*Note: Guardian consent was acquired prior to posting this video.
In my past international experiences, I’ve encountered numerous cultural practices that have been curious and fascinating, from using chickens to ward off evil energy in India to eating fried grasshoppers as delicacies in Uganda to entertaining the wisdom of magical sobadores in Nicaragua. However, for the first time, I have come across a “cultural” practice which I am particularly at odds with.
Around India, there are castes which traditionally engage in familial, intergenerational prostitution. Starting from around age 13, girls are married and subsequently prostituted by their husbands and parents. Earnings can be as high as $100 USD per hour, more than what many professionals in America will make in the same amount of time. For an uneducated villager whose only other job option is cheap manual labor, the potential earnings through prostitution are without a realistic monetary alternative. Unfortunately, the money goes directly in the hands of the husbands who don’t work at all, instead playing cards and drinking throughout the day. Continue reading →
While working in Hyderabad, I was often told that the public knows about sex trafficking but doesn’t want to interfere because of the mob connection and its obvious dangers. A Kolkata based NGO, Krishnayam, tried out an experiment staging a typical encounter between a pimp and a street child in a busy market. They had trained actors secretly playing the roles in an effort to see what the public response would be. I was surprised to see a show of civic sense and collective action that I had yet to encounter in my past few months in India. Some fellow researchers and I are considering investigating the potential for a Bystander Approach applied to sex trafficking and this video is evidence in its support. It makes me think that simple awareness may be a more relevant factor than I originally thought.
Yet I am certain that this Delhi rain that’s falling
Can dampen even statements bold
And that an eye from the West or East can see
That the “happy” poor are not happy cold
Most houses and apartments in Delhi lack any central heating. Thus, to aid my failure of an oil heater, I have been shivering for the last two weeks while minimizing movement so as to keep in my own body heat. While “surviving” through my minor misfortune, I remember the thousands of people on the street here in Delhi that I see everyday. By night, they are under thin blankets, freezing until the sun rises. Hundreds don’t even survive the winter. This kind of poverty is more than unfortunate- it’s just unacceptable.
I recently came across a television show, “Monsters Inside Me,” on Animal Planet which presents dramatized recollections of people’s experiences with parasitic infections. Parasites such as the Soil Transmitted Helminthes are on the World Health Organization’s list of Neglected Tropical Diseases. A multitude of parasitic infections are all too common in tropical climates, particularly in developing countries. The literature on parasitic infections is quite interesting and risk factors have been well documented. What’s more interesting are the various cultural beliefs that have made parasites more common and even accepted as a regular part of life in some communities. A recent study published in Parasitology International showed how people in Southeast Asia had strong cultural inclinations toward eating raw fish which were vectors for transmission of a type of parasite.
Ascaris worms coming out of a boy's nose.
Parasitic infections do not receive too much attention as a global health issue because they are usually non-fatal and are rare in developed countries. Nonetheless, as Animal Planet reminds us, we could have a monster inside us and not even know it. I personally have contracted multiple parasitic infections in my various global health field experiences and make it a point to get checked by my physician whenever I return from abroad. I suggest you do the same!