Hope For Kolkata: International Justice Mission
Kolkata is described as a lively city, at the center of Indian culture with much to offer its citizens. Its central location, bordering other countries, and vast transit system keeps the busy metropolis moving. There is another world keeping pace with a demand, not for ease of access, or the enjoyment of India’s beautiful and rich culture, but for sex.
Said to be home to one of the oldest and largest red light districts in the world, more than six thousand women and children are sexually exploited in Kolkata. The alleyways and slim roads are filled with the sorrow and pain that occurs within the tenement buildings and has reached the hands, feet, and ears of International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM works to rescue, bring to justice traffickers, strengthen policy against trafficking, and offer restoration programs to survivors. To find out more about IJM’s work in Kolkata, we asked Pasang Bhutia, Director of Program Management from IJM in the Kolkata office.
Since 2006, IJM has zeroed in on this city, hoping that by addressing sexual exploitation here, it will impact the neighboring communities and countries that Kolkata touches. They have seen the face of trafficking change with the increase of industry and technology. Criminal groups are becoming more organized and using their own victims to draw others into the industry. Hidden private residences are increasingly being used instead of public places, yet the abuse has not diminished.
Women find themselves caught in the trap of Kolkata’s sex industry in many ways, from promises of marriage to jobs that prove to be false. In speaking with Bhutia about their work, she commented that women struggle to leave because of cultural and social standards. They are trapped in this life because of shame and stigma because of what they have been forced to do."
IJM desires to change this story by offering justice and restoration to victims in Kolkata. They do this by working with partnering organizations to restore honor and dignity by offering job skills training and education. Dressember is joining IJM’s desire to end the harm these individuals suffer daily by being a part of partnering with what they are are working on now, which is, working with police and anti-trafficking units to gather intel in order to bring an end to this harm.
For this work, IJM rejoices at the lives saved from abuse and exploitation. They are emboldened to continue this work by the survivors. They see them heal, grow and move from fear and distrust to being empowered. The work is hard and the investment is large both personally and individually for everyone involved. Yet, IJM holds a position of hope having seen, since 2006, 380 survivors rescued, 69 are currently receiving care in restoration programs, and 39 cases have been convicted by sex trafficking related crimes.
Yet, IJM holds a position of hope having seen, since 2006, 380 survivors rescued, 69 are currently receiving care in restoration programs, and 39 cases have been convicted by sex trafficking related crimes.
IJM invites all of us to be involved in the work they are doing through education and getting involved by partnering with organizations that are fighting against this crime. As Bhutia stated it may look like joining in, “whatever way you are equipped for. Getting involved may look like participating in Dressember and starting discussions among your friends and family about the issue or it may be contributing financial resources or advocating government at all levels.” To be a part of fighting against this abuse, it doesn’t matter how small the part is you play, it has an impact for every individual that is brought out of the world of exploitation.
IJM sees this every day in Kolkata, from the pain hidden away in private residences to the healing that occurs over time. They are motivated by the transformation that they see and hope to see this model repeated throughout the world. Yet IJM knows that this work cannot be done without the long term investment from those willing to partner with them as well as the full support of Kolkata’s government. This is why each one of us matters in the fight they face. IJM knows, freedom and change can come.
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About the Author
Grace is a survivor of human trafficking that is working on a degree in professional psychology. She is passionate about being a part of movement to end slavery by providing trauma informed services to fellow survivors after her schooling is finished. She also is an avid reader, loves to create art and music, play with animals, and take note of the little bits of beauty that make up ordinary life.