Meeting the Traffickers12 Dec 2007, by Uncategorized in
December 9, 2007
This morning I arrived at the Bihar train station, a good first impression of the poorest state in India. The three-hour drive to Forbesganj led me along dirt paths, with endless stretches of hay fields, cow pastures, and ghastly thin people performing mundane chores like breaking stones, attaching dung patties to their straw huts, or squatting to relieve themselves. Quite different from the bustling atmosphere of Kolkata.
Forbesganj is situated near the Nepalese border, so it has a sizeable population and busy market place. After a brief tour of the Apne Aap grounds, I got back in the car to drive to a village of Nutt people. This community is sadly known for intergenerational prostitution. Literally, families are entrenched in this profession; the males traffic their own mothers, daughters and sisters into prostitution. Growing up in this community teaches children that it is socially acceptable to either force someone into prostitution or be a prostitute.
I’ve always imagined that I would physically beat any trafficker should I come into contact with him, or her. But today, I was surrounded by at least ten such men, and I just sat quietly in my chair. Two Apne Aap staff members had called a meeting with the villagers to discuss creating a platform for their political, educational and economic rights. This man, Kalam, was born in this village and has been leading the movement to end intergenerational prostitution. Here he smiles with his first passport, which he intends to use to travel and campaign against forced prostitution.
This was quite possibly the most intense meeting I’ve attended while here; I could barely understand the language but when one staff member said “prostitution” the villagers got very upset and shifted in their chairs. For a while, it seemed that they might force us to leave, but then one brave woman spoke up. She is absolutely beautiful; tight, dark skin, weathered eyes, and a smile that could warm the North Pole. I wondered how long she has been trapped in prostitution, probably since she reached puberty. Her voice garnered the support from the other villagers, who eventually seemed to agree that they would want to send their children to school and have access to other economic options.
One idea is to get the villagers into the dairy business, since they have access to large expanses of land for pasturing. Since it is such a remote area, I asked where the majority of buyers come from. Apparently, young men from surrounding villages and school-going men visit this village for sex. It’s hard to imagine, because the village is no more than straw huts with mud floors, a wooden block for a bed, and one small pot for cooking. The wooden block, I reminded myself, is their place of “business.” December 9, 2007