Shadhika Shadhika

In Focus: Modern Day Slavery in India

June 12, 2015

Young Women from STOP India who have escaped sex trafficking

Young Women from STOP India who have escaped sex trafficking

Fighting Modern Day Slavery in India

By Sharon Malhotra, Shadhika supporter

Today, India is home to more slaves than any other country in the world. Reports estimate the number to be between 14-20 million, some claim the number to be much higher. Slavery has many faces: debt bondage, forced child labor, domestic servitude, forced marriage, and sexual slavery.

Gender discrimination and the high rate of poverty are among the economic, social, and cultural factors that leave so many vulnerable. Girls are often seen as a financial burden on a family with an impending dowry and the lack of financial support that a son would later bring to the family. Women and girls living in rural areas and those of lower castes are particularly vulnerable to the promises of traffickers. Promises of marriage, work, or an education are especially appealing in light of the limited opportunities available to them at home.

There are, however, organizations that are assisting victims and working to bring change. Two such organizations are Shadhika’s newest grantees, STOP India and Baale Mane.

STOP India seeks to end human trafficking using a multi-pronged approach. In an immediate response to sex slavery, they provide rescue and rehabilitation programs including health care access, skills training, education, and a family home for girls who are unable to return to their families.

In a country where it is reported that a child goes missing every eight minutes, prevention is vital. STOP India’s prevention program consists of regular community outreach and community educational programs. They also work with policy makers to bring change at the government level, regularly training police high officials to implement rescue operations and bring about persecution to perpetrators. STOP India has rescued and rehabilitated over 1,500 girls … girls that now have a happy and safe future.

Baale Mane focuses on providing a safe home and long-term care to children escaping child labor. Human Rights Watch has reported that there are 60-115 million children in India working in a variety of industries: agriculture, rug-making, brick-making, domestic servitude, and the commercial sex trade. Some of these children are paid for their labor (although often denied an education), while others are in situations of forced labor.

Baale Mane runs a home for 60 girls who were unable to be reunited with their families after escaping child labor. The children all receive a formal education, tuition assistance, and exposure to the arts and other forms of self-expression. It is a safe haven for girls, taking them from the horrors of servitude, abuse and, in some cases, street living, and providing them with a nurturing home and preparing them for a self-sustaining adult life.

The worldwide epidemic of modern day slavery can seem overwhelming, but organizations like STOP India and Baale Mane are making a difference. Locally run organizations are not only rescuing and rehabilitating victims, but are also part of changing policies, laws, and the public perception of a practice that too often goes overlooked. As Shadhika offers our support to these organizations, we too can become part of the solution.

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