Evangelical Free Church Aids Sex Trafficking Victims in India

The Evangelical Free Church of America, in partnership with national believers in India, plans to open a women's center next week to provide a physical and spiritual haven for victims of human trafficking.

The launch date for Mutki Women's Center in India is set for March 15.

Sharon (last name withheld for security reasons), a leader for the project said, "Still several things need to come together but March 15th is definitely the tentative plan."

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The center is being established to address both the needs of girls who are at high risk of being trafficked and to provide aftercare for girls and women who have been rescued from being trafficked and struggle to return to life within their community.

Numerous impoverished villages in India are considered "source villages" for human trafficking. Hundreds of girls are trafficked out of these villages every year to larger cities through the deception of a trafficker promising marriage or good job. Once they arrive to their destination city they are sold into brothels where they are broken through beatings and rape.

The few who are rescued from this modern day slavery return to their village without any means to support themselves, with very complex emotional, physical and spiritual needs, and are at greater risk to return to sexual slavery.

Human trafficking is a global problem with over 27 million documented slaves ("Free the Slaves," Kevin Bales). Though men, women, boys and girls are all bought and traded within this epidemic of modern day slavery, women and girls are at the highest risk.

Sharon made the comparison that "more people are enslaved in the world today than the total number of slaves throughout the time period when slave trafficking was legal."

ReachGlobal, the mission's arm of EFCA adds, "The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be over $32 billion – more than Nike, Starbucks and Google combined!"

Human trafficking is officially defined as: "The recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."

This legal definition is important in the prosecution and conviction of human traffickers.

Sharon added, "Trafficking does NOT have to involve being moved from one location to another. If a person is forced, coerced, abducted, deceived into a situation of enslavement, even if it is in the same town, it is considered trafficking. And if the person is a minor, there does not need to be proof that there was coercion of force."

Though the problem is global, including the United States, the highest numbers of those trafficked are in Asia. South Asia is home to the world's largest population of slaves today. This slavery includes forced work in brick kilns and factories as well as sexual exploitation. Asia also has the highest numbers forced into sex trafficking. An estimated 500,000 minor girls are in forced prostitution in India, and in the Philippines up to 100,000 children are victims, Sharon said.

She added, "Kolkata has one brothel area with 10,000 women and Mumbai has the two largest brothel areas in the world – each with 50,000 women. Most of these women were trafficked into sex exploitation as minors."

Sex tourism is a primary culprit in the sex trade and has increased in the past decade. Men from the West and other Asia countries travel to Southeast Asia to purchase sex cheaply, including sex with minors.

The growing global population living below poverty levels combines with the increasing numbers of consumers with excess resources for pleasure seeking to fuel the human trafficking industry. Internet pornography and internet sex marketing makes cheap sex readily available.

The Mutki Women's Center will address the social, spiritual, physical and emotional needs of these victims by providing a nurturing environment for life training and occupational skills. The goal is to share the life changing Good News of Jesus Christ with women while also giving them practical help for to return to live within their communities and reduce their risk to be victims of the human trafficker.

"Trafficking is an attack of evil on the glory of God in His creation," said Sharon. "Trafficking devalues human beings and destroys lives intended for God's glory."

A young woman, called Deepa, escaped from a brothel in Kolkata where she was enslaved for three and a half years. She is back with her family and has pleaded with the Mukti team to help her find work. It is the hope of the team that income generating projects can be provided for Deepa and women like her.

There are four basic battle fronts in combating human trafficking; prevention, rescue, restoration and prosecution of human traffickers. The EFCA works alongside and in partnership with several Christian organizations along these battle fronts.

The International Justice Mission is the largest global Christian organization engaged in rescue of minors along with prosecution of the perpetrators. Prosecution requires the highest levels of expertise from lawyers and those involved in criminal investigation. Freedom Firm of India also works to prosecute traffickers and works closely with local law enforcement and judicial systems.

Freedom Firm of India also works to rescue those enslaved. In the past, social workers have had to travel up to 30 hours by train to provide aftercare for these victims. EFCA's TouchGlobal Justice Initiative partnership with Freedom Firm of India seeks to train local Indian believers to assist within their own villages in the follow-up of rescued girls.

EFCA's TouchGlobal Justice Initiative is initially targeting India, coming alongside national believers in the establishment of the Mutki Women's Center. Staff are already at work in anti-trafficking efforts on other continents working with national believers in this battle against modern slavery.

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