SAMEENA (name changed), the daughter of a labourer in the Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, was only 13 when she was abducted on her way to school by two men and taken thousands of kilometres away to a red-light district in Telangana. After the efforts of her parents with the help of Guria Sansthan, an NGO fighting child prostitution and sex trafficking, Sameena was finally rescued and brought back home.

With counselling and other forms of support provided by Guria, Sameena passed her board exams with flying colours while her abductors faced trial.

Based out of Varanasi, inarguably the holiest city in the country, Guria has rescued over 5,000 persons from slavery, sex trafficking and child prostitution. It has also helped shut down over 200 brothels and convicted hundreds of pimps, sex traffickers and other criminals in the sex trade.

“I have come across so many shocking cases of children trafficked for sex that it sends a chill up the spine of anybody who hears the story,” says Santwana Manju, co-founder, Guria Sansthan. Manju says that Guria has rescued children, as young as two years of age, from sexual exploitation.

How traffickers force young girls into sex work

Manju says that many of the trafficked girls come from impoverished families and are either lured or kidnapped and sold into prostitution. The more shocking part is that sometimes their own family members could be involved in sex trafficking in exchange for money.

“Criminals come in all shapes and forms. They could be near or distant family members of young girls, too. As brothel keepers are ready to pay large amounts of money for young girls, traffickers just need to kidnap girls, torture them until they agree to indulge in prostitution and then sell them to brothels,” says Manju.

According to Manju, the pandemic has only made matters worse for the underprivileged. “Lack of employment, decreased income in rural areas and inflation have all made people desperate. This has opened a window for traffickers,” she says.

Guria’s efforts to rescue girls trafficked for sex

Despite facing threats to their lives from pimps, sex traffickers and others, co-founders Manju and Ajeet Singh have continued their efforts to rescue young girls and women from forced sex work. And they are not limited to Uttar Pradesh alone. As girls are kidnapped from Uttar Pradesh to other parts of the country, their investigations and efforts to rescue these girls take them all over India.

Guria is also focused on bringing justice to sex trafficking survivors. As traffickers have the backing of criminal networks, they go to great lengths to threaten or silence their accusers. Hence, Guria has a witness protection programme under which girls and women who testify against their accused are given protection under a changed identity for life. Guria has provided witness protection to over 1,000 girls and their families so far. This has helped in convicting hundreds of people involved in sex trafficking.

Rehabilitation programmes

Guria runs a school for the children of victims of sex trafficking and a vocational training centre to support at-risk children in red-light areas. It also organises regular sensitisation drives for the police, lawyers, media and others.

But taking on traffickers and bringing them to justice involves perseverance, coordination and money. Manju says that, of late, it has been an uphill task for Guria because of a lack of funds. To keep rescuing girls and continue to fight against human traffickers, Guria needs help from donors. The fundraiser on Give is aimed at just that. Manju says that with support from donors, Guria can continue its mission to ensure no girl gets forced into the sex trade.

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