Online escort services keep the Mumbai police on guard.

Websites containing photographs of escorts, along with their evaluations and pricing, are rapidly displacing the more traditional form of flesh trade on the city’s streets and in brothels. The number of cases against online escort services registered by the Mumbai police’s enforcement division has increased fivefold annually. The transition from extremely visible red-light districts to the internet has made prostitution a more discreet industry. Online monetary transactions have made it more difficult for investigators to link the perpetrator to the crime. aThe overt character of the offense is nearly disappearing. Historically, brothel proprietors and pimps operated independently or banded together to share resources. However, they are now highly networked and becoming organized. Sanjay Macwan, regional director with International Justice Mission (IJM), an NGO that works closely with the police on trafficking cases, stated that ten to fifteen traffickers may work together; the hidden and organized nature of the business results in huge profit margins.Ten cases were filed against online escort services and 23 women were rescued this year. Last year, only two cases were reported. Most individuals refrain from submitting police complaints against online escort services out of concern for their reputations. The number of cases registered against brothels has decreased from eleven last year to three this year.aAny online search engine can be used to locate the website of an escort service. He must establish an account with a username and password, as well as pay the membership fee. Then, photographs of escorts are sent to the customer’s account for selection. The girl’s occupation is listed alongside, such as model, flight attendant, and office executive. Once a consumer chooses an escort, he is requested to reserve a hotel room on his preferred date. The lady meets him directly at the hotel, and e-wallets are required for payment. As the employer is not physically present, it is difficult for the police to locate him.aWe were investigating a case in which an online escort service made a client travel to various locations in the eastern suburbs and Navi Mumbai. He was forced to rescind his hotel reservation. According to an official, the escort service was likely apprehensive that the police were on their trail. The police have been closing down websites that provide online escort services. However, these websites reappear under a new web address.aTraditional methods of policing may not be effective here. Previously, if someone reported prostitution at a business or domicile, the police would conduct a raid, rescue the prostitute, and arrest the employer. Now, the females may have no idea who operates the website that provides the consumer with their photo. Multiple websites may display the same image. The police will need to be proactive and take a different approach to build a solid case, according to Macwan.The IJM is launching a project to train Mumbai police officers in online investigation techniques, data collection and reporting, surveillance technology, and evidence collection. National and international experts are being recruited for the program.Laws in some nations are being modified to combat instances of online prostitution. In July 2016, Singapore amended its women’s charter to include a new section aimed at those who operate or maintain websites that offer sexual services or permit prostitutes to advertise. Those convicted may face a fine of up to S$10,000 or up to five years in prison, or both. Another existing section was modified to make it clear that it is a crime to live on or receive various forms of gratification in exchange for assisting another person engage in prostitution.Watch Online escort services keep Mumbai police on their toes.

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