After the encounter with the young girl in the street in Kolkata, I was shaken. I did not want to keep going. But the next day I was scheduled to meet face-to-face with a group of trafficked teenagers and so on I went.
When I met with the girls, it was as if I was meeting with young girls anywhere in the world. We all sat down on the floor in a circle and they would ask me questions and I in turn would ask them questions. Their questions were like questions my own daughter has asked me... about clothes, food, Bollywood movies and popular songs. I nearly forgot what these girls had been through, what they had experienced.
The reality of these girls though, is that they have been brutalized by traffickers. In many cases, they have been snatched from their family and village, and forcibly placed in a brothel. At the brothel, their spirits were broken by terrible beatings and brutal rapes, often by the trafficker himself, and then forcibly having to submit to 12 to 20 rapes a day.
I have for over twenty years worked on issues of trafficking... yet these girls' experiences shocked me like I was learning about it for the first time. Observing their young faces, all I wanted to say was that I was sorry that I did not do more to protect you... but I did not say it, because I did not want the happy banter between us to disappear.
I think one of the ways to say sorry to these girls and help them to rehabilitate is to make sure that the traffickers are held accountable for their actions, as there are many roadblocks in their way to obtaining justice.
In my next blog, I will speak about the legal obstacles these young women face when they attempt to obtain closure from the court system.