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

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.