Child brides sold into sex slavery, domestic work, say Indian officials

The number of girls getting married in India has fallen by nearly half in the past decade, but 27 percent of all brides are still below age 18, according to UNICEF. (Reuters)
Updated 01 May 2018
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Child brides sold into sex slavery, domestic work, say Indian officials

  • Discrimination against girls remains widespread, particularly in rural and poor communities where parents often view daughters as financial burdens and continue to marry them off early
  • Campaigners say it is difficult to convince many people that the tradition of child marriage is wrong

MUMBAI: Girls are being trafficked into domestic servitude or sex slavery after their parents illegally marry them off, said officials in the Indian state of Maharashtra on Tuesday.
Researchers are conducting the state’s first survey into links between child marriage and slavery, according to Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of Maharashtra’s women’s commission.
The legal age of marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men. Parents face a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,535) and two years in prison if they are caught trying to marry off their underage children.
But discrimination against girls remains widespread, particularly in rural and poor communities where parents often view daughters as financial burdens and continue to marry them off early.
“Many of these marriages do not last, and we have now seen cases where there are direct and indirect linkages to trafficking,” Rahatkar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Rahatkar said her commission decided to carry out the survey after receiving reports of child brides enslaved in households and sold into brothels.
After one such report, authorities rescued a girl who had been married off and then forced to work without wages on a farm, where she was abused and tied up so she did not run away.
The findings of the survey, currently underway in districts that report high rates of child marriage, will be shared with various state governments, said Rahatkar.
There has been a “complete vacuum in the research space on trafficking and child marriage,” said Adrian Phillips of the anti-trafficking group Justice and Care.
The research is expected to provide data that will expose connections between the two crimes, said Phillips, whose group has partnered with the women’s commission to conduct the survey.
The number of girls getting married in India has fallen by nearly half in the past decade, the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said in March. But 27 percent of all brides are still below age 18, according to UNICEF.
Campaigners say it is difficult to convince many people that the tradition of child marriage is wrong.
“They believe there is no ill in the practice, as it has been going on for years,” said Nirmal Gorana, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour.
“When parents marry their girls young, it is also to ensure they do not stake any claim on the parent’s property,” he added.


Nearly four in 10 US HIV infections from people unaware of infection

This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes AIDS. (AP)
Updated 9 min 19 sec ago
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Nearly four in 10 US HIV infections from people unaware of infection

  • The Trump administration has said it will invest $291 million in the next financial year to fight HIV/AIDS, which has plateaued since 2013 to around 39,000 annual transmissions

WASHINGTON: Almost 40 percent of new HIV cases in the US occur because people do not know they are infected, while a similar proportion know but are not in treatment, according to a study released Monday.
The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is based on 2016 data and aims to bolster a strategy outlined by President Donald Trump to end the epidemic within 10 years.
The strategy has two main strands: far more widespread screening, and enabling the infected better access to treatment from the moment they test positive.
The study found that 38 percent of infections came from HIV-positive people who were unaware of their status, and 43 percent from people who knew they were infected but took no anti-retroviral drugs.
The remaining infections came from people who were receiving HIV treatment but were not yet “virally suppressed.”
The CDC blamed financial, social and other reasons for people not using medication, which these days typically comes in the form of a daily pill with minimal side effects.
The study said that the infection rate from the half million people in the United States who take medication and are virally suppressed — meaning they cannot pass on the disease to others — was zero.

The most at-risk group remains homosexual men, with almost three-quarters of new infections coming from men having sex with men, the report said.
Five percent of infections came from intravenous drug abuse among homosexual men, while 10 percent came from injecting drugs among the rest of the population.
Twelve percent of infections were among heterosexuals. Overall, the highest rate of transmission was among 13 to 24-year-olds.
The Trump administration has said it will invest $291 million in the next financial year to fight HIV/AIDS, which has plateaued since 2013 to around 39,000 annual transmissions.
The goal is to reduce that number by 75 percent within five years and by 90 percent in 10 years.
Questioned about the relatively small amount of money earmarked for the multi-billion dollar task of treating HIV carriers, CDC head Robert Redfield said he was “confident that the resources that are required to accomplish this mission are in the long term plan.”
The CDC, based in Atlanta, Georgia, wants doctors to make HIV screening a routine procedure.
“Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime,” said Eugene McCray, the head of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.
“Those at higher risk should get tested at least annually,” he said.
“The key to controlling is helping those with HIV to control the virus,” said the CDC’s Jonathan Mermin, who focuses on preventing the spread of the HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
“Time spent working closely with patients who are having trouble paying for, picking up or taking their daily medications is time well spent“