In the wake of globalization and the resultant marginalization and alienation of large sections of humanity, sex trafficking has become a matter of urgent concern today worldwide. In India alone, over 200 thousand women and children are inducted into the flesh trade every year. The state of Andhra Pradesh is one of the largest suppliers of women and children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Economic hardships coupled with the prevailing status of women in society, and changing public attitudes towards sex and morality creates the context for the flourishing of this modern-day form of slavery. A disturbing fact is that the age of the children is progressively declining to meet the male demand for younger prostitutes. There is a widely held belief that sex with children, especially virgins, will cure sexually transmitted diseases and prevent one from contracting HIV/AIDS. One of every four victims rescued from prostitution is a child, and 60% of these children are HIV positive.
Sex trafficking not only results in a severe violation of human rights but also causes adverse physical, psychological and moral consequences for the victims. All hopes and dreams of a better life are shattered and over time the girls become penniless, mentally broken and affected with serious or life-threatening illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. The journey of sex trafficking destroys the body, mind and soul of a victim, and fundamentally takes away her capacity to trust herself or anyone around her. The damage done is deep rooted and often irreversible, as the sense of rejection, betrayal and numbness that a trafficked women or girl goes through makes her lose faith in humanity. Skewed identity, poor self-worth and learnt helplessness also make her believe there is no hope for her in the outside world and her destiny is to sell her body.
Today, sex trafficking in women and children is one of the fastest growing areas of national and international criminal activity. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and has created complex criminal networks - at times, with the patronage of those in power. Lack of suitable laws and law enforcement machinery add to the problem.
Our Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative in Northern India launched in 2014 dedicated to ending human trafficking. The initiative focuses on training local to identify victims, facilitate rescues and provide aftercare. Along with education and job training, these things empower these young women and children to have promising futures. Our volunteers are also bringing awareness about trafficking to their communities. Awareness campaigns will be effective in diminishing, eliminating the demand.
In 2013 the central government in India took significant steps to address the issue of human trafficking in their country. From 2008 to 2009, the government allocated a special budget to the Ministry of Home Affairs to create 297 anti-human trafficking units across the nation. The purpose of these units is to train and sensitize law enforcement officials to begin seeing trafficked girls as victims, not willing participants. These units aim to act in the best interest of the victim in order to prevent secondary victimization or re-victimization of those being rescued. Additionally, 35 anti-human trafficking police units were established to help address the growing issue. These officers were not familiar with proper procedures following a raid, including how to coordinate with different semi-government bodies and voluntary organizations, which often leads to penalizing the victims as opposed to coming to their aid. This new direction, new focus and commitment to working as a united front are a significant achievement for our partners in Northern India.