They’ll eventually be able to prosecute sex traffickers just like the ones who violated them
There’s a new program in India that’s helping the millions of child sex trafficking victims turn their lives around — and get justice for a life they were forced to live against their will.
The School for Justice, opened in April by anti-trafficking group Free A Girl, aims to raise awareness of child sex trafficking and to provide funding and education for survivors who have escaped trafficking. The school is meant to prepare the women for university, where they will go on to earn law degrees to help fight against the traffickers that continue to abuse and exploit women. In the past eight years, Free A Girl has contributed to the release of 4,062 girls from brothels in Asia.
The School for Justice’s first class was held in April of this year with 19 women enrolled. Some have already been accepted to university and others will continue in the program and study another year before applying. The goal is to help empower former victims through education and to start to change “how India’s legal system fights trafficking,” Free A Girl founder Evelien Hölsken told Huffington Post. According to the School for Justice, less than 50 cases of child prostitution lead to convictions every year.
The International Labor Organization estimates for the number of victims of human trafficking is 20.9 million globally, with hundreds of thousands located in the United States. When all international trafficking victims are added to these estimates, the number of child victims sharply rises to close to 2 million a year.
“Even if we identified all traffickers or victims online, law enforcement across the country lack the manpower and resources to effectively respond,” Sergeant Nikkole Peterson of the Human Trafficking division in St. Paul, Minnesota told Scary Mommy. She and other agents in the Human Trafficking Unit worked on a sting in North Dakota in 2016 that had to be shut down because they didn’t have enough staff to process the amount of johns who knowingly showed up to have sex with a 15-year-old child.
In India, these women fared no better, often being forced to have sex with over 20 men a day, while being physically and emotionally abused for years according to the School for Justice video. Traffickers often lure them with hope for employment or future marriage, and then force them into a life of prostitution.
“This program helps survivors become lawyers by covering the cost of school fees, housing, food and transport as they pursue their degrees,” Huffington Post reported. “The participants all live in the same house, run by staff members of partner organization Sanlaap, which rescues girls from brothels and provides them with housing and education. There, the students take English classes, basic law classes and get assistance applying to and attending university.” The school costs approximately $3400 per student per year and they are seeking donors to be able to continue the program next year and beyond.
These women will face an uphill battle, many for the rest of their lives. Though they’re being given an opportunity at a second chance, the stigma and shame brought on by being forced into a life they didn’t choose can be too much. In addition to the trauma they’re experiencing, many families won’t take them back and many in society treat them as willing prostitutes rather than victims.
These women deserve a chance at a better life, one of their choosing. “That’s why the stories of every single girl in the school are so important ― they were trafficked, they were sold, it was not a choice,” Hölsken told Huffington Post. “They are so so brave, and we are so proud of them. If nobody dares to speak out, then nothing will change.”