This video was made possible by a mixed media project funded by the French Embassy Cultural Fund.
A grassroots movement to end sex trafficking
This is the diary of Shweta Khattar- Jr. Program Officer at the Delhi Field Office in Dharampura. Last week Shweta partook in the rescue of a 15-year-old girl who had been forced into prostitution by her abusive husband. This is Shweta’s telling of the events.
“Prem Nagar Centre is around 8 kms away from Apne Aap’s Delhi field office. The center is within the village community of Perna, which practices intergenerational prostitution wherein young girls are married off early at a bride price, which the groom’s family pays to the bride’s family. Once the girl has her first child, then her own family members push her into prostitution. Through this method, the girl is exploited and the family recovers the money.
In April 2014, a teacher at the Prem Nagar Centre was approached by one of the girls, *Rachel, who complained of being sent to her in-laws forcefully. After being beaten by her brother, she complained again and explained her painful story:
When *Rachel was 12 years old she was married off by her parents, and her mother-in-law forced her to serve the clients at the family’s home-based brothel. One day, *Rachel hid in a train’s bathroom and ran away. She reached her former home in Prem Nagar hoping that she would be safe. To her shock, her brother beat her black and blue; her mother scolded and threatened her; and her family forced her to serve clients. Her mother warned her that regardless of where she stayed, this is what she would have to do.
Her fate was being decided by ruthless people who had put a price on her body. This is when she approached one of the teachers at Apne Aap’s center.
The teacher brought the picture to Apne’s field coordinator and me. On 10th April (the day of elections in Delhi), *Rachel started calling the teacher, pleading for help because she was being forcefully sent back to her in-laws. Apne’s Aap’s community mobiliser and the teacher engaged with *Rachel, rushing to talk to her at the center. Finally, a complaint was written down on Rachel’s behalf, which she signed.
The Apne Aap staff took up *Rachel’s case relentlessly. However, beyond the staff’s best efforts, *Rachel was sent back to Patauda to live with her husband and in-laws.
But we didn’t give up.
On 25th April, we scheduled a meeting with BBA, a prominent India NGO that fights child trafficking, to understand the legality of *Rachel’s case and seek their support. On May 5th, a team of 8 people left Delhi to rescue *Rachel.
A police force was arranged for us, and the protection officer was called right away. We left for the rescue at 2:30p.m. A convoy of 4 cars arrived at 3p.m. and *Rachel was identified and rescued. Her husband was taken into custody.
*Rachel was shining her brightest smile looking at us. She was brutally beaten an hour earlier by her husband, but at that moment, she was filled with joy to see us. She knew she had been saved and went in to put her dupatta on, ready to leave behind the shackles of her brutal family members.
It was 3:10 p.m. – everything had changed in a split second.
Since her rescue, *Rachel has been placed into a safe children’s home, and Apne Aap is filing charges against all of the accused in the case.
On the day of *Rachel’s rescue she told our Apne Aap staff: “I knew my didi would come and save me, I had complete faith and you did”.
*name has been changed.
Jillian Dunham: You made a pretty major mid-career change, from being a BBC journalist and a documentary filmmaker to an activist who created Apne Aap. Was there something in that point in your life that pushed you to make that change?
Ruchira Gupta: Anger and outrage. As a journalist, I had covered war and famine and hunger and conflict, but when I spent time inside the brothels of Bombay and spoke to the women and saw what I saw, I’d never seen that kind of deliberate exploitation of one human being of another.
What angered me further was the attitude of friends, politicians, police officers, that if these women were not prostituted, women from good families would be raped, that ‘men would be men.’ War, hunger, and ethnic conflict were considered evil, but the daily commercial rape happening in brothels was normalized, justified and even romanticized. I thought, I can do only so much as a journalist. I wanted to do more. Continue reading…
Indian politicians are courting women in this year’s national elections, but one group of women still feels ignored: sex workers.
Decades of being snubbed and harassed by the police, the government and the general populace have convinced many sex workers there is no place for them in the political process.
“Most sex workers feel, ‘what is the point of voting if none of the parties have anything in their manifestos for us?’” said Seema Sayyed, manager of Aastha Parivaar, a Mumbai-based federation of sex workers.
The Congress Party’s Rahul Gandhi has called for the empowerment of India’s women and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi has promised “security to every mother and daughter.” But sex workers feel the promises are not directed at them. Continue Reading.
CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Founder of TrustLaw and Trust Women, Monique Villa, was welcomed by Apne Aap staff on April 8. Girls, aging from 10 to 16, from the Dharampura centre in Delhi, joined the discussion in order to communicate some of their concerns as part of the Perna community, a denotified tribe.
The discussion between Villa, her colleague Serena Grant (co-head of Legal for Thomson Reuters) and the girls was largely concerned with issues of identification. Villa and Grant expressed surprise upon finding out that these girls, as well as their parents, make up a fringe group of society that has neither a political voice nor legitimisation from the state. None of the women and girls hold caste certificates, which would grant them subsidisations and access to many governmental programs, as well as schooling. One of the girls, no more than 15 years old, already understood the stigmas her tribe held in society, claiming that government officials avoided their area at all costs. The point was made: this community is criminalised by others and suffers from resultant marginalization and discrimination.
Sadly this community is not small, in Delhi alone it makes up approximately 50,000 people. There are at least 198 of these tribes spread across the country. With these approximate statistics in mind, Grant agreed to work with lawyers she knew in India, who could work on this systemic issue. For a group of people in the 21st century to be ostracised from their society because of a cultural heritage imposed on them by the British and blocked from developing as a community with very few formal job opportunities, is a problem stemming from a severe lack of political will.
For any progression to occur within the dynamics of these communities, the state needs to understand the demographic of this population in society. Only then can they understand the kind of programs needed to help sustain these people. What we need, what is important right now, are lawyers, government officials and researchers willing to take on the task of providing an identity these individuals can relate to in society.
The victim had been testifying for hours, and through the whirlwind of anecdotes, digressions and tears, Ada County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ryan Pacheco had pieced together enough information to start verifying her story about being forced into prostitution. Her body advertised and sold to johns over the web and via word of mouth, she had escaped an organized sex ring to find safety and tell her tale–but a few traces of the life she was trying to flee remained, giving police hints they could follow back to their source. Continue Reading.
When we give to international aid organizations such as the Red Cross or UNICEF, we don’t generally get to see that aid in action.
A generous Blowing Rock couple got to see their donations at work in January and traveled halfway around the globe to do so.
Jamie and Bonnie Schaefer, owners of Westglow Resort and Spa, traveled with legendary women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem and a group of five others through Calcutta, India, from Jan. 24 through Feb. 7. Continue Reading.
Kolkata: Protesting against the rising crime against women in the country, sex workers and their daughters yesterday took part in street plays and dances in and around the city’s red-light area on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.
Around 70 women from the red-light areas of Sonagachi and Munshiganj took out a procession on a two kilometre stretch in Khidirpore as part of the global One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and promote gender equality. Continue Reading.
PATNA: Frequent drizzle notwithstanding, people in large numbers enjoyed hot debates, discussions on Indian cinema and folk literature, book launches and screening of sensitive documentaries on the second day of Patna Literature Festival (PLF) on Saturday.
Opening with a session on ‘My Life: A Musical Journey’, Vikram Sampat and Kumud Diwan discussed the lives of music maestros followed by release of a book, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In: The Curious Ambivalence of Religious Sadhus in Recent Politics in India’. Written by Dr Rajesh Pradhan, it was launched by Om Thanvi. Continue Reading.
The heavy downpour and chilly winds did nothing to dampen the spirit of those who came together for the cause of female victims of violence. An annual event in the city calendar, the global call to woman survivors of violence, One Billion Rising (OBR) For Justice has become a keenly awaited event for those who identify with the cause of women.
A morning march from Jaisingh Road to Jantar Mantar with messages given by leaders of the mahila panchayats organised by YWCA, a car rally from Nehru Place at 12 noon, the popular play Dastak by Arvind Gaur’s Asmita group and a flash dance on Jaago re Jaago culminated in the evening with a programme at Central Park in Connaught Place with performances by Sufi czarina Sonam Kalra, bilingual Vagina Monologues performed by students of Miranda House, Maya Rao’s play, Kamla Bhasin’s fiery speech on gender equality and power packed performance by Space. Continue Reading.