This is a recent article from the Times of India about the incredible work that our partner organization, MCCSS, is doing to help victims of human trafficking.
Click here to read on the ToI website: NGOs in Chennai Article
Conned and abused, women flee sex trade to go home
Priya Menon, TNN | Jul 2, 2015, 05.27AM IST
CHENNAI: Reena* has spent the past few days shopping. She is going back home to her family in Bangladesh after more than a year and wants to take gifts for brothers and sisters. But it will be a bitter-sweet homecoming for the 16-year-old, who human traffickers brought to the city and forced into prostitution.
“A woman friend of my brother-in-law brought me to India on the pretext of showing me the country,” says. The woman brought Reena from Dhaka to Kolkata by bus and then took her to Bangaluru by train. “When we reached Bangalore, the woman forced me to become a commercial sex worker,” says the slender young girl, clad in a salwar kameez. “When I protested, she beat me very badly.”
Brought to Chennai by a broker, she was confined in a house. “I managed to escape and asked someone to call police,” says Reena. Childline rescued her and referred her to the Child Welfare Committee.
Reena is among several young women who Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS), which has been working to prevent human trafficking since 2009, have helped get out of the trade.
“The year we formed the council we were recognised under Ujjawala, a scheme by the Union ministry of women and child development,” says MCCSS executive secretary Isabel Richardson. Police, NGOs and the ministry work in tandem to prevent human trafficking.
Richardson says racketeers have over the past three years been targeting more Bangaldeshi girls. “Chennai is a source, transit and destination point for traffickers,” she says.
Central Crime Branch deputy commissioner of police S Jayakumar said brokers usually bring Bangladeshi women to Chennai and other places in the state via Kolkata.
“The traffickers also bring women from the northeastern states to Tamil Nadu,” he said. “We raid places after confirming that they are brothels, rescue girls and arrest the pimps. The rescued women go to government vigilance home and we intimate the court.”
This is where MCCSS members step in, visiting government vigilance homes where they offer counselling. “If a woman wants to get out of the trade, we apply in court and get legal custody for repatriation,” Richardson says. They take the woman to a protection home and give them training in some skill or job till the process is completed.
Light House, an NGO in Dhaka, partners with MCCSS, investigating the background of women and getting citizenship and birth certificates that the council sends to the Centre for clearance, Ujjawala project director Alexander Athisayanathan says.
The Bangladesh High Commission in Mumbai issues travel permits. “It usually takes three months. We also have to go to the police officers who rescued the women and get a no objection certificates for the women to leave Chennai. We also have to raise funds for their trip back home,” says Richardson. “Volunteers and well-wishers often chip in. “Former high court judge Justice Akbar Ali pays the airfare for all the women.”
The whole process is fraught with challenges. “This time it took seven months. When minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi visited our centre in March, we requested her to intercede and she helped us,” Richardson says.
The survivors are keen to return home and put the trauma behind them.
“My pimp confined me in a house in Tirunelveli, beat me often and did not give me enough food to eat,” says 18-year-old Leela*, who fell in love with a man while working in a brick in Kolkata. She eloped with him. “He took me to Tirunelveli and his mother turned out to be a pimp,” she says.
Though they are eager to return, most of them have no idea what they will do for a living as they have not been to school. “I only know how to cook and so housework,” Reena says.
But Leela doesn’t want the fear of the future to overshadow the joy of going home. “I just want to go back home,” she says. “I will figure out what to do later.”
(*Names have been changed to protect identity)