In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) commissioned a report which was investigated and prepared by TERI.
This was the first-ever study conducted on Lamanis in Goa to ascertain their role and involvement in activities related to commercial sex especially in the realm of catering to the tourism sector in the state.
The survey was conducted across Goa and Karnataka. In Goa, eight villages in the Bardez and Pernem talukas were selected, as these areas are regarded as ‘hot spots’ for several types of commercial sexual exploitation.
The report further noted that job opportunities created on account of tourism have been one of the pull factors attracting Lamanis into Goa, as most of them come from the underdeveloped arid regions of Karnataka ,where making a living from agriculture is very difficult.
They engage in tourism-related work as hawkers for the sale of handicrafts, garments, fruits and rendering of services like body massages and tattooing in the tourist belt of Goa, it has been explained.
Though Lamanis don’t work in massage parlours, they do provide massages to sunbathing tourists and also provide similar services at the popular flea market in Anjuna where they sell garments and handicrafts. These particular services though traditionally seen as sexual exploitation areas of men (foreign & domestic); there is a growing trend of foreign women (mostly Europeans) opting for massage services of Lamanis – mostly girls & young women, subjecting them to same-sex activities.
GC Team spoke to a young Lamani lady aged 25 who narrated an incident of a friend named Seema (name changed) aged 27 who worked as part-time masseur during the season-time in Goa. Seema used to provide these massage services on the Anjuna beach; in her experiences she encountered several women who expected a sexual gratification beyond just a normal body massage. In fact Seema even managed to befriend one such woman client with whom she would spend a considerable amount of time at her rented apartment. Seema, did not feel the need to complain to the police authorities as she felt the financial remuneration for the sexual gratification were good.
Like Seema, Laxmi (name changed) another young Lamani lady aged 19, narrated an incident on how she was introduced to this side of the flesh-trade between same-sex customers. Her sister aged 25, used to provide foreign clients that frequented the Arambol beach with massage services. On one such occasion when she had accompanied her sister, she realized that this service was much more than a massage and some of the clients that sort this service were mostly foreign women. The amount of money paid for these kind of sexual-services offered by the women seeking them, were more compared to what the male clients were offering.
Another girl named Nasreen (name changed) revealed that though she is not a massuer on the beaches like some of friends. She has developed close relationships with foreigners because she sells different ethnic wares. Some of the foreigners befriended were women. She even spent some time with some women at the accommodations and indulged in what she considered to be girl-acts of a sexual kind and did not see anything objectionable in these sexual acts. The women treated her well and also paid her well. According to her, these girl-acts were a blessing compared to the sexual-exploitation some of the stories she has heard of young Lamani girls and foreign men.
Najma’s (name changed) case is little even more shocking, she got into such activities on account of her mother, who worked as a domestic help at one of the rented apartment of a group of three foreign women. On the insistence of the foreign ladies, the mother and daughter used to live along with the tourists and also indulge in some of the group-orgies, for which they were paid very well. While Najma has opted out of this sexual aspect of the domestic help services, her mother has moved on to a new foreign client – another lady.
Sujata (name changed) narrated an even more disturbing incident of how about six-years ago a few foreigners met some of the Lamani girls on the pretext of offering them clothes, food and money. These foreigners comprised of both men and women. The girls got invited to their apartment at Candolim and were subjected to a naked photography session. It was only when the foreigners including women to get more physical with the girls, that some felt uncomfortable and left the apartment. Those who out of curiosity and ignorance stayed on. Post the first experience, some girls continued to frequent the apartment; they even went on a Holiday to South Goa for a couple of days with the group of foreigners. The money, food, clothes and jewelry compensated for the sexual exploitation experienced.
Yet another boy, narrated an incident of his group – 4 boys and three girls – had received money, food and mobile phones from foreigners. They were taken to rooms and photographed with men and women without clothes. The boys and girls were asked to dance and were tipped well if they danced well. Both boys and girls at some point of time during the course of two-months indulged in sexual activities with the foreign men and women.
The percentage of Lamanis involved in massage service is small when compared to their involvement in other tourism-related activities is steadily rising at an alarming rate.
The UNODC report looked into ‘out migration’ to Goa especially in the tourism sector that has contributed to the much needed economic mobility of the 15, 000 to 20,000-odd Lamanis in the tourism sector.
However, fierce competition and lack of unity amongst them, makes this tribe further vulnerable as traffickers.
The study is also well aware of the power equations between the Lamanis and the police as well as between the Lamanis and the locals.
While this makes them ‘soft targets’, there is not enough evidence to show that Lamanis are involved in sexual exploitation as there are almost no police records that link Lamanis to sexual exploitation in Goa.
Most girls and women that GC Team interacted with felt that the sexual-exploitation by women were not grave as compared to some of the girls being raped and abused by men. Some who did feel exploited felt helpless in reporting such incident to the local police because it would prove futile and their other massage or domestic help-based activities would be curbed, more so questions about their migration and domicile in Goa could also become a contentious issue.
It is evident that the Lamani girls and boys too are extremely vulnerable to abuse and shockingly also of the same-sex kind. Paedophiles and sexual perverts roam around beaches with young children, often they are seeing photographing the children and are known to pay the cash and give them gifts. In many areas, GC Team has learned that children of poor migrants in both North & South Goa especially along the coastal areas are absent in school during peak tourist seasons. They earn by working on the beach – girls are mostly seen working as masseurs, domestic-helps and vending ware on the beach.
However, the frightening question is whether the young girls and woman who are being sexually exploited by the same-sex find confidence in the legal system to register an offense or will this dark-side of Goa continue to remain dark.