
and legal status and whatever else become his


DUBAI: A 23-year-old girl from Kerala who paid a hefty
amount to her friend's mother for what she thought was
an employment visa in the UAE was on her back home on
Tuesday after she escaped from a group of flesh
traders, also from Kerala.
It was the latest case of rescue of Keralite girls
lured to the UAE with job offers and then forced into
prostitution by organised Keralite syndicates. Four
such girls were rescued and sent home in the last
three weeks.
Several more are waiting for immigration clearance for
their temporary outpasses — since their passports were
taken away from them immediately after they landed at
the airport by the persons who brought them here in
the first place.
Reports of the cases have emboldened many who know of
similar others to contact media personnel as well as
the Indian consulate here with appeals for help.
Two of the girls who went back have spoken to
newspapers in Kerala of how they were "recruited" for
jobs with tempting salaries but turned into
prostitutes after they landed here.
The latest escapee, who hails from an impoverished
family from central Kerala, landed in Dubai on Sept.4
and taken to an apartment on the border between Dubai
and Sharjah.
The girl had discontinued a degree course in Kerala
after one year because of financial problems at home
and completed a course in computer applications.
She was contacted by the mother of one of her friends
offering the job of a "computer operator" in the UAE
in return for Rs75,000. Her family somehow raised the
money and paid the woman, who arranged a visit visa
for her and sent her here on a flight from Coimbatore.
Coimbatore is the take-off airport of choice of the
racketeers since immigration officers at Trivandrum,
Calicut and Cochin airports are deemed strict in
verifying the papers of women travelling alone to the
The girl was received by two men at Dubai airport and
taken to a flat situated opposite the sprawling Sahara
Shopping Mall on the line straddling the emirates of
Dubai and Sharjah. There were two other girls in the
flat and in a matter of hours she realised that she
had walked into a trap.
"I did not know what to do after the other girls told
me about their stories of how they ended up as virtual
slaves in custody and forced to become prostitutes,"
she recounted. "They told me how they were beaten up
mercilessly and starved when they refused to entertain
'clients', and kept that way until they agreed to do
whatever was asked of them," she said.
There were two men in the flat who were in charge of
the girls. One of them, named only as Satish, told the
newcomer to be "ready for the interview, but you know
by now what the interview will be."
"I lived in terror for the next two days during which
the other girls in the apartment were replaced," said
the girl. "Men used to come to the flat but someone
Satish or anyone else did not force me into anything."
On the second day, at around 8pm, she and other girl
were asked to dress up to go out. "We were brought
down by Satish and handed over to two men in a car,"
she said. "As the other girl got into the car, I
simply ran the other way thinking that even if I died
it would be better than what as awaiting me if I had
gotten into that car."
"I had no idea where I was running, but kept on going
and I almost bumped into a man who stopped and asked
me in English what the problem was, and I told him,
'please help me I am running away from someone'."
The man, Abdullah, a native of Andhra Pradesh,
appeared to have immediately understood the problem
and he helped her hide in a ditch for some time until
the hunt for her appeared to have died down.
Then Abdullah helped her up and took her to another
area in a taxi. During the ride she told him of her
story in bits and pieces of English, Hindi and Tamil.
She had — in fact that is what saved her — a slip of
paper with a telephone number of a friend of her
father, and Abdullah contacted that number and
checked. The man said he knew the girl and that he was
staying in the UAE with his wife and two children.
Abdullah asked the friend to come and take the girl
but on one condition: He had to bring his wife and
children. The man did and the girl was handed over to
the family.
The next day the girl contacted the Indian consulate
and was issued an outpass since she did not have her
passport (somehow she had the air ticket with the
return coupon in order). The consulate also issued a
letter to the local authorities that helped her clear
immigration procedures without having to produce her