Survivors of the crime of Commercial Exploitation of Children (CEC) are today aiming to become top-notch lawyers. They have different stories. Some were child brides sold into prostitution by their husbands, some were sent away by their families as domestic helps into unknown houses.
But they all seem to have one thing in common, the one thing that pushes them to aim for the best.
They want justice.
They want to study law to become public prosecutors to stop crimes against our girls. They are backed by the School for Justice. This is no ordinary school. They’ve collaborated with the top law colleges in the country. I spoke over the phone with their incredible and candid Francis Gracias, the CEO of Free a Girl Movement India.
How distressful is the picture of the Commercial Exploitation of Children in India?
Francis Gracias: There’s this study by ECPAT which was conducted in 2014 that tells us how 1.2 million children are the yearly survivors of this crime in South Asia. And the strangest thing is that the number is increasing year after year! But there’s only a fractional number that gets reported. In 2014, there were 3345 cases reported out of which only 384 went to court. Of the 384, there is a minuscule 10%-14% conviction rate. Would you believe that?
There’s no fear of this crime. When this negligible punishment is doled out, impunity develops around the crime. Had there been more cases and convictions, there would’ve been more distress in the criminals. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist currently.
When it comes to convictions, enforcement of the law is the problem. Laws like the POCSO, ITPA are in place, but their implementation is not good. Sometimes it is due to the lack of will of the police, sometimes it is the genuine lack of resources.
Can you explain it with an example?
Francis Gracias: There are these specialized units that are supposed to be deployed in each district called Anti-Human-Trafficking Units. On paper, they are supposed to be cracking down on Human Trafficking – but they are not funded or well-equipped. To further reduce their specialty, they are given regular cases, too. In many districts, they aren’t deployed at all!
Thankfully, they do exist in major urban centers, but there, they have to deal with political pressure.
Infrastructure dedicated to CEC is in very bad shape. There is an immense lack of resources, a backlog of pending cases, overburdened authorities and a lack of specialized courts.
Did you have to face risks and threats as you challenge this massive trafficking and prostitution mafia?
Francis Gracias: In my early days, before I founded the School of Justice, I did. Especially when I was involved in the ground investigation, when I visited the Red Light areas I ruffled a lot of feathers. I had to act as a whistleblower against their owners and I got into some trouble.
But I, sort of, was aware of the consequences of what I was doing. I knew that usually when I was intimidated, it was an empty threat. They couldn’t attack men, they could only try and scare me. And that wasn’t going to work.
Thankfully, since we’ve founded the School of Justice, I’ve never faced any threats. But, I am sure as we enroll more girls and make a lot of noise; we’re going to get into all sorts of troubles.
The stories of the survivors are just heartbreaking. Tell us about the trauma the girls are going through and how they are dealing with it?
To read the full story by Keshav Khanna on IndianWomenBlog.org: Click HereTags: Child Brides, ECPAT, India, Lawyers, Prostitution