Skip to main content

Minor girls' human trafficking: Gender rights groups seek judicial probe, civil society audit

The girls' family says they are helpless
Counterview Desk
Following the report by journalist Mausami Singh about the trafficking of underage girls in Chitrakoot, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan (PMS), Swastik Mahila Samiti (CSW) and the Centre for Struggling Women (SMS)* came together to formally file an appeal to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, seeking a judicial probe into the horrific child trafficking.
Already, claims a joint statement by the three organizations, more than 350 individuals, human rights organizations, child rights movements, women’s collectives and concerned national and International organizations/movements have sought judicial probe into the trafficking and providing healthcare to the survivors of the ordeal.
Among those who have sought judicial probe include Mausimi Singh, Mariam Dhawale of the All India Democratic Women’s Network, members of the Red Rope Movement, Bharati Ali of HAQ Centre for Child Rights, Saheli, Joint Women’s Programme representatives from Terre des Hommes of Netherlands, UNICEF and the Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch, among others.
“The clamour for justice is growing and we are getting receiving messages from journalists, child rights activists, lawyers, teachers and students wanting to know if the girls and the villagers will get justice”, a Saheli media alert says.
Expressing “disgust” at the manner in which the ordeal is being covered up by irresponsible authorities demanding speedy judicial probe, the media alert says, “From blaming the reporters and news channels to bullying the girls into retracting their statements on camera, the administration is displaying an attitude of mal-intentions.”

Text:

On July 8, 2020, the story of human trafficking of minors in Chitrakoot made headlines as investigative journalist Mausami Singh of “India Today” released a report of the extreme poverty in the region that forced families to send their daughters as young as 12 to middlemen for work and be paid after they had sex with whoever the middleman decided. The stories were heart breaking.
There were women talking about how it was impossible to survive without the girls being involved in the flesh trade, and middle aged women did not get jobs. Worse, the children were paid half of what was promised and they could not argue about the money as they have been living by the logic that some money is better than no money. As a result, instead of Rs 400, they are paid Rs 150-200.
If the story of exploitation, hunger during pandemic and sexual exploitation of underage girls was not shameful enough, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and the police went a step ahead to give a clean chit to the human traffickers and pimps with an astonishing speed.
Within 24 hours of the news report, the district magistrate (DM) and the Mandal Ayukt of Chtrakoot Dham reached the village to make the girls say that they did not face any untoward incident and lied to the journalists as they did not understand the language. There was a press conference to give a clean chit to everyone accused in the news report, in less than 48 hours! 
The clip tweeted by BJP cadres shows girls being asked series of questions in a matter of minutes, where manipulation was evident
We watched with horror as the anchor Rajdeep Sardesai telecast the interview of the survivors. We read the reports of the girls who described the brutal exploitation and helplessness during the pandemic. The struggle for survival came at the cost of human dignity and pain.
However, it was the response of the police and the district administration, publicized by the BJP cadres that we found even more horrifying. The clip tweeted by the BJP cadres shows girls being asked a series of questions in a matter of minutes, where their manipulation was evident.
The shameless manner of questioning showed that the questioner wanted to establish that even if there was a sexual act, it was consensual. There was clear intimidation in asking the girl, why did you say what you said to the reporter? A scared girl could only blurt out she misunderstood the question and did not comprehend the language of the journalist.
At this point, we would like to raise a few questions to the DM.
  1. Does the police not know that the victims of sexual harassment/assault are not to be outed during an investigation? Their identity is supposed to be protected and not exposed. The first line of questioning should not have been of the victims of human trafficking.
  2. The accusations are of sexual exploitation of underage girls, why did the DM not involve any of the women’s network/child labour NGOs or counseling centres during the questioning or intimidation of the victims? 
  3. When such a massive allegation has been made, why has the DM not set up a team of doctors to examine the girls and provide them with proper medical advice? 
  4. What was the purpose of going to the village to interrogate victims of sexual exploitation with a bunch of police women and some religious leaders? 
  5. What measures has the administration taken to mitigate the suffering of the community so that they do not have to send children to work for survival? Why has the DM not announced any ration or economic relief measures to prove economic preparedness that would prevent the villagers from having to take such extreme steps in desperation? 
  6. Why is the issue of illegal mining not under investigation? When the report clearly showed the illegal mining, why has no action been taken against it? 
The entire procedure of conducting an investigation with the sole intention of proving the journalist, the trafficked girls and the villagers to be liars reeks of incompetent investigative agents, and a collusion between the administration with the criminals.
What should have been a beginning of a series of investigative and reformative measures to check poverty, exploitation of women and children during the pandemic, healthcare services for the tribal population and other measures, turned out to be a massive cover-up exercise coordinated by the local and national level BJP leaders, heads of maths and the local administration.
We demand a judicial enquiry of all the series of illegal activities shown in the investigative report.
An investigation by the Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Commission should also be conducted at the earliest.
Most important, we want the administration to facilitate an independent civil society audit of the situation by women’s movements, child rights movements, tribal rights movements and legal experts.
---
*Deepti Bharti, general secretary, NFIW, Delhi Unit; Adv Poonam Kaushik, general secretary, PMS, Delhi; Maya John, CSW; Kusum Sehgal, SMS, Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Dalits 'celebrate' Constitutional Power Era in 12,500 villages of 16 districts on Nov 26

By Pradip More*  It is a fact that the majority of the people do not have much knowledge about the law, and especially the Constitution. Yet, today's younger generation is becoming increasingly aware of its rights. One wished it would have been good if it was taught about the Constitution well in the schools.

Critics of your government should not be in jail: PUCL shoots open letter to Modi

Counterview Desk In an open letter, Ravikiran Jain, national president, and Dr V Suresh, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have taken strong exception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that raising human rights issues can ‘tarnish’ the country’s reputation, stating, those who raise human rights concerns do it “through established United Nations mechanisms such as the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.”

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor* On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.

Covid taught us: Exams are cruel process of 'eliminating' those seeking education

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma* Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment.

Book on Bhil rebels offers other side of history, neglected by 'nationalist' historians

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  One of the major accusations against Indian historians is that of neglecting and ignoring the role of the marginalised in the freedom struggle. Most of the time, we are ‘informed’ that there were some ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ of the freedom movement, all of them belonging to the same stock of caste as well as ‘power’ positions as their opponents.

Govt of India responsible for 71% delays in NREGA wage payments, say economists

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than 70 economists have urged the Government of India to release “adequate funds” for implementing the rural jobs guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA immediately, pointing out that the pandemic continues to adversely affect the living condition of working families.

'We are scared to even raise our voice': Delhi sewer workers tell roundtable

By Our Representative  A roundtable attended by more than 100 sewer workers in Delhi, saw sharp voices against the contract system, poor wages and lack of any social benefits. Organised by the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM), which has refused to reveal the identity of the sewer workers who spoke on the occasion for fear of retaliation from the authorities, saw workers complain that have been working for more than 10 years, hoping that someday they would be made permanent.

Govt of India's 'narrative' of hate, 'clarion call' for onslaught on civil society: Ex-babus

Counterview Desk  Addressing “fellow citizens”, the Constitution Conduct Group (CCG), having former prominent civil servants as it members, has said that recent assertions by National Human Rights Commission National Human Rights Commission Justice (retd) Arun Mishra, the Prime Minister and General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff, portent a deliberate and disturbing strategy to “deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation.”

Arrest of top J&K civil society leader shows contempt for international law: PUCL

Counterview Desk  Commenting on the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, India’s top human rights advocacy group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has said that the Government of India action is “one more attempt ... to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters”, adding, it suggests how “a brutalizing state machinery" has been acting.