Indian soldiers help a woman carrying a child on her back during rescue operations in Govindghat in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, after flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains, 23 June 2013. Photo: Danish Siddiqui / REUTERS

By Nita Bhalla
5 July 2013

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women and children who have survived deadly floods in India could now be at risk of being sold as brides or into domestic and sex work by traffickers preying on vulnerable families, aid agencies say.

The floods and landslides, triggered by heavier than normal monsoon rains more than two weeks ago, have killed more than 580 people in Uttarakhand, a popular Hindu pilgrimage destination. At least 3,000 people remain missing.

Aid workers and government officials, struggling to negotiate roads blocked by landslides to get to remote mountain villages, say tens of thousands of people have been hit by the disaster.

In the worst-hit districts of Rudraprayag, Chamoli, and Uttarkashi, homes, crops, and livestock have been washed away by the deluge and hundreds of roads, bridges, and buildings are in need of reconstruction.

"People have lost everything. Their homes and livelihoods have been ruined. Many people who were earning incomes from the religious tourism industry such as in the hotels, shops, restaurants and as porters, will have no jobs now," Debrabrat Patra, Action Aid's regional manager, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Badrinath, part of the disaster zone.

"Trafficking of young girls happens here due to poverty, and families are often coerced into accepting money from traffickers who marry their daughters to older men in other states, rather than pay a large dowry for them. After the floods, this is likely to worsen as people are poorer and more desperate."

South Asia, with India at its centre, is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). [more]

Women, children at risk of trafficking after Uttarakhand floods



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