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

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.