Human Trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery. It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to abduct or obtain people of all ages to be used as forced labor or in the commercial sex industry. Traffickers look for people who are vulnerable. India and the State of West Bengal are especially vulnerable for the following reasons:
- West Bengal has porous borders with Bangladesh and Nepal. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states West Bengal has the highest number or recorded trafficking cases.
- Although women’s rights are secured under the Indian Constitution, the culture has been slow to change. In 2012 the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as fourth worst country in the world for women the worst G20 country in which to be a woman.
- Poor families are often willing to sell their children, especially girls, to the traffickers.
Human Trafficking must be stopped. India’s efforts to protect victims of trafficking vary throughout the country. But neither the central government or the state governments offer medical, educational, legal or reintegration assistance to trafficking victims. St. Michael’s has partnered with Bishop Dutta because he has an active, and a successful, program to address this problem in West Bengal. His program has a three-fold approach:
Prevention: The Bishop and his staff meet with village officials on a routine basis to gain and maintain their support in the fight to stop trafficking in their jurisdictions. They’ve developed awareness programs that are presented to students and staff in the schools. They meet with citizens in the villages and teach them what trafficking is, how to recognize it, and to report it to the authorities..
Protection: Bishop Dutta built the Baldahura Safe House in Malda. It houses 30 girls that have been rescued from the traffickers. They receive medical care, an education, and legal services. When their education is complete, the staff helps them find employment so they become self-sufficient. Several graduates have been accepted in universities and are pursuing computer science degrees.
Prosecution: India has laws to deal with traffickers. Bishop Dutta and his staff work with the village officials, the police and other government organizations, like Childline of India, to pursue and prosecute traffickers. They were instrumental in the capture of several traffickers by local villagers. Recently, they were instrumental in finding and reuniting a woman who had been abducted and taken to another town. Bishop Dutta’s staff gathered pertinent information about the abduction and provided it to the local police. The woman was released and returned to her family.
Bishop Dutta and his staff are “on the front lines” of the global battle against human trafficking. Any help we can provide him to maintain and expand his efforts may stem the flow of people of all ages to the Charleston area to be used as forced labor or in the commercial sex industry. He needs our help to continue and expand his efforts. And help is needed to establish similar programs throughout the India.