Every second day we hear alarming stories of children suffering a fate they don’t deserve. In 2016, India topped the Global Slavery Index with more than 18 million people trapped in different forms of modern slavery – five times more than any other country in the world. Child prostitution is one such form of modern day slavery that is a constant threat to young girls in India. For many girls this is a brutal reality – young and innocent lives thrown into a world of abuse, neglect and exploitation. This World Day against Child Labour, we at Free a Girl India pledge our solidarity to continue our efforts towards protecting and safeguarding minor girls who are coerced into working as sex slaves.
Young girls in prostitution are regularly exposed to appalling sexual abuse, violence and humiliation at the hands of deceitful traffickers and pimps. Over the years, child trafficking and child prostitution have become lucrative forms of organized crime in India. The buying and selling of underage girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation has become a common practice. In several cases girls are tricked owing to their vulnerability, and are given false promises of a bright future and well-paying job opportunities. They are eventually sold into prostitution. Take the case of 16-year-old Tinku (name changed) who was promised a good job in Delhi by a couple she met on the train while traveling to Kolkata. The couple tricked her and later sold here to a brothel keeper in Delhi. Here she was forced into prostitution for four months until she was rescued in a raid conducted by the Delhi police. Tinku is now a part of the Free a Girl family and wants to help other girls who are suffering the same ordeal as she once did. From an abusive and exploitative environment, she is now pursuing an education in law to fight against impunity of offenders.
India is identified as one of the leading hotspots of child sex trafficking in the world as per UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 2012. Besides, according to a Human Rights Watch report, there are as many as 20 million prostitutes in India out of which an alarming 35% are below the age of 18. Unfortunately, many young girls continue to be lured into the vicious cycle of trafficking and sexual slavery. Such devastating and heinous crimes against minor girls violate not only their overall well-being but also their basic human right to live with dignity and self-respect.
Although there are stringent punishments for perpetrators of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of minors in India, such issues still need to be curbed completely through extensive efforts from government organizations, NGO’s, international bodies and the civil society at large. Regular trainings, education and discussions on child trafficking and child prostitution at every level is a crucial step towards addressing these problems. Today as we observe World Day Against Child Labour, let us together work towards irreversibly breaking the chain of child abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of our girls so that they can live and grow up feeling cared for and protected in their own communities.