Sunday, July 26, 2009


She stands on the pavement, away from the street light, decked in loud attire and gaudy makeup, and calls out to you amongst laughter and giggles. She smiles at you, through her lipstick caked lips. You cringe in embarrassment, and look away. But wait, and look beyond the smile. Do you see that the smile does not reach her eyes, the teardrops that have dried up, the pain, the hopelessness in her stance? Perhaps not. Welcome to the dark and less understood world of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is nothing but a modern day practice of slavery, a system we very proudly proclaim that we have abolished. It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, based on the recruitment, harbouring, and transportation of people solely for the purpose of exploitation. Every year traffickers generate billions of dollars in ‘business’, at the expense of victimizing millions of people around the world.

The victims are denied any rights or freedom. Many of them are saddled with debts of the price that they were bought for by the brothel owners. Added to that is the accumulation of interest and living charges. What is ironical is that they pay for the fact that they are a part of the brothels, not somewhere they ever intended to be in the first place. Thus freedom from their hell holes is nothing but a mirage.

Sunita* was just 15 when her parents met a kind stranger who offered Sunita work in the city. He accompanied her and even gave her refreshments during the journey. The next thing Sunita remembered was waking up in a brothel in the infamous red light area of Budhwar Peth in Pune. She was “made compliant” by repeated torture and no food. She attempted to commit suicide by consumption of rat poison. However, an NGO working in the locality admitted her to the hospital and “rescued” her. Her first words after regaining consciousness were “Don’t I even have the freedom to die?”

What brings about such utter despair? Imagine yourself, not as a human being but as a commodity, being sold and bought, and changed from one hand to other... where you ‘work’ not out of choice but by force.

Year after year, existing in the living hell, the victims are drained of all emotions, and feelings... Many turn to addictions like alcohol and tobacco, to escape their bitter reality.

And this is just one dimension of the human exploitation. For many of them, who struggle and try to return to the mainstream, life after escape is even worse. Society frowns upon the victims and is wary of any interactions with them. While sympathy is on offer, offers for livelihood are very rare. Rejected by the society, many of them return to the dark alleyways of hell that they had escaped.

And so we walk past ‘them’… the ‘ones’ standing on the pavement… we snigger at ‘them’, because we are the ‘respected ones’ in the society. But stop… and ask yourself, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? It’s time that we wake up to reality of human trafficking. Precious time has been lost, in being a passive observer, but not anymore. It’s time to take a pledge, an oath to help the victims. They don’t need your sympathy; they need your support- a helping hand, to help them fight their battle.

We at SHAPATH have taken an oath – a SHAPATH to fight against human trafficking- a growing evil in the society. To fulfil this oath, we are launching a citywide movement to create awareness among the residents of Pune to engineer a change in the perspective of the society towards the victims of human trafficking and educating school and college students about human trafficking.


Manoj Singh said...

touching.. really gud one

Padmini said...

Great work!I hope SHAPATH grows stronger every day, and makes a difference in the lives of these trafficked victims.
Also, I would like to mention that women trafficked for sex slavery are about 80% of the victimised population. The remaining are young boys too.And the reasons are myriad, from child labour, organ transplants, drug peddling, terrorism, etc.; prostitution being one of the cruel reasons.
Bonded labourers too are trafficked in big cities and often rescued from construction sites.
Sonagacchi area in Calcutta and Kamatipura area in Mumbai alone attracts atleast 5 lakh virgin victims per year.
Thousands of heart wrenching incidents rise from such dark lanes.
I had an opportunity to sensitise my collegemates about Human Trafficking thru a competition wherein I had made a 3D chart and powerpoint presentation.
Creating awareness amongst the cosy and sheltered echelons of the society is the starting point. Then creating awareness amongst victims about their rights is the next point.
beyond this there is an endless journey of joining the points to make a complete picture..