India (MNN) — The U.S. State Department says India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
While statistics this year are still be compiled, last year India's Minister of State for Labor & Employment said 3517 Indian girls became victims of human trafficking.
Among the government tactics are prosecution and prevention. There has been moderate success in prosecution in 2012. On December 10, a task force broke up a cross-border human trafficking ring in Hyderabad and arrested seven persons, including six Bangladeshi nationals. In Delhi, a group of 19 girls under the age of 18 years were rescued three weeks ago.
These two cases are just a drop in the bucket of trafficking cases throughout Southeast Asia. In 2011, India's Minister of State for Labor & Employment said 3517 Indian girls became victims of human trafficking.
Meanwhile, the other part of the government approach is prevention. Poverty plays a huge role in the sex trafficking industry. According to the most recent census, nearly 300 million people in India live below the poverty line. Even more staggering, the World Fact book recorded 618 million women in India over the age of 15 are illiterate and without education.
Without formal training, women are obligated by the financial needs at home to work as day laborers, beggars, or worse. Donna Glass with India Partners explains, "In order to earn an income, if they are not married, they often will turn to prostitution. So the tailoring schools are one way to help prevent the spread of that scourge in India."
The tailoring programs are in Andhra Pradesh State and connected to the local churches. Glass says, "Four of the tailoring schools are actually held within the church building that has been built in villages. They have the sewing machines there six days a week, and church services are held on the seventh, so these are truly community centers, not just a church building."
The program trains women in six months, and once they learn to sew, they need the tools to keep them heading in right direction. But a sewing machine is out of reach. Glass says that's why India Partners includes them in their annual Christmas Catalog. "As that students graduate, they receive–as part of their graduation–a treadle sewing machine. We provide treadle machines and not electric machines because electricity is unreliable at best in many of these rural villages."
What difference can a $95 sewing machine can make? "If a woman is diligent in her work, she can earn 150 to 200 rupees a day in tailoring work from her home. It also has the benefit of helping a mom stay at home and watch over her children."
Since 1996, India Partners' tailoring programs have trained over 500 women, providing them with a source of income and personal dignity.
Glass goes on to say that the added advantage of being a stay-at-home mom comes when "the older children, instead of having to watch the younger children, then have an opportunity to go to school, which they might not have had otherwise."
The "Gifts Worth Giving" catalog highlights various opportunities to provide Christ's love and compassion. Donors can purchase items, and India Partners' staff takes the funds, purchases the item, and gives it to the designated person.
Since the students have a regular connection to the local church, Glass adds, India Partners' programs have "devotions every morning. So women who do not come from a Christian background, who might be Hindu or Muslim, are introduced to the Gospel every day–and to Christ, and they are invited to come to church."
It's hard to believe that a $95 sewing machine plays such a huge role in the fight against a multi-billion dollar industry. It's just the first step, says Glass. "Pray for these poorest of the poor in India."