We live in a world of 4 billion people. We learn that if we are living with anything other than a dirt floor we are in the top 50% of wealthy people in the world; if we have a roof, doors and windows in our home, we are in the top 20%; if we have refrigeration we are in the top 5% and that if we have a car, microwave and a door on our toilet we are in the top 1%.
Of the nearly 1 billion inhabitants of India, over half are poor. But alongside the practical chains of poverty come other ills. The voiceless poor are the perfect prey for all manners of exploitation. Human trafficking, in commercial terms, is a booming business. Trafficking – for prostitution or labour – is now the 2nd most lucrative illegal trade in the world after drugs.
Take 8 year old Satti, picked up by a “friend” while her parents were out working the paddy fields (the initial point of contact for most trafficking is a trusted friend/relative/boyfriend). She was promised a trip to the cinema but on arrival in Mumbai was sold to a brothel for 28,000 rupees (about £300). From that moment her life changed for ever. She was kept indoors during the day (a minor wandering the streets would raise suspicion) but made to work 10 hour nights for the rest of her childhood and teenage years. We are told that girls are often “servicing” up to 30/40 men a night and resistance is met with further cruelty. We are told of one girl who was repeatedly bitten then locked in a dog cage to stop her crying during sex. The other girls from the brothel advise compliance – the more you resist the worse it will be, they assure new recruits. Satti was rescued from the brothel in her early 20’s by a raid organised by Oasis India alongside local police. Because of cultural norms in India, a reconciliation with her family is out of the realms of possibility. Any contact would bring shame on her family and amongst other social exclusions, make it difficult for her sisters to marry. Instead Satti lives in a safe home provided by Oasis India and starts the long process of rehabilitation into normal life. She does this, like most women in her situation, living with HIV/Aids.
It’s a difficult industry to take on, not just because it operates underground; not just because the sex trade is taboo; and not just because people representing the police and judicial systems are sometimes implicated in the trade whether by accepting bribes or frequenting brothels themselves. It’s a difficult industry to take on, because the damage it wreaks is so pervasive to its victims. How do you recover from 10 years slavery in a brothel? There is no quick turnaround on damage like this. Not only is it a lengthy process, it’s an expensive process. We need to be realistic about what we are taking on. Realistic but not deterred.
In the 18th century, Wilberforce set about tackling a brutal slave trade that had become socially acceptable to Georgian life. Not just socially acceptable, the prosperity of the age depended on its’ workforce. Human trafficking affects about 2.4 million people worldwide. Though hidden from modern life, Human Trafficking is rife and cannot be allowed to continue unabated.