India (MNN) — Estimates show that in the course of one year, 2,500 teenage girls were trafficked from West Bengal.
"India is a hotbed for trafficking. There are approximately 3 million trafficked victims in India. It could be up to 50,000 women and girls trafficked into India annually," says ‘Sharon' from the Evangelical Free Church of America's international missions arm ReachGlobal. Most of these victims are trafficked for sex.
West Bengal is a particularly high risk area. For one thing, the region is filled with border towns, perfect spots to smuggle victims into the country. Furthermore, it is an extremely poor area of India, which intensifies the need for families living in India to find alternate ways to generate income.
In some cases, this can mean selling their daughters. Sons are expected to provide for the family eventually. Daughters, in contrast, cost the family something. A dowry is to be given in exchange for her hand in marriage. It is often more financially viable to either sell a daughter to help feed the rest of the family, or to send her off to work in the city so she can send money back regularly. Unfortunately, families don't always know that the jobs their daughters are offered in factories are only facades for a reality of sexual enslavement. Most mothers and fathers have no idea that the reason they have not heard from their daughter in so long is that she is now raped multiple times a day in a dirty brothel.
"From these villages [in West Bengal], girls are disappearing," Sharon confirms. "I'm not talking about one here and one there, I'm talking about hundreds of girls being coerced every year and ending up in the cities and the brothels. When we talk about a brothel in India, we're not talking about a small place of 25 people. In Mumbai, they have two brothels that each have 50,000 people in it."
The women are not always taken so far. One brothel in West Bengal boasts 10,000 girls. The large brothels make up red light districts in which men know they can go to satisfy their sexual appetites.
Situations are dire for the literally hundreds of thousands of girls and women trapped in lives of prostitution. God loves these women, and he loves justice. Clearly something must be done. India is one of the largest hubs for trafficking in the world, though, and it can be hard to know where to start.
One group has decided to focus on one issue at a time, but is ready to take on the next big project. Mukti (‘Deliverance') is a program which was formed by a ReachGlobal partner in India. Mukti has hired employees as well as volunteers who know the Lord and want to do something about the issue. Mainly, they have been going into West Bengali villages to prevent more women from being trafficked by educating families on the wiles of the sex trade.
Now Mukti is ready to move on to phase two: aftercare. ReachGlobal is partnered with a group called Freedom Firm, an organization which assists in rescuing and relocating rescued victims of sexual slavery. Trafficked victims are often from West Bengal originally, and Freedom Firm often tries to relocate the girls there. Mukti wants to make sure these girls can be placed in a safe environment to ensure that they never end up so mistreated again.
Mukti has plans for a girls school and a women's job training center just 20 km from the Bangladesh border. The training center will harness the skills in the women which are native to the region, such as embroidery and jewelry making. Mukti is run by devoted believers, who will without question be pouring the love of Christ into these women on a daily basis, telling them about the one who has truly never stopped loving them.
Mukti is taking their plan in stages so as not to create too big of a stir in West Bengal. The first phase of the project will only take $15,000. The ministry hopes to launch the new restorative program in February 2011.
If you want to help bring hope to these women through the love of Christ in rescue and restoration, there are two things for you to do. First, pray. Pray for Mukti to find favor with local authorities, and pray for the girls and women that they serve to find new work and new life. Second, help Mukti reach there financial goal to get their after care program running. It is programs like these that will help bring down the evil of sex trafficking in India. To donate to the care center, click here.