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Male prostitution spreading in India

Last month, Christine noted the increase in "inverted sex tourism": wealthy foreign women heading to poor countries (for instance, Kenya) to purchase sex from younger and poorer men. But a BBC report on Kolkata in India reveals that it's not just rich foreign women who prey on male prostitutes. Indian women of means are also getting into the act:

[Male gigolos] offer some insight into the changing sexual mores of a growing number of Indian women who are ready to spend money on buying sex in a traditionally conservative society.

It is hardly a easy job to do - in the absence of male brothels, gigolos like Samrat cruise after dusk for prospective clients, mainly upper or middle-class and rich women who usually drive in their cars with dark tinted windows.

"It is not all fun and games as people think. Just as female sex workers face violence and get cheated, we face such situations from time to time too," says the son of a bank worker, who joined the sex trade after a short stint as an employee with a multi-national pharmaceutical firm in the capital, Delhi.

"I have often not been paid by clients, and when I have protested, they have threatened me with telling the police that I tried to rape them. And there are clients who love to stub out burning cigarettes on our bodies. These days I have begun to charge for a cigarette burn - 500 rupees ($11) per stub," he says.

As with female sex workers, technology such as mobile phones and the Internet has helped facilitate business. The men usually receive upwards of 1,000 rupees ($25) an hour from their clients, and when work from female clients slows, many of these workers sell sex to other men. Thankfully, the "gigolos," who constitute one of the highest risk groups for HIV/AIDS contraction, are beginning to bond together to speak out for HIV prevention. Whether that will be enough to curb the spread of the virus, of course, remains to be seen.

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Morning Brief, Tuesday, January 8

New Hampshire Primary

The first votes are in: Two tiny towns with a midnight voting tradition chose John McCain and Barack Obama. Polls close today at 8 p.m., but we'll likely know the winners long before then. Obama leads Hillary Clinton by 13 points in the latest Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby poll, and McCain has a 9-point edge over Mitt Romney. (Some analysts claim Romney is making a slight comeback, however.)

Asia

Facing social discontent, Malaysia has barred employers from recruiting labor from India.

Sri Lanka's minister for nation-building was killed by a roadside bomb, just 12 miles north of Colombo.

From Tokyo, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said that the United States "will be patient with North Korea."

Europe

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his relationship with ex-model Carla Bruni is "serious," adding, "Carla and I have decided not to lie.''

France leads 19 industrialized countries in avoiding preventable deaths, a new study has found. The United States ranked last.

The garbage crisis in Naples, Italy, is turning into a full-blown fiasco.

Middle East

The U.N.'s relief agency is seeking $261 million to help Iraqi refugees.

U.S. troops began what military leaders described as a major offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly fallen out of favor with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Elsewhere

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has yet to agree to international mediation to solve a political standoff with opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Eminent Harvard economist Martin Feldstein rates the chances of a U.S. recession as more than 50 percent. Even George W. Bush appears worried. "We cannot take growth for granted," the U.S. president said Monday.

Gold and oil are up and the dollar's down.

Today's Agenda

  • President Bush meets with Turkish President Adullah Gul in Washington before heading on his tour through Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
  • The U.N. Security Council meets today to discuss Kosovo and the Ivory Coast.
  • Britain's Royal Mail releases special James Bond stamps to commemorate what would be Ian Fleming's 100th birthday.

Yesterday on Passport