Friday, May 16, 2014


                                                                                       14th May 2014

Dear Abubukar Shekau,


I am not sure whether you have heard the word Namaste. This is an Indian word to greet others which means “I bow before the goodness in you”. And that is what I want I want to do right now, before I express the reason for writing to you an open letter.

My name is Sunitha Krishnan, I am an anti-trafficking activist, based in Hyderabad a city located in South of India.  In the last two decades I have rescued and rehabilitated over 10,100 girls from sexual slavery.  I am a Hindu by faith, but a humanitarian by religion.

Last night I was watching all the videos that you have sent. And what stuck me the most is that we are both very much alike. Both of us are passionate and madly obsessed with our convictions. We have worked very hard to convince others of our beliefs and have been successful in getting a lot of people believe in our convictions. Both of us similarly think that there are oppressive forces that is destroying this world and there is an immediate need for radical intervention from every human being to change the situation.    

But the method you have chosen to actualize your convictions is something that I cannot endorse. I am sure the reason for which you are doing all this has a strong background and your objective is based on deep-rooted pain that you have experienced.  But nothing can justify mindless violence and force. What is the logic of kidnapping 272 girls and keeping them in captivity and threatening to sell them as sex slaves.

Do you think any of these people actually care when million out there are already getting sold every 10 minutes for sexual slavery. Come see any of the prostitution places across the world….millions of girls from all over the world are sold every minute to satisfy the libido of men across the world….children….girls…adults all of them traded so that there bodies can pecked by vultures….the world is SILENT…it does not matter to them that across the world predators are moving in different garbs…offering jobs, marriages…love anything to exploit vulnerability and then trade them…thousands of girls from Nigeria are also languishing in different parts of the World like Italy, German, Austria, ...
Who cares a damn? Does not the world community know about it…believe me everybody knows. But very few want to fight the organized criminal syndicates who are doing this. These are criminals who have no other agenda other than making “money”….using these innocent bodies…
Nobody is questioning ‘men all over the world’  who pay money to have sex with little children, girls….women…Why should they care? They think it will never happen to their near and dear ones. Let me tell you something, these men are not coming from another planet….they are sons, brothers, husbands, fathers of all of us here…. Does Anybody Care…Afraid NOT!  

Why do you want to be clubbed with these criminals? From what I heard you speak…to me it appeared you had a strong reason for your action. By letting your action become same as what any other criminals do…you are forcing the world to call you a ‘terrorist’. No matter how right your thoughts are but if your actions are wrong.....then you also will become ‘wrong’.
Please do not demean your thoughts further by resorting to actions that any human being will definitely condemn.
Children or any human being are not playthings…that you do anything that catches your fancy…Using violent methods, kidnap, forcing human beings to follow another religion under duress cannot bring any change in the world. On the contrary you are creating a situation where you will be more and more excluded. 

I was aghast when you laughingly proclaimed on your video that you will sell those innocent girls as “sex slaves”…Do you even understand what you are talking about? Do you have any idea what it is to a woman to be violated…again and again. Believe me…Allah will never forgive you even for a having a thought of that nature…He the merciful is compassionate and will never laugh at the pain and suffering of others…He will never EVER endorse forcible abduction and rape for the gratification of individual needs.
You have no right to kidnap those girls….and definitely no rights whatsoever to blackmail anybody so that they are forced to release your colleagues.
Do you realize that your action can motivate other evil & criminal forces to do similar things and that if your act is not stopped right away…children across the world are at risk to a similar plight but albeit to satisfy other agendas which may not be as “noble” as yours…Do you see the damage that you are party to…This mindless act of yours has shaken all the efforts of humanitarians across the world. STOP IT…BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE…YOU CANNOT BE THE REASON FOR HUMANS BECOMING SATANS.

I am fighting an organized crime….you are also claiming to fight oppressive forces…and I want to tell you ‘cultures’ are not oppressive…but “actions” can be oppressive…And the act that you have committed right now is downright unacceptable for anybody following any faith from any part of the world.
Anybody including ‘you’ if you act in a way that is destroying others…you are as oppressive as anybody else. You then lose the moral right to preach anything.
Please open your ears…and listen to the cries of the mothers wailing for their daughters who are now in your captivity…Please open your eyes and see the millions like me anguished by your act…

I demand to evoke the ‘goodness in you’…to let go the girls to their families. I say this as a passionate fighter like you who wants to bring change in the world…a new world order which is free of all forms of sexual slavery….Please do not become part of the Oppressive forces which brings in slavery….You are different….and I trust the goodness in you….the merciful Allah in you will guide you to do this rightly.

Believing that collective goodness will destroy evil anywhere in the world…and having faith in your ‘goodness & godliness’ to take the right decision.

With love & prayers,
Sunitha Krishnan



Thursday, October 24, 2013


Not sure if you remember my earlier blog about a movie we wanted to make on sex trafficking “Durga”. After searching for a producer for months together, we gave up and finally decided to produce it ourselves. Well I understand only ‘fools’ with no business understanding take the risk of staking their own money to make a movie. I don’t know whether we also fit into that category or not…but so high is our conviction on what we embark to do, that till date for the strangest reason we have absolutely no regrets or fear that we have staked everything that we owned to make this movie. And by the way ‘we’ means I and my wonderful filmmaker husband Rajesh Touchriver.

After the initial search for producer and our consequent decision to produce it ourselves we decided to this film in two languages, Malayalam and Telugu. At this stage somehow the name Durga lost its appeal and we moved on first to ‘Prathyayam’ which means trust and finally “Naa Bangaaru Talli” which means ‘my dearest daughter’ in Telugu and “Ente” which means “mine” in Malayalam. Technically and practically it meant making two films as each scene had to be done twice…malayalam and telugu.

Selecting a cast had its own set of trouble. But finally after a lot of search we found Anjali Shinde Patil( Debut-Delhi in a day) and Siddiq( a well known versatile actor from Kerala) to play the lead roles. For some unknown reasons Siddiq gave us some terrible last-minute jitters by pulling out just 10 days before the shoot and coming back 3 days before the first schedule began. His star tanturms(if that is what you call for being difficult) continued throughout the production but ended strangely on the last day of the shoot. But the worst shock treatment was given by the then chosen cinematographer. A guy known to us very closely, who had seen all the locations with Rajesh Touchriver my co-producer and director.  Just a week before the shoot he sent a mail (otherwise calling Rajesh up a million times a day was so common) stating his inability to be part of the venture quoting some financial crises. In any case this was a huge crises as visual medium like cinema requires a talented cinematographer. Simultaneously the editor backed out with a curt sms. It was as if there was a planned move from some quarter to discourage this project(as all the rejections were coming mostly from Kerala). 

The last week before the shoot started was a nightmare to say the least…but somewhere our guardian angels were watching us. Just three days before the shoot we found Ramanthulasi, a brilliant cinematographer and DonMax our fantastic editor. Truly we were blessed.

We were also blessed with a number of people who were conspiring to make things work for us. My father who gave his pension savings for the film…my friend Lalita Iyer who staked all her fixed deposits for us…my sister-in-law, my brother-in law, my brother…everybody pitching in to ensure that this dream we were chasing will come true.  There were also senior police officers from Andhra Police who gave us all support regarding locations and other logistics. Finally we were good to go! In spite of all obstacles we started on time!

The shoot started…everyday ended with…thank God this day passed well…and a prayer…God ensure tomorrow is as smooth…in spite of all that there were days when things didn’t go as planned…money was lost on locations…for a few days all kinds of film based unions landed on the sets to disrupt the shooting. One day it was ‘you have given work to people without union cards’ or ‘how can you shoot for two films without our permission’ etc…etc. There was also constant trouble with junior artistes. The worst part was I could not even go for the shooting in the first schedule in Hyderabad as many junior artistes would recognize me. The junior artistes especially those involved in prostitution walked out of sets the moment they knew that I was the producer. They had seen me in a different contexts of raids etc…what a irony!!!

The paid technicians did their job to at least to some extent…but friends who were contributing on the technical side freely, were tough ones to handle…a core team mate even managed to leave the location for good when he was most required…Many lessons learnt…one of them being, in future take only technicians on payment otherwise goodwill does not ensure accountability. An unforgettable instance was when Rajesh Touchriver my co-producer and director(and also my better half!) had to become the art director and had to construct the sets by himself. Today we can proudly say that each aspect of the movie has a significant contribution from the producers themselves.

Production completed…post-production began. Editing…dubbing…music…and background score. DonMax our editor and Sasi our associate editor were super.

At that time we had asked Shareeth a leading music director in south to do the background score and the songs. The songs I must say did come out very well, but the background score was pathetic to say the least. By this time all our assistants except for Harsha had already dumped us. Now I cannot blame them…as we were paying them modestly. So it was Rajesh and Harsha sitting through the editing, dubbing…music…re-recording etc. And Rajesh single handedly managing the same in Kerala and Chennai as we could not afford for Harsha or anybody else to assist Rajesh there. Bhaskar another of our assistant based in Chennai atleast was available on call.

With the background score practically killing all our significant characters…we were back to a situation of making difficult choices. No matter what, both Rajesh and I could not come in terms with this…it was then Shantanu Moitra, a dear friend came to our rescue. He agreed to do the background score, free of cost(just charging us the studio rents). The movie got delayed by a month…but by God what a wait…it is worth it! The background score done by Shantanu is superlative to say the least. And the super-best thing(I am not sure such adjectives exists…but it sounds good to me), the final climax number by Shantanu…I promise you none of you who will watch the movie will forget the tune for a long time to come. Shreya Goshal with her haunting melody…will surely stir everybody’s soul. My little sister who heard it last month briefly, still hums it…So everything that happens…happens for good only.

Movie done…and now  the greatest challenge is taking it to the theaters. Search for a distributer started in earnest.  The answers ranged from “this film does not fall in our kind of films” or “please show it in festivals”, nut and bolt of it was we cannot distribute it for you. The irony was most distributers who saw the film had tears in their eyes(I am not sure now whether it was real or whether I imagined all of it!!!) and told us all the right emotional answers. For that moment we were on top of the world…and then there would be a meeting in a day or two where their stand would be completely different.  All of them unanimously felt (I am telling you this after showing it to more than 30 big and small distributers) it was a great family-thriller, the background score was brilliant, the songs were great, the story mind-blowing, and the performance powerful…etc…etc  

So where is the movie falling short? No star cast, no item number, no sex…no violence…all in all no masala. Infact one small time distributer told me “you had so much scope for adding so many things in your film…atleast you could have shown some sex ( the film is a true story of sex trafficking)…or atleast one item number in the form of a bar dance!!!

This is where I am really questioning the activist in me….what do people want… and what actually sells? Was it wrong of me to believe that there is still a collective conscious in the society that will accept with open arms a sensitive film made on sensitive subjective with relatively unknown faces. Or sense & sensibilities sells only when a star is there…so what was the attraction the cause or the star.

To that extent I am also questioning all that I demanded of Rajesh. When Rajesh started the script I repeatedly harped on the same thing, it has to be a family film and the treatment should be in such a way that I can sit with my 6yr old nephew and not flinch. I also wanted situational songs that will enhance the viewing. I was not interested in making a film which is dark and gory and will only run in a festival circuit where the audience consists mostly of ‘converts’ who do not really require this sensitization. What I was really interested is showing to people who need to be sensitized both from the ‘class’ and from the ‘mass’….

In any case, by now frustrations was eating me up…First you stake everything…then you do not find a way a to take it to its logical conclusion, suddenly an alien sensation of helplessness seeps in. It is at this stage I went to attend INK Conference at Pune(incidentally INK is being held tomorrow at Cochin). I am not sure how many of you know INK. It is an abbreviation for Innovation & Knowledge, an extraordinary forum in association with TED. This is the brainchild of two brilliant and dynamic women Lakshmi Pratury & Anu Sethuram. A conference for the best of the minds and hearts to meet. It was its third conference.  I went for it…and then it felt like Gods were conspiring to make way for me. I met Anu Agha and Amit Singhal. These two people after hearing me speak at the conference, came forward to support this film for us to distribute it ourselves. What a miracle!!!

With this support in hand we decided to distribute this film ourselves in Kerala in association with Celebrate International. We had no choice but to tie up with a existing distributer to get access to the theaters etc.  “Ente” was released in Kerala early this year. The response from those who saw the film “it was the most transformative experience”.  Like I had hoped, from school children to very old people…everybody felt comfortable in watching the film and went back holding something… A mother from Kohikode called me and said…”the first thing I did after seeing the film was rush and hug my daughter”

Super critical acclaim everywhere….but sadly a commercial disaster.  Inspite of the fact that everybody proclaimed it one of the best films that they have seen…there was hardly any crowd rolling on top of each other at the ticket counter… Where were the hundreds & thousands who wanted good cinema…and write or speak so eloquently on facebook, social media and all forums. Suddenly it appeared as if everybody just disappeared…

But to my utter amusement all of them reappeared once the movie was removed from the theaters…we had demands and demands to show “Ente” in some university festival or other. When asked why they did not see it when it reached theaters in their towns…there were a lot of sheepish response. To test further, when we said please pay a screening fees…the disappearance act was repeated. 

Suddenly I was wondering whether people think, since she is a activist she has no right to recover her money…only the commercial film producers have a right to recover and make a profit. We will only buy tickets and watch films of the commercial film producer… and ensure he/she does not have a loss. Since she is activist…she can bear a loss!!! 

I also started questioning myself? What do people want?  Is this a denial? Or is it a resistance to change?                        

The release of “Ente” was a bitter-sweet experience with the Malayali crowd…Sweet because of the response of the those who saw it…and bitter because we were not able to reach to the desired level through the theaters. One of the most memorable comments was by Shri Oomen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala, who sat through a film after 25years( I believe the last film he saw was around 25yrs back)…and said ‘this will always remind me on how less we are doing” and declared it “tax free”.

Now back to square 1, since the Malayalam version did not make the mullahs rolling…no takers in Andhra Pradesh for the telugu version “Naa Bangaaru Talli”. Just for the heck of it we send it some festivals…and lo and behold “ Naa Bangaaru Talli” as adjudged the best feature film at Trinity International Film Festival, Detroit.
I am sure such things are happening only so that our morale is boosted…(God has his/her own way to take care of souls like us)…

Searching for a distributer in Andhra Pradesh….simultaneously trying to mobilize around 30 lakhs or 50,000 USD to release it ourselves. Reliance Entertainment although not willing to invest has committed to support us distribute it if we mobilize the money…even here we need the help of a player in the market who can get us the theaters. So looking for fifty thousands and one hundred thousand to finally make it three hundred thousand rupees to take this film to the theaters. Now you will ask why theaters, why can’t you release it online…my only answer is I want the poorest person in the remotest village in Andhra Pradesh to watch this film…I want to reach where the problem begins.

Will I succeed in Andhra Pradesh…time will say…

And by the way…I hope nobody is saying right now after reading all this…who told her to make a movie…she should just do things that she knows…

My answer…”We have only one life Boss!’’

Watch the trailer…

I am not sure whether there has been an audio launch on a blog…if not let me be the first. Launching the title song of my film “Naa Bangaaru Talli”

Song (singer- Shreya Goshal, music director- Shantanu Moitra)

If you want to share it please feel free to do so… make the song your ringtone…this is your chance to support the cause…can you do it?

Vodafone Users
To Set Caller Tunes SMS Song Name Or Album Name to 57979 or Just Dial 57979

For Mobile Downloads SMS "NBT" to 56060

Available on Nokia Music at

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Recently while addressing a group of fellows of “Teach for India” I faced an interesting question, “when we as individuals are ill equipped to address the issue of sexual offence, should we report at all? Will it end up harming the child more, than helping?”

I was taken aback for a moment, as these are thoughts that are plaguing me for the last few weeks consistently.

A few weeks back I was caught in between a case of child sexual abuse in Gunupur, a small town in Odisha. The father of the child an assistant professor had recently moved to this place. After a lot of scouting the parents had found this school which was well reputed for its educational standards.
For this 3 yr old it was the first day in school. Like any other children, the child went to school in bright spirits. But when the child came home, she was crying and profusely bleeding. Went the mother checked up, the child’s vagina was torn. The parents rushed the child to a private hospital, where the doctor told them that it was a case of sexual assault and the child required a surgical process.
In an interesting manner the matter came to my notice the next day. When I spoke to the parents they did express their willingness to report.  I spoke to Shri Rajesh Pundit, Superintendent Of Police, Raygada, who turned out to be an extremely child friendly person.  The case was booked under POSCO. Then the challenge began, every step of the legal procedure the parents started resisting. Their contention was, that it will re-traumatize the child.

For any legal procedure, apart from the statement of the victim which will then form the First Information Report(FIR), followed by a medical examination in a government hospital and the consequent identification of the accused is more or less mandatory. But the parents who were caring for this little one and were witnessing the various levels of trauma the child was going through, found all this too much to handle.  In spite of the fact that the police was making it as child friendly as possible(most of the time the lady police went in mufti to their house, instead of calling to the police station and tried to make it comfortable for the child), the parents were vocally quite resistant.

I was caught between the police and the parents. Every time the parents would resist, the police would call me and I had to spend long hours counseling the family on the importance and need of that step. The matter became even more complicated, when the medical report revealed penetration of a blunt object (maybe fingers or fist, there is was no smears of sperms which could be taken as an evidence). The parents had already disposed of the child’s blood soaked under-wear out of ignorance. As usual all the alleged accused maintained their stand of innocence.  The only way to make an arrest was identification by the child. An effort was made, by showing pictures of alleged accused on a laptop to the child, with no clear results. Finally the only option left was physical identification. 

The family was in no mood to entertain any such thing. Both the parents were upset, angry and frustrated as the child was now showing signs of fever and was slowly withdrawing herself from others.

After resisting for more than a day finally the family relented and the child was taken for an identification parade. It was done in the most child friendly manner, with the child sitting in a room and through an outlet looking at all alleged accused. In all her innocence, although the child pointed to one person conclusively as the “bad man”, she also pointed out casually at three more persons.  Arrest was made of the one person, who till date denies having done that in spite of rigorous questioning of the police.  The fact remains however that the child was sexually assaulted.

Was it a worthwhile effort to subject the child through all this? After a few days of traumatic churning I have come to the conclusion “yes it was”.  Firstly from a child’s perspective, in a few years from now when the child remembers this traumatic episode, apart from the abuse, she will also remember how her parents stood by her, encouraging her to stand up against any violation and mostly that she did not do any “wrong” but she was wronged. This is a precious understanding very few victims all over the world have the privilege to experience, for in their silence they not only carry the shame but also a repeated reinforced message of being guilty of the crime committed on them.

Further her images of the police will not be that which evokes fear but that of support and safety. More than anything, she will grow up with the security of being heard and trusted.

From a social perspective, I am not sure who was the real culprit or whether the real culprit was actually caught, but whoever is the real culprit he will know people are not going to keep quite. The message is not only going to culprit in this case, but also to sex offenders living in that area and all potential offenders.  If everyone breaks their silence on this issue…and enforcement mechanism plays a proactive role in dealing with such cases with sensitivity and care, what we are creating is a great wall of deterrence.  Maybe there are temporary inconveniences for the victim, but it is worth it, as it will help the person look back at her fight against such violation with pride and view herself as a person of courage.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


From Dec 16th 2012, after the Delhi gang rape case that shook the conscience of the country, I have been very deeply disturbed. As much for the sexual violence that is happening but more for the repeated reiteration of the hypocrisy prevalent among us. As the nation shook…and the international media had a hay day, all and sundry were compelled to act. Corporate offices had special seminars on women’s safety…schools/colleges lead candle lights…billions danced for safety…awards were given dime to dozen for all Tom, Dick & Harry who could spell sexual assault correctly and were capable of speaking at a stretch for 30 minutes on this issue!!!

All this was happening in a way that it was highlighted adequately in the media…so practically the nation was eating, sleeping and breathing sexual assault. Not even a month had passed three sisters all between 6-11yrs went missing in Maharashtra. The police refused to file a missing case…and very condescendingly told the family to search( as if they had not already!)….no family will rush to police without doing their own enquiry. Three days later, the decomposed bodies of these three children was found in a nearby pond.

 The Madhya Pradesh Police were even more creative, they went ahead and kept a 5 yr old rape victim in the lock up!!!

Delhi Police inspite of all the attention they were getting were still not ready to wake up. A 5 yr old was abducted…imprisoned in the third floor of the same building that the parents stayed. The police refused to file the missing complaint. On the third day when the same police rose from their slumber they were able to trace the child…gang raped… sadistically violated in the same building.

To me what was interesting was, when the first Delhi gang rape case was reported, Chief Minister of Delhi announced a cash compensation of 10 lakhs and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister 15 lakhs. 

Somehow none of the other cases received any offer of any compensation!!!

Just two months back, I was dealing with the rape of a 5 yr old. The Child Welfare Committee was handing this child to me for further care. What was shocking to me, all the stakeholders involved Dept of Women & Child, CWC were talking of the rape case and its details, but not a single one was interested in getting a case booked. The villagers had handed over the raped orphan child to the local anganwadi and they just handed to their superior officers!

So what is the great impact of all this visibility…and such extraordinary media attention either on the general public or the state or the stakeholders such as police or dept of women & child. Is our basic attitude and perception changing because of this attention? Are victims getting the care and compensation they deserve as a matter of right.

Do any of the following happen:
-Police book the case as their basic duty…without any pressure from the media or public
-Dept of Women & Child or the relevant departments provide compensation as their non-negotiable departmental mandate.
-Victim have access to support in a dignified environment.
-Government evolves victim friendly policies as a matter of primary duty…not because it is nearing election time.
-Public react…no matter what…as they believe this will not be tolerated.

Finally the fundamental question is ARE WE WILLING TO ACT TO MAKE THIS SOCIETY FREE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE? Not because media is making a lot of noise…not because it is in fashion these days…not because something pricks you momentarily….but because we believe no child…no woman…no human being deserves to be violated.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


For the last few days I am receiving hundreds of calls/mails requesting my gracious presence for International Women’s Day. There is a sudden radical spurt in activities in organizing women’s programs. And of course ‘so called’ inspirational women like me are in great demand. Some of the calls came through this morning ie 7th March….and I was wondering whether I was part of a back up plan, inspiration1-not available….Insp2-not available….Insp3- Not available….so okay lets try Insp10!!! What is Women’s Day for all these people? Is it a day when we remember lost souls…or a day to honor so called women leaders…or a day to remind us all about gender-related crimes/violence…or day to look back on how we have progressed…or a day to acknowledge women are still part of humanity..or a day to organize an event. Having done that for one day…for the next 365 days you can forget half the humanity…continue the violence…the discrimination…the violations….and marginalization in our minds and souls. Across the world, year after year International Women’s Day is CELEBRATED!...and across the world young ones as young as 3yrs old are raped and sold…interestingly year after year the numbers are only increasing….Two days back a little one who was sleeping with her mother on the footpath in Kerala, was dragged away…raped and thrown….on valentine’s day when one billion people rose to protest sexual violence….three little ones…all sisters 6yr, 8yrs and 11yrs were raped and murdered in Bhandara, Maharshtra…during the same time a 7yr old was raped in Municipal School in the national Capital New Delhi. In many African countries, rape is used as a weapon of war…in many others genital mutilation is followed…young activist are gunned at close range for they chose to speak for girl child education…every country in the world can boast about the increasing gender-based violence in their communities… I wonder where is the change? Can things change because of events/TV shows or programs on a particular day? Can things change because we went and lit a candle? Can things change because we acknowledged a powerful woman? Can things change because we participated in a public event? To me “NO”…nothing can change for women and children till it is symbolic gesture…nothing can change if we consider it as women’s rights…nothing can change till our basic attitude and perception does not undergo sea change. It is gives me great amusement whenever there is a national uproar about sexual violence, I get thousands of mails/calls asking “what can I do”? That is the attitude I am talking about…so long as you think it happens to them and not us…you will keep asking what to do? The day each one of us realize that this can happen to anyone including us…or to somebody dear to us, then each one of us will know what to do… I feel this question is asked so that one can actually avoid doing anything and yet not feel guilty(you will keep quite till somebody tells/guides you on what to do, will that be the same attitude if somebody dear to you is violated). If one wants to respond…there is no need for anybody’s guidance… For me until and unless women’s right’s is not accepted as basic human rights nothing can change. And then the fight is not just for a few women to come together…but for every person who is human. It is not about a few hundred women coming together on Women’s Day(while all the men go about doing their work!!!). The fight is not just for a day…but it for 365 days till these basic human rights are realized. The fight is not about women…it also about men…how can half the humanity survive if the other half is mutilated and violated. Tomorrow as we observe Women’s Day…I hope we will remember people like Irom Sharmila who are consistently fighting without a break for the last 4380 days(12yrs)….and all the activists fighting a spectrum of issues across the world for whom every day is a day to fight for human rights...thanking them for their perseverance…thanking them for having faith in change.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Yesterday was a bizarre day for me…practically every national and regional channel wanted to speak to this “brave rape survivor” who is now an activist. Everybody wanted an opinion about what I felt about the Delhi gang rape… Why this national outrage? Is it because it happened in the national capital “Delhi” or it happened in a bus or because it happened to an educated middle class girl! I was in Kerala the last few days for the promotion of my movie “Ente” on sex trafficking and in a brief period of 6 days there were already 12 major rape cases reported including a child of 5yrs. Why no outrage? Is it that if you need complete attention on a particular issue , you have to be in the right place…at the right time…with the right persons. I am not sure what pushes people to revolt from across the country…when sexual violence is being reported everyday in every city…every town. Violation is a violation wherever it happens. My frustration was also on the sudden great interest in all the rape survivors…lets hound them…Did anybody make a single attempt to hound all the reported rapists in the country? Asking them why do they do this? What is this unquenchable libido of a man that needs to be satisfied with violence and coercion. And if all these are sick men then why are we not fighting tooth and nail to get them treated. Why the great slogan for a “death sentence”…so that more and more “sick men” can live on the tax-payers money as state guests. For even if he is awarded the death sentence…after appeal to the High Court…then to the Supreme Court…and then with mercy petition to President Of India he enjoys a relatively hassle free life in the central jail after conviction for many years!!! Is this the so-called deterrence that we are fighting for. Today what we need is outrage at every local level for every case that is reported, making the lives of the perpetrators so miserable that they cannot walk in any public place without fear or shame. By focusing on the victims we are cornering them to “prying visibility” forcing them to hide their faces or run away with shame. Today was another day of pain and frustration. Another girl in my shelter died of AIDS. As a matter of coincidence the death happened in my shelter and not in a hospital. By default it became a medico-legal case. Since the girl was handed to us by the court, the police in their holier than thou tone wanted the post-mortem to be done in-spite of the doctors stating no such thing is done on HIV positive persons. Once again there is media all around us with the brokers, traffickers and the parents of the girl. This time around whether I killed the girl…whether there was abuse in the home…why she died in the home…and what not…Interestingly all of them including the family disappeared as soon as the doctors declared it was a AIDS death. The outrage that we exhibit when a girl is gang-raped is not to be seen for the millions of women and children who are raped everyday for years in all the brothels across in the country. We conveniently close our eyes regarding that by calling it “sex work”…sadly even the Apex Court seems to be in the same vicious trap. We do not see the irreversible damage…we do not see the depths of pain and trauma which forces a person to normalize an existence of exploitation, choosing to live in hell rather face the continues social exclusion and marginalization. We see it only when media takes it as a issue!!! Then across the country there is protests…candle light vigils… Victims of sexual violence anywhere, in any part of the world require our compassion, care and a space for healing My fear is whether all this outrage will pass of…not just for the media but for all us when the next story comes in... I am suitably amused by the number of comments on the facebook, tweets etc on how everybody is feeling guilty and ashamed. The time is not for guilt and shame…the time is for action. Can we all join hands to form the largest movement of real men that will engage with men to sensitize…transform…reform…treat…so that they do not turn as perpetrators of crime. It could be as an eve teaser…molester…abuser…rapist. Can we engage with men so that do not become ‘buyers of sex’…because as buyers they rape… for the girl who is being bought for sex has absolutely no bargaining power on the needs of the man who is buying her. Is this such a tough proposition… we do not need to go searching for men…they are all around us…our fathers, brothers, boyfriends,husbands,uncles…We can start now within our own families

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A life lost...a painful tribute

When I think of Shaheda, I remember a bright and bubbly child who would run and hug me close. She was 9 yrs old when her maternal uncle sold her. The mother who was also into prostitution was a mute spectator. We got the information a tad too late, but we rushed and rescued her. On a precaution we also rescued her younger sister Sahera as we thought she could be the next target.Out of fear that we may book a case if they protested the mother and uncle kept quite. In those days we were not too particular about booking a case mostly because we did not work closely with police then and felt it was just enough that we saved the children. Also our main informers were women in prostitution and they were not at all comfortable giving any information to the police.

What was very striking about Shaheda was her extraordinary resilience, the moment she reached the safety of our shelter she was a new person. Her own efforts to overcome her pain and trauma was for me a great inspiration. I do not remember spending too much time counseling her apart from the first three or four sessions. Then she became a role model for all other victimized children. Her interest to excel in all activities both curricular and extra-curricular made her a high achiever. In the meantime we saw change in the mother who slowly gave up prostitution and started a new life. For 7 yrs Shaheda lived in our shelter. After she finished her X std I asked her whether she wanted to go back to her mother. Shaheda and Sahera both felt the need to go back to their mother. We let them go with a undertaking from the mother that she will ensure that the children's education will not be discontinued. In the first two years we regularly monitored their welfare. After that we lost touch.

Yesterday evening I got a call that Shaheda died. I was numbed to silence. The worst was to know that she was dumped before a dargah and that is where she breathed her last, day before yesterday night. Shahida was positive due to the sexual violation she was subjected to, but throughout the 7yrs that she was with us she was like any normal child. 3 yrs after she left our shelter slowly opportunistic infections crept in. The mother refused to take her to a hospital fearing social repercussion, instead took her to one dargah after another. Finally three weeks back when matter worsened she just dumped the girl before a dargah and left. My little Shaheda was just 19 yrs old...she was lying before a dargah as a destitute, seeking alms...can there be a more painful and inhuman death?

Today I am filled with guilt and pain. Was I right in sending this child back to her mother? Should I have taken care knowing her HIV status. They say institutional care is the last option and community based care should be the first option. But if the communities around us are no more safe for our children where do we send them? Should I have created a longer follow up plan...if so for how long should we have followed up? As civil society organizations do we have the wherewithal to sustain long term follow up plans...I kept asking the mother why she did not abandon the child with me, I could have taken care?
As I struggle with all these questions...Shahida's face haunts me...did she deserve such a death?