Tag Archive: India

Catholic Nuns Doing ‘Very Hidden Work’ Are Stopping Pimps And Saving Children

April 8, 2021

GUWAHATI, India — Sister Rose Paite stepped inside this sprawling city’s main train station and scanned the crowd. She often visits public gathering places like this as part of her life’s mission: to save children from being trafficked.

In seconds, Paite was off. She had spotted a situation that alarmed her — a young girl, maybe 15 years old, sitting beside a much older man in a crisp button-down shirt. Paite walked up to them and began asking questions.

Where are you going? How did you meet this man?

The answers confirmed Paite’s suspicion.

The girl said she had just met the man on the train. It wasn’t clear where she was headed next.

Paite, who was wearing a black tunic and white veil, talked to her for nearly four minutes and handed over her card. She wanted to be able to check in on the girl, but the girl refused to give Paite her phone number.

Before walking away, the diminutive Roman Catholic nun warned the man, but she said he was dismissive.

“That girl, truly, will get into trouble,” Paite said. “She is so vulnerable.”

Then Paite skittered off again. The Guwahati train station was busy. There were more children likely to be in danger.

Human trafficking is everywhere

Paite is not a lone crusader. She’s part of a vast but little-known network of Catholic nuns dedicated to fighting human trafficking across the globe. The organization, Talitha Kum, was formed in Rome in 2009 and now operates quietly in 92 countries.

The group is made up of roughly 60,000 religious sisters. The work they do is often dangerous and daring — confronting pimps on darkened streets, patrolling dusty alleys that host brothels. The sisters also operate safe houses in several countries, providing refuge for women and girls fleeing their captors.

Their work doesn’t only take place in the streets. The organization pushes for systemic change, lobbying for stronger laws to combat human trafficking.

“If you want people to understand the urgency of the problem, you can’t be tiptoeing around it,” said Sister Jeanne Christensen, a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking, which works with Talitha Kum.

Read the full story by Jake Whitman, Cynthia McFadden, and Rich Schapiro on Yahoo! News.

The Pandemic Has Created A Second Crisis In India — The Rise Of Child Trafficking

December 1, 2020

(CNN)One evening in August, a 14-year-old boy snuck out of his home and boarded a private bus to travel from his village in Bihar to Jaipur, a chaotic, crowded and historical city 800 miles away in India’s Rajasthan state.

He and his friends had been given 500 rupees (about $7) by a man in their village to “go on vacation” in Jaipur, said the boy, who CNN is calling Mujeeb because Indian law forbids naming suspected victims of child trafficking.

As the bus entered Jaipur, it was intercepted by police.

The man was arrested and charged under India’s child trafficking laws, along with two other suspects. Nineteen children, including Mujeeb, were rescued. Jaipur police said they were likely being taken to bangle factories to be sold as cheap labor.

In India, children are allowed to work from the age of 14, but only in family-related businesses and never in hazardous conditions. But the country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and many have lost their jobs, leading some families to allow their children to work to bring in anything they can.

Making colored lac bangles like those sold in Jaipur is hot and dangerous work, requiring the manipulation of lacquer melted over burning coal. Bangle manufacturing is on the list of industries that aren’t allowed to employ children under 18.

To read the full story by Jessie Yeung on CNN: Click Here

‘They Are Starving’: Women In India’s Sex Industry Struggle For Survival

June 7, 2020

Rasheeda Bibi has five rupees to her name. A worker in India’s sex industry, she lives in the narrow lanes of Kolkata’s Kalighat red light area with her three children in a room she rents for 620 rupees (£6) a month.

As a thunderstorm rages through the city, Bibi worries about the leaky roof of her small room.

It is now a month since India went into total lockdown on 26 March to contain the spread of Covid-19. With no clients, Bibi’s savings have dwindled. She has no money left for food, or sanitary towels for herself and her daughters, let alone for fixing the roof.

As non-essential economic activity has ground to a halt, the lockdown has hit millions of people working in the informal sector. The government has announced relief schemes for the poor, but women working in the sex industry are outside their ambit. In India sex work is not illegal, but several supporting activities are; maintaining brothels and soliciting customers are criminal offences.

According to a survey by UNAids, in 2016 India had 657,800 sex workers, though the true number is likely to be much higher. Most of their clients earn daily wages and, as millions of people have become unemployed, this clientele has disappeared overnight.

Urmi Basu, the founder of New Light in Kolkata, which works with children of sex workers, worries about the long-term situation. “Even when the lockdown lifts, if they start taking clients, there is no way of knowing who’s carrying the virus. Unlike HIV/Aids, a condom can’t protect them. How does one negotiate safety in this situation?”

As part of the government’s relief scheme for the poor, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has announced a financial package that will deposit 500 rupees (£5.30) monthly into the bank accounts of 200 million people. But those working in or trafficked into the sex industry – many of whom lack government-approved documentation to access public distribution systems and relief schemes – are not included.

To read the full article by Reshmi Chakraborty and Hema Ramaprasad on The Guardian: Click Here

‘They Are Starving’: Women In India’s Sex Industry Struggle For Survival

May 27, 2020

Rasheeda Bibi has five rupees to her name. A worker in India’s sex industry, she lives in the narrow lanes of Kolkata’s Kalighat red light area with her three children in a room she rents for 620 rupees (£6) a month.

As a thunderstorm rages through the city, Bibi worries about the leaky roof of her small room.

It is now a month since India went into total lockdown on 26 March to contain the spread of Covid-19. With no clients, Bibi’s savings have dwindled. She has no money left for food, or sanitary towels for herself and her daughters, let alone for fixing the roof.

As non-essential economic activity has ground to a halt, the lockdown has hit millions of people working in the informal sector. The government has announced relief schemes for the poor, but women working in the sex industry are outside their ambit. In India sex work is not illegal, but several supporting activities are; maintaining brothels and soliciting customers are criminal offences.

According to a survey by UNAids, in 2016 India had 657,800 sex workers, though the true number is likely to be much higher. Most of their clients earn daily wages and, as millions of people have become unemployed, this clientele has disappeared overnight.

Urmi Basu, the founder of New Light in Kolkata, which works with children of sex workers, worries about the long-term situation. “Even when the lockdown lifts, if they start taking clients, there is no way of knowing who’s carrying the virus. Unlike HIV/Aids, a condom can’t protect them. How does one negotiate safety in this situation?”

As part of the government’s relief scheme for the poor, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has announced a financial package that will deposit 500 rupees (£5.30) monthly into the bank accounts of 200 million people. But those working in or trafficked into the sex industry – many of whom lack government-approved documentation to access public distribution systems and relief schemes – are not included.

Women like Bibi earn around 200-300 rupees (£2) per client and see three or four clients a day. From their earnings, they pay rent, utility bills, and buy food and medicines, as well as pay for education and care for dependents. Then there is the commission for brothel keepers and pimps.

“They have no food, they are starving. They live in tiny, windowless rooms with no fresh air. Many don’t have access to running water; sometimes, the choice is between paying water bills or topping up phones,” says Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which works for the eradication of sex trafficking in India.

Children for Sale: The Fight Against Child Trafficking in India

November 15, 2019

India, once thought of as a country of more than a billion people living in poverty, has seen its economy boom, and has emerged as a new force in global manufacturing.

But that is not the full story. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 150 million children and teenagers are victims of child labour around the world, and India has long been among the worst offenders.

More than 10 million children and teenagers between the ages of five and 14 are forced to work in the country, often through trafficking and bondage.

But over the last few years, things have been changing, in no small part thanks to the work of one man: Kailash Satyarthi.

He has fought against child trafficking for decades, freeing more than 87,000 children and teenagers and contributing to global conventions on children’s rights. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts, bringing the issue into the international spotlight.

More than a decade ago, Al Jazeera met Kailash Satyarthi as he led a march around the country to raise awareness for the cause.

At the time, Satyarthi was sure that the demonstration, which drew together thousands of people at each stop, was the largest of its kind.

Now, more than 10 years on, awareness has continued to grow. In a studio interview with Al Jazeera, Satyarthi says there has been progress, as mindsets have shifted and more legal protections have been put in place.

To read the full story on Al Jazeera: Click Here

Once Sold Into Prostitution, These Girls Became Lawyers To Bring Justice To Others Like Them

October 7, 2019

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 Here