How girls are trafficked

All girls in India (or at least 60% of the population that earns less than $1 a day) long for marriage as a fulfillment of all their girlhood dreams. Marriage holds the promise of financial stability, status in their community, a safe home to raise children and the ultimate protection from harm. The hope of marriage is wrapped up in the hope of having children. Sometimes it is an escape from a dreaded arranged marriage with an older man whom they do not love. Sometimes it is an escape from a painful childhood. Always it is the dream of real love that girls hold secret in their hearts.

For a large percentage of trafficked victims nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact most traffickers use the basic belief in the intrinsic goodness of the marriage institution to trap unsuspecting girls. The trafficker may take a few weeks or a few months to convince the girl of his love for her. Promises whispered, gifts given, kisses stolen, and the young girl, still in her teens agrees to run away with him. Within a few months, and often pregnant, he sells her for the equivalent of a few hundred dollars. Abandoned by the one she loved and trusted, she has no one.

Asha’s story in Horse and Rider reads exactly like this. Asha was a Muslim girl who was tricked into marrying a Hindu boy. Fearful of the religious implications of marrying into a different faith, she left her husband. She tried to end her life several times, but she survived each time. A young man soon befriended her. Trusting him, she married him and was soon pregnant. A few months later he took Asha to Mumbai and sold her. The brothel forced her to have a late term abortion. Several years ago she was rescued from the brothel.

Asha came to Freedom Firm and began working at Ruhamah Designs, Freedom Firm’s employment opportunity for rescued girls. She worked for several years, excelling in her craft, reaching out to disabled children through the Leg Up Therapy program, and working through much of her pain from the past.

In spite of what Asha had suffered at the hands of a trafficker who posed as her husband, Asha still desperately wanted to get married. Robbed of her baby, she wanted to know the joy of motherhood. While still at Ruhamah Asha met a married man and left Ruhamah to become his second wife or mistress, depending on how you define it. Very quickly Asha became pregnant and is now the proud mother of a beautiful little girl. Her husband has divorced his first wife, and Asha has the marriage she always dreamed of.

Perhaps not the perfect marriage, but will I judge it according to my light? He has given her financial stability, a home for their little girl, status in the community, food in her belly, a roof over her head and perhaps love, who can say?

And while the process was far from laudable, and while as staff we wrestled with what seemed like “wrong choices,” I am relieved that for now, Asha is safe and that this marriage, flawed as it may be, has given her the security she craved, and that this man, finally, is not a trafficker. It really is hit or miss, and one must be ready to re-define a “good marriage.”

During the time Asha married and had her baby, she left Ruhamah Designs. About six months ago, bored as a housewife, and eager for connection with the Ruhamah Designs community, Asha came back to work. Most days she works from her home (as part of the Work At Home program), making jewelry while balancing her work as a mother. Once a week she travels to the workshop to have her products inspected for quality. Its good to have Asha back in our lives again, and to see her in her new roles as wife and mother.

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