Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The day my God died

Some time last year, we in Asha co-organized a film screening of ”The day my God died”, along with the UW Women’s center. This is a documentary that tells the story of children, little girls, sold into the sex trade.

The sheer scale of the issue is astounding. The UN estimates that one MILLION girls/women are forced into the sex-trade EVERY YEAR.
Even the United States is not free of this menace, with an estimated 50-60,000 girls (minors) trafficked annually.

One Million lives ruined every year.

The movie spends a lot of time in Nepal, one of the worst hit of all the countries. Little girls are taken away from their villages, and taken to India or the Middle East. They are either promised a job, or marriage, or are drugged and kidnapped. The documentary reveals that there are an estimated 350,000 Nepalese girls in India (with concentrated pockets in Bombay/Mumbai and Calcutta), and over twice that many in the rest of Asia, who have been forced into the sex trade. Little Nepalese girls, in “high demand” in a perverse world because they are fair-skinned.

3 % of the entire population of Nepal.

Hidden cameras, carried by the filmmakers or social workers often posing as “clients”, take some absolutely horrifying pictures. The stories come from people working with (or rescued by) wonderful groups like the International Justice mission, or the incredible Maiti Nepal, or Sanlaap from Calcutta. Some of the rescued girls stay back to continue to work with their rescuers to free other victims.

Pimps and brothel owners terrorize the little girls who are ruthlessly taken away from their homes and families. They are beaten mercilessly, starved, or burnt by cigarette butts. Then they are gang raped. This is their “break-in”, when these children are reduced to mere shells of human beings. Their spirit is long dead by the time they are forced to accept “clients”. Then they are paraded in a line to a client, who “chooses” his favorite girl. And rapes her.

One rescued girl, probably about 14 years old, tells you that she had been in the “business” for 6 years. She, like all others, was exposed to multiple partners every single day, and had to “work” every day without rest. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst these children is huge, worsened by a prevalent myth that sex with a minor or virgin will cure you of AIDS.

You encounter some of the pimps and brothel owners, who are incredibly dedicated to their ”cause”. In one police raid (carried out due to constant pressure from the International Justice mission), a brothel owner (a “madam”) is arrested. When interrogated, she says (with a poker face) that there are no minors in the building. But a rescued former victim is with IJM and the police. She leads the cops through trapdoors and corridors to a hidden room, where there are a dozen caged children, all of whom have not yet entered their teens.

Here are the words of one rescued victim, who starts to cry as she recalls the horrors she’d been through.

“The first night they forced me to have sex. When I refused, they held me down, beat me and raped me. I was seven years old.
-- Gina, who was raped by 14 men on her first day in the brothel. She is now dying of AIDS

Which animal would do this to young girls (some as little as seven or eight years old)?

When the movie ended, the audience was silent for over five minutes before any one could find the ability to ask questions.


Anonymous said...

oh my god, when you left the mcomment on my blog, I googled for it and found their website... horrifying... what kind of animals would do this?
have you seen Mahanadhi - the scene where Kamal hasan's daughter wakes up screaming in the middle of the night - and he watches her helpless - what would it be like to be a parent then...

Kiran said...

Yeah that is the brutal truth indeed. The only solution for this, at least in India, is to legalize and thus regulate the profession. Legalizing will be very beneficial for people already in this trade, as it will increase their clout partly by letting them get together and also help them better protect themselves. It will also increase transparency and avoid forcing of people into it. Legalizing might encourage it a bit, but in the longer run it will ensure that fewer people are forced into this trade against their will. Most then would come in because of economic compulsions - but even then if the cause is clear it could be helped.

Sunil said...

Yes Charu.......Mahanadi is one of (IMO) Kamal's finest movies. It was so moving.

This is one of the saddest issues facing the world today...but unfortunately, most people don't seem to care.

However, there are some outstanding organizations in India working for the cause of sex workers, and their children. Sanlaap is just one of the many.

Kiran.....it's interesting, and right now there's a debate going on on legalizing prostitution. However, it's not all that black and white.....too many loop holes in legislation. It actually can be a way for brothel owners to escape the law. Mostly because it will become exceedingly difficult to prosecute them for any offence (after all it's a legal business). Proving kidnapping/exploitation is not easy.......and in India, where most people don't have birth certificates, showing a "minor" as an adult is exceedingly easy. Legislation will work if human beings run the business........but unfortunately, too many of the people running the business can't be called that. But the debate is a complex one.....

Anonymous said...

yes, I dont think legalisation will solve anything - and as you say, not in the short run definitely... people will always continue to be forced into the trade against their will - both children and adults...
(sunil, have linked to this post in a related topic on my blog)

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
Very sad.
I wish I could help. I remember seeing on TV years ago a charity that sort of adopted orphans. You donate some money each week and you got back pictures and even a letter. At the time, I did not see why the charity was forcing these poor children to write letters to those who donated to charity but now I see. The idea was to verify in the mind of the donor that the money was actually helping one person instead of making no difference to millions.

Sunil said...

Michael.......I think charity has its role in helping victims, but really, the root cause (of many of such problems) can be easily combated by just strong legislation and enforcement.

In this case....it may be difficult to actually stop trafficing.....but the police know where the brothels are (sometimes they even own some of them).....they know whom to arrest, and take to court. But they don't do that. And the justice system has too many loopholes. So the criminal goes free and continues doing whatever (s)he did earlier.

International laws are even weaker.

This CAN however be controlled if there is a public voice against it. But then....it's the public that encourages this.

I don't have any idea how it can be stopped, but all I can do is raise the issue, and support anyone who is trying to.

Ravi said...

dude...this reminds me, 'd totally forgotten. Hansa long back 'd asked us to share with her the audience response to the film and Q&A.
Do you want to sit n get it done (maybe its late)

Aditya Bidikar said...

Makes you feel sick that you belong to the same species as these animals.

ConcentricCircle said...

It is extremely disturbing...even the words describing this pain...i shudder to imagine it with pictures and faces. Yes, as Charu says most of us fail to see such pain and even if we do see it, we don't do much about it.
It is beastly how we exploit a little child's weakness! And I realize this more, when i see my child so dependent on me... so absolutely trusting and so clueless as to how bad the world is!

Sunil said...

Ravi...have done....
Aditya......when I first started reading about child-trafficking, I was in absolute horror. It's sometimes really hard even to read about it, and a visual description was even harder to watch. I think Concentric circle really has described how beastly it is......not just abusing a child, but abusing the trust a child has in adults to protect and take care of her.

greatbong said...

I sometimes wonder how the people ,who have perpetrated these heinous crimes on innocent children, sleep at night----the fact that they can do so peacefully is the biggest horror of all.

Subra said...

While there is no easy way, I think the solution does not lie in eradicating the pimps and brothel owners.

As horrendous as their actions are, they are doing such things only because there are customers. It is that set of people that we need to target. The police raids almost always target the giver, and the organizer. I would like to more stringent penalties on the taker. As with bribery, here too, the giver is almost always the victim, while the taker is the offender.

Added to the legal penalties, maybe all newspapers should publish photos of all customers caught during raids, and publish the details of their family. Nothing like public humiliation to drive these "customers" back into their homes.

Sunil said...

Subra....in some ways, you are absolutely right. There is a supply only because there exists a demand. The penalties for "customers" need to be very, very high, in order to deter them. Also, a lot of public awareness needs to be created...

Anonymous said...

hi sunil,
I am teja from your sanskrit class. its quite strange how i landed in to ur website. i was looking up something about the book "Umrao Jaan Ada" and ended up in Hemangini's blog (one who got harrased by a guy in a train etc)...i was reading thru her comments when i came across urs and i doubted it would be your comment...i was like what are the chances of it being the same person. I was surprised to find out that it is such a small world!
Anyhow, i am deeply touched reading about this movie "The day my God died." Especially because the book/movie Umrao Jaan has to do with this same topic.
I also enjoyed your other blogs about accents etc.
Well have a good summer,

Karen Hossink said...

I'm trying to track down a copy of this film, "The day my god died". The producer, Levine, is not responding to our phone or email inquiries, and he seems to be the only official supplier. Do you or your org. own a copy of this video? I would love to buy or rent it from you. We are hoping to hold an awareness event on our campus. you could email me hossinkb@msu.edu or call me 517.402.2552 if you can help.

Anonymous said...

I am from an on-campus organization and we too are trying to get a copy for the film for an awarness event. If anybody on here knows how to get copy for us please let me know at projectpathe@gmail.com, thank you very much for your cooperation!