From Darkness to Light

by Sahadev Komaragiri

It is a shame when millions of our own suffer through unimaginable pain. Governments are doing the best that they can. But the best, in this case, is not good enough. The problem of neglected women and children continues to grow. The government of India on its part has done a few things. It did what it can do best, enact a few laws. It introduced laws such as Immoral Trafficking Act, established National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and introduced several schemes. Some state laws banned the practices such as Mathamma and Devadasi systems of dedication. The implementation part of these laws is a whole different story. None of these laws have made it costly enough for criminals to stay away from such crimes. NGOs in several states are struggling to have these legislations enforced. There is a serious lack of interest to prosecute the offenders.

Refuse to maintain status quo

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, it was not about the seat. It was a fight against maintaining the status quo on discrimination against the blacks in the US. India produced its own share of people who took it upon themselves to end the discrimination against women and children. They work in some of the most difficult parts of India where there is rampant poverty, filth and disease. The only thing organized in those areas is crime. These superstars of modern era risked their own lives to rescue thousands of women and children and provide them with a new light of hope for a better future.

As with any gigantic task, it is absolutely a very daunting affair to make amends. The problem of prostitution is deep rooted, age old, supported and sustained by criminal gangs, neglected by the society and abandoned by the successive governments.  A bigger problem is the associated social stigma attached to these women and children that makes it increasingly difficult to integrate them into the mainstream. How do we make amends? Wherever possible we have to break the vicious cycle. Wherever possible we have to take kids out of the equation, educate them and support them until they are out of it. Last but most important, we must take personal responsibility in integrating them into the society by respecting their dignity and accepting them into the social fold we all are part of.

Break the Cycle

An evening school for the children of sex workers in the red light areas is a very difficult thing to do, but that is a good start to begin to break the vicious cycle. The sex workers should be provided with vocational training. This enables them to take up an alternative profession. They should also be provided with frequent medical help to prevent the spread of AIDS, a very common ailment across the profession.

The children from these red light areas are the ones who need education more than anyone else. But how many will be willing to go to these areas and work with these children?  Bharatiya Patita Uddhar Sabha(BPUS) has been doing exactly the same since 1984. They have offices in 9 states and continue to do amazing service.

Rescue and Rehabilitate

Running a brothel in India is illegal, but it is estimated that there are nearly 1100 red light areas across the nation. They run brothel based businesses unhindered by any laws that are in place. The only way to liberate the women and children from these areas is to invade them and arrest the brothel owners. The rescued must be provided with a safe passage, some legal support and a place to live until they are reintegrated into the society. This is easier said than done. Very few, if any, raids are conducted by the police departments. Odanadi Seva Trust in Mysore and Prajwala in Hyderabad are two organizations that forced these raids and successfully conducted various rescue missions. They helped hundreds of young girls from slipping out of the society. The rescued women were provided with training in the half-way homes and special schools were started to educate their children.

This is just an introduction to the amount of work being done by various agencies that are fighting to eliminate this evil from our midst. The acts are making some small dents into a gigantic problem.  Dr. Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala in Andhra Pradesh is lobbying intensively for a comprehensive rescue and rehabilitation policy. She believes that this policy should include co-management of transit homes throughout India by the NGOs with support from the government. She is recognized with Asoka Fellowship and several other awards for her outstanding work. In order to gain an understanding on the problem of prostitution, the social stigma it carries and enormous task on our hands, I encourage you all to view this video on a presentation Dr. Sunitha Krishnan gave on

I know it is not possible to eliminate prostitution, an age old vice, from the face of this earth. But human trafficking and violence against women and children must end. Providing for a decent sanctuary for millions of children living in such a pathetic state of affairs is a noble cause to take up.  It is imperative on our part to support such organizations like Odanadi, Prajwala and Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha.

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