A few months ago, I was asked by International Justice Mission Canada to consider working with them on issues of teenage sexual trafficking in Kolkata, India.
International Justice Mission Canada, in partnership with the U.S.-based International Justice Mission (IJM), is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. More specifically, IJM focuses on forced labour, slavery, illegal property seizure, sexual violence, sex trafficking, illegal detention, and citizenship documentation. IJM does great work. Their team of lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure that victims are rescued immediately, that perpetrators are persecuted, that victims have access to support and resources following a rescue, and that the public justice systems (police, courts, and laws) effectively protect the poor.
It seemed like a great idea in June when I said I would accompany IJM to Kolkata. Then, just as I was leaving Vancouver, I was blessed with a granddaughter Almeera. I no longer wanted to go. I was to be one of a group of Parliamentarians that were travelling to Kolkata, surely they would not miss one Senator? However, the rest of the group was unable to make it. It was thanks to my husband and children, who encouraged me to travel to Kolkata, that I observed the fate of these teenage girls. It will be my responsibility to raise awareness about international sexual trafficking in Parliament upon my return.
The trip to Kolkata from Vancouver was very long and backbreaking. But from the minute that I arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. I know as a public policy person I will learn a lot that I can utilize in my work back in Canada.
I am travelling with two amazing people who work 24/7 to promote the purpose of IJM, Jamie McIntosh and Petra Bosma. Jamie McIntosh is the founder and executive director of IJM Canada. More than a decade ago, Jamie became acutely aware that the global poor lived outside the protection of the law. He launched IJM's Canadian office, convinced that Canadians could join in the fight against violent oppression. Petra Bosma is IJM Canada's public affairs manager and coordinates the organization's communications initiatives. She captures and writes stories that describe the work of IJM Canada. These two individuals have been instrumental in helping me to understand the trafficking situation in Kolkata.
I am going to try and share my experience with my fellow Parliamentarians and with you, so please watch for my upcoming blogs.
This blog is an introduction to my trip; in the next one, I will share with you the orientation by International Justice Mission and my experience in red light districts. My third blog will be on the Court systems and trafficking, and the following one will be on victim recovery and aftercare. Lastly, I will share with you from time to time my thoughts on sexual trafficking.
I hope that you will follow my blog series and learn more about the fate of these girls.