Special Correspondent

Society's involvement is essential to combat trafficking: NGO director

Budgetary allocation will prove government's commitment to tackling issue Very little support from community, State to prevent trafficking

CHENNAI: The State's approach to trafficking should involve budgetary allocation for rehabilitation of victims, Sunitha Krishnan, director, Prajwala, an organisation working to combat trafficking, said.

"Rehabilitation is money," she said adding that a government's commitment to rehabilitating victims of trafficking would be indicated by the amount of funds it allocated. Ms. Krishnan, recently conferred with the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award by the U.S. based organisation founded in the memory of Perdita Huston, development journalist and author, was in Chennai to complete a short film on incest.

Speaking to media persons, she said the award was recognition not for her, but for the cause. "This is recognition of the fact that the international community accepts that trafficking is an issue," she explained. Ms. Krishnan has been involved in raising awareness about human trafficking in the country, rescuing and supporting trafficked women and children and working to end trafficking.

A victim of rape herself, she started an organisation, Prajwala, to take forward the movement in support of victims of trafficking. Currently, there is very little support that the community and the State provide for the rehabilitation process.

Apart from the scarcity of funds, infrastructure too is not in place to take care of women who have been rescued from traffickers even temporarily. While the two recent changes in the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act have ensured that soliciting is not an offence and that the customer too is arrested, awareness about these changes among the police was very low, she said.

Legal issues

Training on the aspects of law and the need to treat women in prostitution as victims and not perpetrators is important, Ms. Krishnan said. A National Human Rights Commission study on trafficking in the country had revealed that 89 per cent of those in prostitution had been forced into the trade.

The rest, 11 per cent, made the difficult choice to enter it, she explained.

The police must be aware of these aspects.

Ms. Krishnan said rehabilitation should be done jointly by the community, government, NGOs, law enforcement agencies, judiciary and the media.

Unless these organisations came together, successful rehabilitation of victims was not possible, she said.