Monday, May 16, 2011
Do they have a choice really?
The day started with a terrible chest pain. No silly, I wasn't dying already. As it turns out I was suffering from a terrible digestion problem because of which I had to rush to the loo about a zillion times before I could finally leave home for my internship.It was almost a two hour journey. And due to my present disposition making a change wasn't something which was on my mind back then. Instead I just hoped that I did not have to rush into the bathroom immediately after entering the NGO. And as luck would have it, I entered my first workplace brimming with confidence and a smile because I knew how lucky I have been to receive such an opportunity in the firstplace.
My NGO's name is Sanlaap which means -'Dialogue' in Bengali. It works for the welfare of women in trafficking and their children (mostly young girls). My internship coordinator is this young woman barely 5-6 years elder to me and because of this may be, I was quite at ease with her as there was no pretense or any inhibition from either side. Since I had wanted to work for their Child Protection Program, she helped me glimpse through a few booklets and sign a couple of sheets. And then the interrogation began (Well you don't exactly call it that but I was unable to hold myself from even asking her the silliest query that bothered my inexperienced mind.)She answered patiently and by the orientation/briefing session I was dumb founded by the sheer vulnerability of the issue.
Quite unlike the West, Prostitution in India or in the south Asian countries is not a profession. It is more often than not a form of bonded labor which is inflicted on young girls (as young as 5-6 years.)These girls are either sold off by relatives, friends, a close confidante and at times by their own parents for just a handful of money. These girls are then smuggled into the country (mostly from Bangadesh, Nepal and Bhutan ) or abducted from their native village and taken to either of the three cities i.e Bombay, Delhi or Kolkata.What must be remembered in this regard is that prostitution happens everywhere starting from hotels to massage parlours and so on. But the most popular brothels are in the three major cosmopolitans in this country and have been functioning quite smoothly for many decades together.
Needless to say that these poor souls succumb to the most excruciating of all pains (both physical and mental) where they are forced to have sexual intercourse with strangers ranging from 3-4 to as many as 30 to 40 per day. In most cases, they are not allowed more than one shower every week and one meal per day. So a bright mind is eventually reduced to nothing but a mere tool in the hand of some useless chap who could not even stand up to answer back his wife. When the girls refuse alcohol, drugs or something like anal sex, they are beaten and burnt with cigarette stubs till they finally give up on anything they could have ever believed in.If the girls become pregnant they are made to skip or run with a container filled with hot starch water on their head. When they trip and fall (which they obviously do), they are beaten up till they again start and continue with the process. So they is no medical intervention which aids in their abortion. These women often encounter with a miscarriage and if by chance the baby happens to survive and is a girl, the infant is immediately separated from her mother so that she can put under a rigorous training schedule as soon as possible.
And what might this training be like? Ok, sample this. When a piece of thermocol is immersed in water it swells up. Why am I you telling you this? Because a young girl of five years is made to insert that piece of thermocol into her vagina and sit for seven to eight hours so that her vagina grows in size. And this is because virgins are in great demand because supposedly having sex with them helps you from getting rid of AIDS.
I can't possibly describe what I felt while hearing such horrendous stories and what I feel now while writing them down. The entire purpose of womanhood feels defeated when certain people decide that the only they can prove their manliness is by stabbing someone to death just because she refused to indulge in oral sex.
My NGO rescues these girls in the harshest of situations. If any of their plans are leaked, the sex traders also change their path within moments in order to avoid a raid.Even if it is a distance of 1km, the traders change hands ten times so that it becomes almost impossible to trace them. And even when girls are rescued they have a tendency to run away because obviously they can't bring themselves to trust anyone ever again.
Now that is a whole of information which has been fed into you in one day, in less than two hours time. You'd probably be having nightmares trying to accept these facts. And when this happens, try and think about those people who have to live like this for their entire life. Try and think about that young girl of your age who is a mother of a five year old. You would be thankful for even the smallest chocolate that you father ever got you (when you wanted a big teddy bear) because you can't dream of a life otherwise. A life where you don't get one square meal a day, a life where you opinions matter no more.
Today, was just a start and hopefully I will keep updating my blog from time to time about this cause. An honest revelation: I never felt this helpless and I would only pray that in the long run I get to work more and more with such troubled souls because I believe that it is always good to have people listen to you especially when you feel that you probably don't deserve to live anymore. I guess when sorrow is shared, the pain does not seem overpowering enough to shake the your core of existence.
Once you choose hope, anything's possible. ~Christopher Reeve