Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, Co-Founder of Prajwala, talks about the importance and challenges of combating human trafficking in the Indian subcontinent.
By Anne John
“Kuzhandaiyum deivamum gunathal ondru,” goes an old Tamil song. Roughly translated it would mean “Children by virtue of their character are equivalent to God”. Reality is different though. Data from the Ministry of Women and Child Development reveals that that out of the thousands of women illegally trafficked across our country today, 40% are minors (PDF).
Human trafficking, usually for the purpose of forcing women and girls into sexual and/or economic exploitation exploits the vulnerability and weakness of those from poor families. Young women and children are trafficked for a variety of reasons such as organ trade, begging, drug peddling and smuggling, bonded labour, entertainment as well as for prostitution, pornography or in some cases, the archaic tradition of offering young girls as devadasis to village deities.
Studies reveal (PDF) that most child prostitutes found in India are from poor immigrant families in Nepal, Bangladesh and the North-Eastern Indian states, while the devadasi tradition is commonly found in the rural parts of south Indian states. Superstitious beliefs such as that having sexual relationships with young children offers protection from certain diseases are an added cause child trafficking. Although laws exist which strictly ban the above practices, evidence indicates that such rules are often violated.
In most cases it is trusted people such as parents, close relatives, family friends or husbands who push women and children into prostitution or other exploitation. In most cases, it is poverty, migration or displacement due to natural calamities that leads to such abandonment. Victims are also lured by the promise of comfortable, well-paid jobs in the city and find themselves in dire situations with no one to turn to for help.
Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, a social activist and the Co-Founder of an NGO named Prajwala calls herself an ‘Anti-Trafficking Crusader’. Her work chiefly involves rescue and rehabilitation of children and young women affected by trafficking. Prajwala has organized many dangerous rescue operations and aims to rehabilitate the rescued women and children by educating them, imparting vocational training, placing them in jobs, offering counseling and medical help and even marriage and reintegration into society.
In this video, Sunitha’s dedication towards her vocation cannot be missed. She speaks passionately of her experiences and her expectations. In her own words, she challenges us, “Can you ply your mind for that one way that you can respond to the problem?” In fact, she believes that the biggest hindrance to rehabilitating victims is the attitude of civil society, which may pay lip service but refuses to accept such women and children into ‘normal’ society.
A new year and a new start will be upon us in a few weeks. It is that time of the year when it is fashionable to take up a variety of resolutions. This New Year, can we also vow to open our minds and our hearts to accept these less fortunate people? We spend large sums of money on New Year celebrations and extravaganzas. Why not donate a small amount to these people who have become under-privileged due to no fault of theirs? Or can we aid them by sharing a few hours of our time to volunteer with such NGOs? Let’s delve into ourselves and bring forth the strength, the clarity and the determination to change our narrow-minded attitudes and treat them as equals.