If you've ever had a baby or are at all familiar with the delivery process, you might recognize the hormone name Oxytocin, or Pitocin, which is commonly used to induce labor. It's actually produced naturally by the female body and plays a part in both labor and breastfeeding, and has also been studied for its relation to things like orgasms, monogamy, trust, love, and anxiety. Clearly it's some powerful, if still mysterious, stuff. Oxytocin has a new and sinister association, however, with girls who are trafficked into the villages of Rajasthan, India, and injected with the hormone to speed up their maturation.
This story shares a lot of unfortunate similarities with the young girls of Bangladesh who are injected with the bovine-growth hormone, Oradexon. The particular form of Oxytocin used has also been manufactured for veterinary use; it's often injected into buffalo to increase milk production, and is used by some farmers (called "unscrupulous" by the Indian Times) who shoot up their veggies to make them grow bigger and faster. It goes without saying that brothel owners are lacking some serious scruples, but if administering Oxytocin to a vegetable is considered questionable, then what about giving it to a little girl?
The growth hormone shots, available throughout the region at every local pharmacy — even, notably, in areas with no farming population — are, of course, unregulated. High doses can cause seizures and other serious health side-effects. But brothel owners could care less about the girls' health; it's all about creating the appearance of a "ripe crop," so to speak. After being kidnapped, girls as young as 10 are primed for sale with the shots, which fast-track them into puberty. They now look old enough to plausibly forge their ages on documents, and they are susceptible to love, trust, and sexual arousal in a situation that normally wouldn't warrant any of those feelings.
Local police are denying both the prevalence of prostitution in Rajasthan's villages, as well as the use of Oxytocin on trafficked girls. But activists and heads of community there confirm the problems, and say prostitution's been a family business in the area since 1947. Does the "tradition" of the act, and the fact that it has generally been overlooked in the past, make it okay? And shouldn't the unregulated use of Oxytocin to speed and increase profits make this sort of exploitation even more unacceptable? Maybe it's just me.
Luckily, as pointed out by Human Rights Examiner Youngbee Dale, groups like the Nirvanavan Foundation do offer a little bit of hope for the region with their grassroots movement to protect children's rights. And perhaps this new trend of drugging young prostitutes with growth hormones — while completely horrifying — will turn enough heads toward communities where "family businesses" need, at the very least, a closer look.