India (MNN) — With 55,000 children reported missing in India, they may have "vanished without a trace," but their fate is likely a grim one.
There are about 2.5 million kids trapped in India's commercial sex trade, and of Mumbai's 250,000 commercial sex workers, over a third are children under the age of 12. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 12-years-old is the average age of entry for kids in the sex trade.
"It's a huge problem worldwide, and it's the helpless of the helpless that are usually trapped up in these systems," says Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response.
Typically, there are three main levels of national involvement in human trafficking:
- Sending/origin – countries where children are sent from
- Transit – countries where children are moved through and temporarily kept on the journey to their final destination
- Receiving/destination – final stop for trafficked children
Some countries, like India, fall into all three categories. Children from origin nations like Bangladesh and Nepal are taken into India and through India to the receiving regions of Pakistan and the Middle East. Although exact figures aren't known, it's estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into India for sexual exploitation every year.
A large portion of trafficking in underage girls for the sex trade happens inside India's borders. The 2005 National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Action Research Study found that a majority of victims came from low-ranking castes like the Dalits, or "Untouchables." The NHRC also estimates that nearly half of the kids trafficked within India are between the ages of 11 and 14.
Is there any hope in this story? Yes, and you can help restore a child pulled out of the sex trade.
BGR works with a shelter in India for rescued girls aged 8 to 18. The Courage Home is a transition home designed to help girls start on the path of healing and growth.
"We're looking at caring for them emotionally, physically, and spiritually," says Palmer, "and a part of that is sharing the hope that is in Christ."
God is at work among these girls, BGR reports. After an extended wait, one girl found a long-term home. Another got favor from the courts and avoided a dangerous situation. You can read their full stories here.
Palmer says tales like these are typical. He states, "The majority of the girls that we work with do get out of the trafficking. They do get in to a stable family, and there's hope."
Pray for The Courage Home leadership as they work with rescued girls. Ask God to heal the girls' emotional trauma.
Palmer says counselors face "very complex emotional [and] spiritual issues, as you can imagine."
Pray for wisdom and discernment for BGR partners as they work with the Indian government.
"One of the government officials came in [to Courage Homes] and said, 'I like it so much, what you're doing,' [and] said he wanted to contribute to Courage Homes," Palmer recounts.
"That's encouraging, to see something like that."