Victims of trafficking celebrate freedom

Thousands of citizens across the country have the privilege to join with the Nation in celebrating Independence Day today. They are none other than victims of human trafficking who have been rescued by our government.

On this significant day, IJM lauds the efforts of district, state and central government officials, anti human trafficking units, NGOs, educational institutions, corporates, shelter homes, counsellors and also the general public of India for not only bringing freedom to victims of human trafficking but also extending continued support to help them thrive in freedom.

Victims of both bonded labour and sex trafficking suffer high levels of exploitation and are denied their basic human rights and freedom. They are forbidden from making any personal choices. Their ‘owner’ or ‘madam’ directs their every move – when to eat, when to sleep, what work to do and for how long. Any question asked could provoke the owner to insult them, beat them or even confine them to instill fear.

In a recent bonded labour case led by Mr. Muthuvadivel, RDO of Chengalpattu, the brick kiln owner’s wife hid the victims’ children as a bait to retain their parents. The mother of the four missing children, despite being heavily pregnant, relentlessly searched for her children. She spotted her children’s footsteps and followed it up a steep slope and found them there. Click here to watch how the events unfolded. Later that day, the RDO released the family by giving them Release Certificates – a document that cancelled any outstanding debt, and ensured that they returned safely to their native village. Today, the family enjoys their life in freedom.

In another instance, a young girl, Pavi*, a domestic servant in Kolkata was being prepared to be sold as a prostitute. She washed clothes and did the dishes regularly but was not paid at all. She was also physically abused by her owner. But thanks to the relentless efforts of the government, the young girl was rescued before she was sold into prostitution. Today, she is a free citizen of the country and a hockey player who represents her state and district teams.

“One day, I hope to find my parents. I know they would be so proud of my hockey achievements, but more importantly, I just want my family,” she says.

Hundreds of victims of human trafficking still wait for their day of freedom. But the Indian government and the people of the nation are increasingly working together to rescue these individuals. In Chennai, a Coalition, shOUT for Freedom was launched to bring together like-minded individuals and organisations to work collaboratively to end bonded labour. A coalition such as this is the first of its kind in the State and therefore a historic step in tackling the crime.

At the event, the Principal of Stella Maris, Dr. Sr. Rosy Joseph stated, “According to a study, close to 80% of human trafficking are victims of sex trafficking and the rest are of bonded labour.”

In Karnataka, a Freedom Campaign has been live since 11th August and runs through till 19th August. The campaign has been spreading awareness about bonded labour in popular malls in Bengaluru such as Forum, Mantri, Orion East, Orion Mall at Brigade Gateway and also in the airport. Today, a freedom concert will be held in Orion Mall featuring Grammy Award Winner, Ricky Kej and artists, Classical and Fusion Dance Performance by Etram Dance Academy. The Chief Guests of the event are Shri. H. S. Doreswamy, Freedom Fighter, Shri. T. B. Jayachandra, Former Law Minister, Smt. M. V. Savithri, Secretary, Panchayath Raj and Mr. Boniface Prabhu, Indian Tennis Player, Padma Shri Awardee.

Efforts such as these, no matter how big or small, brings us a step closer to ending human trafficking in the Country. There has been an increase in awareness of the crime over the recent years and also an increase in government’s action to protect the vulnerable people. Even though we have miles to go, IJM believes that together, we can put an end to human trafficking in India and that every citizen will be able to enjoy true and whole freedom - both as an individual and as a nation.

*Pseudonym used.