INDIA'S NOT SO HIDDEN SECRET: FORCED SEXUAL SLAVERY
Girls' and Women's Plight in India
I never knew very much about the forced sexual slavery of girls and young women in India until I read the book Half the Sky, written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They are a married couple who decided to write a book about the social problems of women and girls because few media people were really addressing these issues.
What happens in many developing countries, including India, is a very sad story. Agents of the brothels scout the streets for attractive girls and young women of poor families. They approach a parent or other family member saying that they have a good paying job for their daughter which is legitimate like selling fruit, working in a hotel or being a domestic worker. The agents take the girl or young women to a brothel where she is forced to be a prostitute. She is often beaten or starved if she does not comply with their wishes. Unfortunately, some family members sell their daughters into slavery, also.
India, Pakistan and Iran have the highest percentages of forced prostitutes. Nepal often supplies many of these girls to India. The British medical journal, The Lancet, "calculated that one million children are forced into prostitution every year and the total number of prostituted children could be as high as ten million."
Nicholas Kristof was crossing the border between Nepal and India and talked to a border officer about the problem of sexual slavery. This is a dialog between the two and also a very common view point in India. The officer said, "There is nothing you can do about them. Prostitution is inevitable. There has always been prostitution in every country. And what's a young man going to do from the time when he turns eighteen until he gets married at thirty?" Nick answered, "Well, is the best solution really to kidnap Nepali girls and imprison them in Indian brothels?" The officer replied, "It's unfortunate. These girls are sacrificed so that we can have harmony in society. So that good girls can be safe." Nick answered, "But many of the Nepali girls being trafficked are good girls, too." The officer replied, "Oh, yes, but those are peasant girls. They can't even read. They're from the countryside. The good Indian middle-class girls are safe." Nick concluded from this encounter with the officer: "People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks two hundred years ago: the victims are perceived as discounted humans. India has delegated an intelligence officer to look for pirated goods because it knew that the U.S. cares about intellectual property. When India feels that the West cares as much slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop traffickers."
In 2000 an International Human Trafficking Act in the U.S. was passed and there has been more police raids on brothels. With more police raids human trafficking becomes more expensive and less of a money maker for the brothels. To read more about the topic: go to www.halftheskymovement.org. Click on get involved to find out about organizations which empower women and girls.
The Rescue Foundation was started in 2000 by the late Balkrishna Acharaya, a former Indian army member who saw girls being prostituted against their will. He died in 2005. His wife, a former Indian journalist, took over the organization and has been involved in saving the girls from the brothels. Her name is Triveni Balakrishna Acharaya. The young women and girls receive job training, so that they can be self sufficient and the organization also contacts the police who conduct raids on the brothels. Go to www.rescuefoundation.net and www.newint.org to find out what you can do to help.
Teachers and priests need to talk about this problem in an intelligent way, providing facts and resources because there is a lack of basic sex education for both boys and girls in India. Because people do not talk about it, people often spread HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Women are encouraged to be monogamous, but men are encouraged to be the opposite. Many of the johns are married men who are away from their wives and children.
One organization does focus on health, education and job training for both boys and girls in India. They provide education on HIV and sex education as part of their health component. The name of the organization is KHEL(Kindness,Health,Education & Laughter) and their website is www.khelcharities.org. There is much more the government and the NGOs could do in this area, both public and private. One thought I had was providing some of this education on HIV, sexually transmitted disease and family planning as part as a requirement for a marriage license. The U.S. also has a WIC program which helps nutritional needs of low-income women with young infants. Why not have something like that in India for mothers of teens where they can get help with nutrition, food and job training. It would cut down on the number of girls and young women ending up in the brothels. My suggestion would be to have everything run by Indians and the funding sources could come from public and private monies.
Many families sell their daughters to brothels out of financial desparation because of extreme poverty. Yet if India educated their daughters there would be less poverty because they would become self-sufficient and could even help the family financially with the income they earned. Some of the women and girls have started their own businesses and some have even worked out of their own homes.
I encourage you, as I have, to support one of the many organizations working on this terrible social problem. We all are spiritual and sexual beings. It is up to us adults to help the youth to understand both aspects in a healthy balance. Many great men and women are starting to develop answers to this terrible problem. I want to thank all of you for making the difference by being the change you want to see in the world.
JAI SHRI, Stop the Trafficking Now!
JAI SHRI, Be the Change!