Those are words from a young woman named Sita, a former prostitute and victim of human trafficking, from Mumbai (Bombay) India. Sold into sexual slavery at the age of 15, she shares her feelings regarding the life of a young girl forced into sexual slavery.
In November of 2008, I was in the Red Light District of Mumbai. I may have walked right past the brothel Sita used to work at. I know I walked past many brothels that were currently filled to capacity by young girls and women caught in the very same trap as Sita had been. Hopefully, their stories will one day surface as well, and shed even more light on what is an unspeakable travesty on the highest level against humanity.
I was in Mumbai as a videographer for an organization called “Life Without Limbs,” an amazing ministry that is reaching millions of people worldwide. It seems most everyone I talk to has heard of Life Without Limbs, and/or Nick Vujicich, its founder. What Nick, myself, and the others on the team experienced there in the Red Light District, what we saw, what we felt, the people we spoke with, the eyes we looked into…without question it was life changing.
- $32 billion dollars are estimated to be generated from human trafficking worldwide…2nd behind drug trafficking. (statistic: United Nations) There are many experts who believe it to be more lucrative than the drug trade.
- In Mumbai, India, there are approximately 200,000 sex workers (according to 2001 report by State Department).
- Of those 200,000+ enslaved sex workers (sex workers held against their will to perform sex acts for their pimps monetary profit) over 50% are HIV positive. The numbers in the Red Light District of Mumbai are believed to be 70-80% HIV positive.
- Women and young girls are beaten and tortured in an attempt to coerce them into having sex with the sex trade customers. Oftentimes this leads to permanent physical disability, scars, burns, and broken bones. In many cases, it leads to death.
- I met a woman while I was there that refused to prostitute herself, and was forced by her pimps to live in a cage, in a darkened room, and did not see sunlight for three years. She was fortunate she had “patient” owners…if she was owned by another pimp, she would not have been allowed to live that long.
I could go on. But I won’t. I will just leave it at the fact that the numbers are staggering, the toll on human life this is taking is staggering, and the suffering is staggering. And it’s all very real. You may think the world is big, and in some ways it is. But I was able to fly to India in one day. From my couch in California drinking a Starbucks coffee to a mat on the floor of a house in India drinking Chai tea takes one day, layovers included.
Standing on the rooftop of the shelter for children he had established, overlooking the Red Light District in Mumbai, Deveraj (the director of Mumbai Teen Challenge), shared his heart with me. The struggles and opposition he faced from the local government, the police departments, all the way to the struggle with the United Nations to help get aid. He shared a story of a vision he had, of sitting in a room with a group of people who were able to help. He told them of the need, of the suffering, and how they could help. There was also a girl there, locked in a cage. She pleaded with them to help her…that they might be her only hope. As the meeting ended, they filed out of the room, past the girl, each promising to help. Each never to be heard from again. And the girl, still in the cage, waits…and wonders…and suffers.
Deveraj’s fear is that people will hear, then forget. That people who can help, won’t. That women and children who don’t need to be in the situation of being a sex slave, held against their will with a very likely HIV/AIDS death sentence hanging over their heads will be unnecessarily forgotten.
“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.
Friends and family, I was there. I saw the women being held captive with my own eyes. I saw a small child, not yet able to walk, crawling through a muddy, urine caked street at midnight with no sign of a parent anywhere. I saw young girls, eleven or twelve years old, prostituting themselves on the street. I stood inside brothels. I spoke with women who would like to leave but are fearful. I spoke with women who didn’t want to leave, because they held no hope. I have also stood and looked into the smiling face of a former prostitute who is HIV positive, a woman who has been through hell in so many ways, has been freed and is getting help and support from Mumbai Teen Challenge. And I have seen the possibility and the hope and the concrete evidence of what can happen if we all pitch in.
I’m doing this hike for a purpose. For a real cause, and a cause that needs to be addressed. Please, please join me in helping this cause by sponsoring me on this hike. I am taking care of the cost of the hike, all donations will go directly to help this cause. I’m not good with all that telethon-style pleading for funds, or guilting my way into your pocketbook. But I am very serious about this cause. If I know you personally, I will be asking you to donate to my hike to help free these women and children. If you happen to randomly come across this website and read this, I ask you from the depth of my heart to give. I’ve made it about as easy as I can to give (CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO GIVE). It doesn’t have to be a huge donation…but please give what you can. Donations will be considered confidential unless you specify that it’s alright to use your name. All who donate will receive a gift from Ashagram, the place of healing set up by Mumbai Teen Challenge.
Please give. (click here to donate)
(For more information, I have included a link to a very well made video on the subject. Tim Robbins narrates, as well as Winona Ryder. It shows a snapshot into the lives of a handful of former enslaved women and girls, and many interviews and insights into the sex trade/forced prostitution issue in the very same Red Light District I was in. It’s 54 minutes long, and will be time very well spent, although it is not easy to watch).
“…and talking will never end….everyone has talked a lot. It is time for us to work. That is it.” — Anuradha Koirala, “The Day My God Died“