Why do we need safe homes for women and children?

When a concerned teacher sought my help regarding two children - sisters aged 8 and 12 years - in her school suspecting child sexual abuse at home, I did not have the slightest idea that I was about t

Published: 12th August 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th August 2018 11:12 AM   |  A+A-

Child Sexual Abuse

Image used for representational purpose only

When a concerned teacher sought my help regarding two children - sisters aged 8 and 12 years - in her school suspecting child sexual abuse at home, I did not have the slightest idea that I was about to deal with a sex trafficking case where the mother was a brothel keeper, the father a silent observer and supporter, and the 14-year old elder brother an abettor. The details given by the children were spine-chilling. The children were sent to school during the day but during the evenings, everyday, the mother exploited them sexually for commercial purposes.

They were forced to have sex with at least a couple of male contacts of the mother. This went on for over six months until the teacher got suspicious and informed me. The children were rescued and the parents and the brother were sent to jail.

A year after the rescue, the children are still traumatised. The younger child, who gave the information about the perpetrators, slipped into severe depression due to trauma and guilt. She misses her father and has regular bouts of emotional outbursts of guilt. The story is not limited to these two children. Hundreds of children and young girls are being sold by their parents for sexual exploitation. In a recent case of child sex trafficking in Yadadri, most of the 15 children - between 3.5 to 11 years - who were rescued, were either sold by parents or kidnapped by traffickers.

While some were sent to school, traffickers had planned to groom others for commercial sexual exploitation. One of the arrested brothel keepers confessed that Estrogen and Oxytocin were administered to the children to facilitate early maturity.

What is the way out?

In view of the recent Muzaffar nagar case where girls in a Shelter Home were found being allegedly sexually exploited, it is but normal to brand shelter homes as ‘bad’ and ‘exploitative’. Some even view shelter or safe homes as a protectionist approach. But what is the way out? Send all the children back to an exploitative environment? Or let them be socially rejected? If we can understand the process of trafficking and acute damage it causes to lives of the victims, it becomes somewhat easier to understand the role of safe homes and institutions in larger goal of social reintegration.

The problem with us is that we rarely think of this problem from the victim’s perspective. What is the impact of trafficking on body, mind and spirit of a victim? Can removing a person from an exploitative space ensure that they are psy chologically healed, physically recovered, emotionally equipped and cerebrally prepared to start life afresh? Only if we can apply our mind from a victim-centric perspective will we be able to appreciate the current Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on July 26, and is awaiting to be tabled in Rajya Sabha.

I think this is perhaps the most victim-centric piece of draft legislation that takes into account multitude of damages caused to a person who is subjected to trafficking and puts in place not only an institutional system to provide a range of victim services but also a robust mechanism to fight the organised crime of human trafficking. To sum it, ‘justice’ is the only way a survivor of trafficking finds ‘closure’.

They need support & justice

Trafficking of persons is not the issue of an intellectual debate or a political agenda; it is the lives of millions whose bodies, mind and spirit are destroyed in this trade of human misery. They need support, they need justice. Good Safe Homes and institutions with proper standards of care is the only way a healing environment can be set up which will equip them with necessary skills and coping mechanism to reintegrate them back to the society.

Thus, for us, who have taken the responsibility of fighting this war on behalf of these victims and survivors, it is our duty to ensure that these stories are heard loud and clear by one and all. I urge all concerned citizens to understand the need for such a legislation and use their good offices to influence our temple of democracy - Parliament - to pass this Bill. Not that all problems will be solved overnight with this legislation, but at least it will be a step closer to it.

Sunitha Krishnan

Human Rights Activist & Anti Human Trafficking Crusader

Email: Sunitha_2002@yahoo.com

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