Did you know that 40% of sex workers in India are children?
Of a staggering 1.2 million children estimated to be working in prostitution in India, only 55 legal cases were brought to court in 2015. With so little action being taken, it’s no wonder that perpetrators feel they are above the law. The girls involved – some as young as seven years old – are abducted from their homes, sold to human traffickers and often tortured to cooperate. They suffer horrendously, living in inhumane conditions and even locked up in cages.
To combat this, Free a Girl Movement have opened up the School for Justice, the first school of it’s kind which aims to educate former victims of child prostitution on the practise of law. Ultimately, this will allow them to become public prosecutors and challenge India’s legal system from within. Initially, 19 girls are being enrolled in the School for Justice, with a larger class for 2018 already in the works.
Sabnam, was nine years old when she was sold to work as a prostitute.
‘I was tortured severely after I was sold into child prostitution. We suffer but the perpetrators are not punished and walk around free – I won’t be free until we bring them to justice.”
Yasmin, who was also sold into child prostitution, spoke about her reasons for joining the school.
‘The people who did this to me are still out there, doing it to other girls. I want to be the voice of those girls in the brothels.’
Bollywood actor and activist Mallika Sherawat, who is an ambassador of Free a Girl Movement, spoke about the need not just to free the girls, but to bring the perpetrators to account: ‘Underage girls forced into prostitution is a problem that we simply can’t ignore any longer. It’s the organised and systematic rape of young girls, happening on a mass scale, right here in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities in India. By freeing the girls, we’re not changing the system that allows this crime to happen. To break this cycle, we need to attack a key factor: that the perpetrators are not being punished.’
A lack of good lawyers and judges with knowledge around human trafficking and child prostitution impacts the amount of convictions in India. All these factors have motivated the Free a Girl Movement India to take the radical step of opening the School for Justice. They are also launching a campaign across India, highlighting the need to crack down on child prostitution. Francis Gracias, Free a Girl Movement CEO said: ‘The School for Justice is an ambitious project – the class of 2017 is just the first step in our plan. We want all of India to get behind The School for Justice and support our cause – as we can’t do this alone. Ultimately we want governmental support and to build up a robust advocacy programme to push for law reform to make a positive change for India.’
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This powerful film tells the stories of the girls involved (warning: contains some distressing footage)