In front of your eyes.
Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus, Siliguri, 9:30 AM, clear morning. A girl, aged around 17, standing alone calmly, with a small bag hanging from her shoulder, hands folded, looking almost nowhere. She is of Nepalese origin, if I’m not wrong, definitely from the rural area. I tried to make an eye contact with her, she tried not to. The worn-out sweater and poor sandals in her dry, cracked feet could teach me a lesson of our financial inequalities. Twenty minutes later, a guy in his mid-forties appeared, asked her in almost inaudible voice “Chal” (Let’s go). She started to follow him. Just before disappearing from my view-frame, she looked back at me, with a subtle despair.
I just saw a crime in front of me, in a densely crowded bus-stand, in the broad daylight. A girl is trafficked away in front of my eyes.
Human Trafficking is happening everywhere and in front of your eyes.
If we believe in the inefficient statistics, almost 2 million girls are trafficked every year. Around 50% of this figure are children. Human Trafficking is an industry above 30 Billion USD per year. Approximately 75–80% of human trafficking is for sex. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high-profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly. In India, 1 girl was trafficked every 46 minutes. Last year, 14,630 women and minor girls were kidnapped or abducted. 40 women and minor girls were kidnapped every day. West Bengal tops UN list of Human Trafficking crimes, as it has a vulnerable border with Bangladesh and Nepal — both are free heavens for the human traffickers.
Act is there. Awareness is not.
There are strict acts against Human Trafficking, but not the required awareness. Most of the time human trafficking remains unreported due to ignorance or negligence. Like the incident happened to me at Siliguri, I could not figure out what to do. I saw a girl disappearing in front of me, I remained confused (and silent). Here is what we should do if things like this happen with us.
- Be the protagonist. Shout.
Shout and inform people around you about the crime. Trust me, there are few good people around, wherever you are. Even if you might be wrong but press the panic button. Most of the time, human traffickers fly from the scene. Also, keep your phone camera ready, they are frightened like hell.
- Call the police. They are not that bad.
With a few interaction with police system in my country, I definitely do not have a very good image of them, but they are not that bad. Dial 100 and talk loudly, so that people around you know you are calling cops. Give them the exact position, and mention the term “Human Trafficking”.
- Call the National Help Lines. They usually pick-up the call.
Women’s Helpline (All India) 1091 / 1090 and Child Helpline 1098. Here is a long list of phone numbers, someone will definitely pick-up your call.
For women in distress
Central Social Welfare Board -Police Helpline 1091/ 1291 (011) 23317004
Shakti Shalini 10920
Shakti Shalini — women’s shelter (011) 24373736/ 24373737
SAARTHAK (011) 26853846/ 26524061
All India Women’s Conference 10921/ (011) 23389680
JAGORI (011) 26692700
Joint Women’s Programme (also has branches in Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai) (011) 24619821
Sakshi — violence intervention center (0124) 2562336/ 5018873
Saheli — a women's organization (011) 24616485 (Saturdays)
Nirmal Niketan (011) 27859158
Nari Raksha Samiti (011) 23973949
RAHI Recovering and Healing from Incest. A support centre for women survivors of child sexual abuse (011) 26238466/ 26224042 26227647
I will end with the words of Pamela Samuels Young in her extraordinary book Anybody’s Daughter.
“(This) world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
The header graphic is inspired by wall-art by Project Missing initiative, a group spreading awareness about Human Trafficking through wall-art.