“That man put his thing from where urine comes into my mouth…when I vomited he slapped me and then he pushed it from my back…and then I started bleeding…in pain when I started crying he tied me with a electric wire and banged my head…and then I got scared that he will put that thing again in my mouth and kill me…so I did not cry out loudly…”
These were the words of a 7yr old sex trafficked victim whom I met in Kerala. I listened to this with pain and dread. For some unknown reason the child had developed a fancy for me and was disclosing to me everything in her baby voice which till date she has not even told the police.
I met many other children all below the age of 14yrs trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and rescued. What was common in all their stories was a father who raped at the age of 4yrs or a brother who molested or an uncle who forced to have oral sex. Incest and dysfunctional families was the common background all these children came from. These children had no scope to escape as they had no information or access to any other support system beside their own families.
What happens when the most safe space for a child becomes a zone of fear, threat and suffocation? What happens when deepest bonds of faith and trust is misused and exploited? Where should this child go?
One of the child I met told me that her parents had left her with her maternal parents from the time she was born. Most of her childhood was an eternal wait…for her parent’s occasional visit. She always believed that if her parents took her back she will also be like any normal child. Finally when she was 12yrs old her parents took her back. The first year of stay with her parents was sheer nightmare as the father would beat up the mother and daughter to vent out his anger and frustration( he was jobless). The next year saw another side of the father…a man so affectionate and loving that the child forgot and forgave all the torture. Little did she realize that he was bartering her to highest bidder. With silent connivance of the mother(who was only concerned about her own safety and security), the father sold his own daughter for prostitution. The worst part of the story he was the pimp and stood outside the room every time the daughter was send with a customer.
Where does a child who is in this kind of a situation go? The family is unsafe…no relatives or friends would like to take responsibility…and the civil society or the state have no system of protection services that is accessible.
A glance around me…revealed civil society organizations gearing up to organize protest march…conventions and generally making a lot of visibility in the media…the state trying to find the accused…the opposition trying to find fault with everything that the state is doing…But NOT even a single person were thinking what do these children need?
Interactions with the general public was even more scary…most of them were convinced that the 7yr old, 10 yr old and the 14yr old were all immoral persons with loose character and were just making up all these stories to gain attention.
It is such a irony when a person in prostitution Nalini Jameela wrote her story…the world had only eyes and ears for her…chat shows…column after column were written…so much so that the world was glorifying her life in commercial sexual exploitation…but today when these children’s stories are part of everyday news…nobody is thinking how can we prevent this? How can we protect these children?
I have been asked a million times “will you start a branch in Kerala”…my question is do I have to? Can you not be that person who can also reach out…is it not our collective responsibility make this world safe of our children!