• Wednesday 21st August 2019

Human skin: A new business in India

  • Published on: September 28, 2018

  • By Anil Tiwari:

    The display of the chopped head and skin of defeated enemies has a long history. Mongols made wine cups from the human skull of their enemies and dissidents. The Assyrians would leave the human skin to tan on their city walls to terrorize their potential opponents. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, it was known that the wife of a senior German officer had possessed lampshades made of human skin. It was claimed that she had specifically killed several tattooed Jews and peeled their colourful skin for the purpose. In the 1950s, a US serial killer and murderer Ed Gein, possibly influenced by the stories about the Nazis, made a lampshade from the skin of one of his victims.
    Now something similar is happening in India but for a different reason. Human skin of Trafficked people from inland and neighbouring countries is used to make rich men and women more beautiful through cosmetic surgeries. Though there is a lack of systematic and reliable data on the human trafficking. However, as per most commonly cited sources India has turned into a hotbed of human trafficking with dangerous pattern and trends. It is also true that Human Trafficking is a global crime and prevalent in many countries.
    In India, human trafficking is mainly carried out for three purposes: (a) for commercial sex activities; prostitution, striptease and pornography etc. (b) for exploitative physical labour; begging, camel jockeying and drug trafficking and (c) for other forms of exploitation like commercial surrogacy, body organ sale and now sale of human skin. There are reports that Nepal, the neighbour of India, is specifically targeted by well-organized smuggling networks dealing in everything from narcotics, precious woods, tiger skins to the now human skin. Most of these criminal networks are based in India, which makes tracking and arrests of traffickers difficult by the Nepalese government.
    The UN and local NGOs estimate 12,000 to 15,000 women and children are trafficked from Nepal to India every year. The majority end up in Indian brothels but some are taken overseas, to South Korea and as far as South Africa. The Gulf has long been a destination for women trafficked from South Asia. The trafficking of people from Nepal, an impoverished Himalayan nation, to neighbouring India for labour and sexual exploitation – and even kidney transplantation – is widely reported, but cases of trafficking in human skin tissue are unheard of till late. The fair skin Nepalese women are trafficked and deceived into selling their skin to be used for penis and breast enlargements in the global cosmetic surgery market thriving in US and Western countries. A UK based company “HumanLeather.co.uk” (website now blocked) has been boasting about their ‘exclusive real human leather products’. The company claimed that Human leather is produced from skin sourced from normal everyday people. Is it the skin of unfortunate missing immigrant children or someone else?
    The Indian news website Youth Ki Awaaz (Voice of the Youth) made detailed investigations of the issue. They claimed that Nepali women were selling 20 square inches (130 square cm) of skin tissue from their backs for $150 to be used in plastic surgery. The skin tissue, said the report, is sold onto pathology laboratories in India where it is processed and exported to companies in the United States which manufacture skin and tissue derivative products for the global plastic surgery market. Three years ago, when Sushila Thapa managed to flee from a brothel in Mumbai to her native village in Nepal, the big scar on her back did not matter. What mattered to her more was that she was home alive.
    A year later, when she saw another woman with a similar scar, she realized that the skin from her back wasn’t peeled off because of one of her clients’ fetish attitude or any injury. It was “stolen” to “make rich men and women beautiful”. According to the same report, human Skin is in huge demand. A 100-inch square piece of fair skin sells for Rs 50,000 to Rs 1, 00,000 in Delhi and Mumbai. Agents take women till the Indo-Nepal border. From the border, another agent takes them to India and hands them over to another agent. The third agent arranges extraction of the skin. The women have to sign that they have ‘donated’ the skin and not sold it. Recently, Prime Minister K.P. Oli has formed a new government in Nepal with a two-thirds majority. He is an assertive nationalist leader. There are reports that he is raising critical issues with India including that of human trafficking.
    It is strongly advocated that all national governments and International institutions should support the ban on the products made of human skin. It is a heinous crime against humanity and gross human right violation, and needs to be checked with utmost sincerity.





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