Day 9 Sunitha Krishnan; The fight against sex slavery

In (India) and across the globe, hundreds and thousands of children as young as three, four, are sold into sexual slavery. But that’s not the only purpose that human beings are sold for. They are sold in the name of adoption. They are sold in the name of organ trade. They are sold in the name of forced labour, camel jockeying, anything, everything.”  
Sunitha Krishnan tells a group of TED delegates in India the story of her personal battle against the stigma and silence that surrounds sexual trafficking in India.  
When Krishnan was 15, she was gang-raped by eight men. Today, at 40, she doesn’t see herself as a rape victim. What she does identify with is the anger that followed; anger at her culture and the factors that led her to be ostracised for 2 years simply for being a victim. Today, her organisation, Prajwala, has rescued thousands of women and children who are the victims of trafficking. Stigma continues to be the main barrier to their work.   Krishnan gives us harrowing images and descriptions of some of the many cases she has encountered. There are images of 3, 4, 5 year old children sold to men, a girl who was so badly violated her intestines had to be sewn back into her body, women who have been beaten up, burned, infected with HIV. She has been beaten up 14 times by traffickers and has lost one of her staff members who was murdered on a rescue. Here, she challenges not just the traffickers, but the ordinary people of India who fail to integrate the victims into society. She quotes one lady who asked her to find a helper for her mother…. ‘But not one of your girls…’  
This is a hugely topical issue at the moment following the gang rape and murder of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in Delhi. Krishnan has an opinion on the recent media flurry on her blog ( As a rape survivor, she was immediately approached to give opinion, yet she wonders, who is hounding the rapists? She watches children die and suffer the effects of abuse daily, yet who is reporting their story? It appears that three years after her talk, silence is still endemic in India.
The Delhi rape has certainly brought this issue to the attention of international media. Dozens of bodies are already engaged in activities aimed at abolishing the systemic sexual abuse and misogyny in India. For this to happen, attitudes must change within the country itself. No longer should ‘experts’ state that rape victims shouldn’t have fought back, or shouldn’t have been out late. As Krishnan requests, people need to open their minds and hearts to talk about the problem, even to one or two others. Rapists aren’t just men from a dark section of society who prey on ‘women who shouldn’t have been out late.’ They are husbands, brothers, uncles, cousins. And they should live in a society where they know it’s unacceptable to treat women and children with any form of abuse.


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