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The Caged Bird Sings- Horrifying plight of Flesh Trade in India

According to National Human Rights Commission, 18 million women and children are involved in sexual slavery in India. These numbers are increasing at an alarming rate every year.  2 lakh women and children are forced into prostitution through threats and coercion each year. According to Child Rights and You ( CRY) reports 75000 children below the age of 16 are trafficked each year and children above 11 years are forced into prostitution. Some of them are as young as 5 years. 90% of trafficking in India happens inter-state. Only 10% of the trafficking is international. These are some of the many grim facts of the flesh trade in India. India is one of the worst countries for women’s safety as per the Peace Research Institute, Oslo.  These facts sound very empathizing but the true stories beneath this exploitation leave us all traumatized. 


Sexual exploitation is the worst form of Human trafficking and infringement of human rights. Selling bodies as a means of livelihood is a miserable situation many women and children are forced into. In India, more than 50% of the population are women. If this 50% of our population is not empowered to lead a respectable livelihood rather treated as sexual gratifying machines, how can we grow as a country?


Historically, sex trafficking is prevalent in India in many forms. The devadasi system existed in India for centuries-old dating back to A.D 966.  It is a known fact that Mughals were also indulged in the culture of courtesans and this system proliferated across many dynasties and continued till the 21st century. The advent and easy access to the internet lured naive young minds to fall prey to online pornography and resulted in child prostitution. Women being sold to brothel houses, schoolchildren kidnapped and trafficked to neighbor countries, child pornography became the new face of Mother India.  Societies remain harsh critics of these women and often try to ostracize them. They are outcasted and treated as untouchables. They are not accepted to the routine societal system nor provided enough employment opportunities and hence tied to the chains of flesh trade.


As per the Human Rights Watch research, the Skin trade is the third-largest organized crime in the world after arms and drugs. One surprising and disgusting element in all sex trafficking cases is, victims and survivors are sold by their own families or someone whom they have trusted and believed.


The many vulnerable situations leading to skin trade are unbearable domestic abuse by a spouse, in-laws, and parents, desperation for Jobs and livelihood i.e. too many dependents in the family, irresponsible parents who drain the resources in gambling, smoking, and drinking thereby abandoning children to sexual predators, desperation towards emotional security, the influence of affluent lifestyle and culture, lack of educational facilities, patriarchy, easy access to pornography, child marriages, religious superstitions, and stigmas, considering people from lower castes for granted, parents resistance to accept and embrace alternate sexuality of the child, etc


Sexual trafficking should be controlled both at demand and supply levels. Young minds need to be educated on how STDs are transmitted through unsafe sexual practices and girls need to be taught self-defense skills in unforeseen circumstances. Awareness of predators should be increased at a large scale in government schools as underprivileged girls from rural places attend these schools.  Anti-demand campaigns like No to paid sex and the importance of safe sex should be promulgated at colleges and universities. Sex education should be made mandatory across all high school curriculums.


Next comes the rescue. It is equally important to safeguard women and children from the clutches of sexual perpetrators.  The government and law enforcement departments should map areas of sexual predators, agencies, export groups, and conduct active raids thereby preventing more women from sexual slavery.  Rape victim support programs and counseling sessions should take place to safeguard the mental well-being of the survivor. Once these victims are rescued, every possible action should be taken to rehabilitate them.  Building women welfare hostels for safer stay, creating avenues for training and skill development to ensure them proper livelihood, enrolling them to primary and secondary schools to attain minimum education, creating jobs in both public and private sectors, creating awareness on health, hygiene, nutrition, and remedial education, etc. One such example could be, both private and government hospitals training them to be nurses, primary health care workers.


Empowering women through education is the only weapon against sexual trafficking. Also, it is men who need to be empowered and educated to treat women with equality and respect. Family is the first school to children and parents should impart values and ethics in those young minds.  Social media and films influence society in both positive and hamper in negative ways. If a celebrity, influential actor mistreats a woman in the films and considers them as mannerisms, there are fat chances that youth will be influenced by the celebrity. Hence filmmakers/actors should have a civic responsibility towards the public. The right of women and children to live free from violence depends on the protection of human rights and the responsibility lies on each one of us.


Government can formulate and legislate more stringent laws to protect women against sex trafficking. But when the moral and ethical behavior of individuals is not changed, these laws make no sense. Each individual as a civic and moral responsible citizen should speak out, act and protect the rights of women, her liberties, and above all her choice to live a life of her own. No girl child in this country and world at large should shed a tear for being born as a girl/woman.


Let us also not forget, it is not just women but every human being that should be celebrated, respected, and treated with dignity every single day. Having said that, the responsibility rests on everyone, not just the government alone. Every time, we see a transgender in public trains and roads, we turn our backs on them, give them disgusting looks and run away from them. Every time, we see women decorated in a fancy saree and selling their body parts for money, we report them to the police, and they, in turn, exploit and beat them to death. Is this the real solution?  How many of us, really stop and think about the trauma and hardships they face by selling their bodies for a square of a meal. It is our moral duty to stop human trafficking in any form.


 If we Indians, cannot respect women in society and just treat them as pleasurable objects, let's collectively give up on our religions. No religion teaches crime against women. If we continue to remain silent after witnessing such crimes against women, we are nothing but a nation full of hypocrites.  One might not be an ardent feminist or a staunch activist. But let's collectively believe in the power of women, their contribution to family, society, and nation at large. They need to be celebrated and respected but not subjected to violence. There should be the reincarnation of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in every man, not just by words but through actions. Let us not forget, only when the girl child is given wings to fly, to pursue her dreams and not caged, she can scale great heights and can move her family, society, and nation at large towards a positive stride. Young India should be ready to embrace this change in preventing sex trafficking. It is need of the hour for advocacy, to change society's perspective and to remove stigma and discrimination against victims of sexual trafficking, and to curb skin trade. Let us not forget that there is a DEVI in every woman.


 


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Tags: Human Rights Women Empowerment Sex Trafficking Skin Trade Need for Change



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