Monday, December 21, 2009

A part of us

Just this morning I had the opportunity to view Sunita Krishnan's courageous talk on sexual slavery at TED India event in Mysore Bangalore. Herself a victim of sexual slavery, Sunita co-founded Prajwala (eternal flame), an organization dedicated to rescuing women and children from brothels and educating them to prevent second generation prostitution. Prajwala runs 17 schools in Hyderabad for 5,000 children and has rescued 2,500 women from prostitution.

While this talk was presented with an Indian context, there is as much relevance for Pakistan if not more. Pakistan is one of the global hubs for human trafficking. According to Coalition against Trafficking in Women, more than 1 million Bangladeshi and 200,000 Burmese women have been trafficked to Pakistan, sold for US$1,500-2,500 depending on age, looks and most importantly virginity.

What struck a chord with me was the importance of acceptance. As Sunita Krishnan points out, the success of rehabilitation of these victims is dependent upon civil society which has traditionally engaged with these individuals through social exclusion. This has to change.

In the words of Sunita Krishahn, it is not enough to discuss sex trafficking in our air conditioned drawing rooms or at our parties. It is not enough to give some money each month to this cause. We need to empathize with these victims, offer them employment in our offices, provide them with work in our homes. We need to accept them as our neighbours, friends and relatives. Victims of sex trafficking are a part of us, not apart from us.