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Survivor Wedding

26 Nov 2008, by elance programmer in Uncategorized

October 22, 2008

Sometimes people say that being in India makes them feel "alive." I imagine they mean that it’s an overload of senses, that each experience is an adventure, and that each good thing is invaluable. But I didn’t quite have that same feeling of "being alive" until today. I had the honor of attending a wedding of four survivors.

marriage pujaRescue Foundation, an Mumbai-based NGO, arranged the marriage of four young women they had rescued. These women had explained to Rescue Foundation that they had no interest in studies, no interest in job-training, but that their dream was to get married, raise children, and be part of a family. For them, it was an unattainable dream, since their own families and communities rejected them. But because of one village in India, their lives now have joy, meaning, and love.

A few years ago, Triveni Acharya, the Director of Rescue Foundation, was asked to speak about human trafficking in her home state of Gujurat. The next day, she was contacted by a young man who had read her speech in the local newspaper. He told her that he wanted to marry one of the girls she had rescued. As if that weren’t enough, he said it didn’t matter if she were pretty or smart, even if she had scars or a disability he was ready to accept her as his wife. Triveni brought four women to meet him and his family, and when they entered his house he called three of his close friends. He was adamant that each girl be married and accepted into his community. marriage flame

Since that day, at least a dozen other survivors from Rescue Foundation have been married into loving, accepting families. It may seem strange to Westerners, the concept of arranged marriages. But it is the ultimate hope for these young women – to be accepted, to have a family, to be loved. The young men and their families are true heroes, casting aside the stigma and shame that typically haunts survivors of sex trafficking. Instead, they see these young women as victims of a social evil, and thus feel that it is their responsibility to make up for what society did to them.

pete and naynaAnd on that day, Sarah and I celebrated life. I finally understood what it means to "feel alive." It means to treasure, truly treasure, every minute, every person, every grain of rice, every smile, every tear and every experience. The young women were nervous but so evidently joyous. Sarah and I were asked to give our blessings, a red dot on the womens’ forehead to symbolize her new marital status. Their eyes lit up as we gave the same to their husbands. Looking on were the other survivors, who offered their songs and dances to the newlyweds. The husbands’ families watched as these beautiful women joined their families. And standing discreetly aside, glowing with joy, were Pete and Nayna Uka, two Gujarti Americans who generously sponsored the weddings.

Before driving away, Triveni, the staff, and the other survivors embraced each woman one final time. Triveni had written to me that morning, "I am feeling like crying because from my tree I will be letting 4 sweet little fruits to go away from me. I am feeling like I will miss their shadow, somewhere on the way."

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