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Northern India anti-slavery partners – Hotspot visit

November 25, 2014

Walking through the streets of Delhi, preparations for Diwali were underway but the pungent smell of raw sewage was a reminder that I was in the red light district on my way to a brothel. I ascended a dank, crumbling stairwell. Inside, I met with 15 women –all victims of sex trafficking – who spoke to me about their life in the brothel, their home. Two children, no older than 3 years old, ran around playing whilst their mothers explained why they can’t escape from forced prostitution.

Two days earlier, I listened while 3 teenage girls explained how men had kidnapped them, raped them repeatedly and sold them to traffickers. 4 years later these girls could not make eye contact, could barely speak above a whisper and looked much younger than their 18 years. Their cases have still not be heard in court. For the moment, the girls and their families have to be satisfied that the perpetrators of these crimes have been denied bail.

These are only two examples from my week in India visiting our project partners in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. I prepared for my trip – my first to India – by reading books such as Kevin Bales’ Disposable People and Siddharth Kara’s ‘Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery’. But nothing could have prepared me for the scale of the problem in India, which at times felt overwhelming. However, at each site visit, our partners and the people we help demonstrated incredible determination, commitment and courage in the fight against modern slavery.

This year alone the Freedom Fund’s partners have helped free and reintegrate over 2,500 slavery victims in northern India. They will run slavery and rights awareness campaigns for 45,000 individuals, and provide much needed legal support to 150 slavery victims. Our goals include assisting women in forced sexual exploitation to escape from their exploiters, and to encourage the judicial system to treat slavery as a heinous crime that demands a swift and enforceable punishment.

Before I joined the Freedom Fund in Spring 2014, I thought of slavery as something I learnt about in my history lessons at school. Throughout the past six months, I have come to understand why there are still 36 million people enslaved today. I now know that slavery comes in many forms – from domestic servitude to bonded labour and child soldiers. Slavery isn’t just a school lesson to be forgotten about. With complex supply chains, interdependent economies and international migration, slavery is a present day global problem that needs a global solution.

Written by
The Freedom Fund