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Awareness Is The Keyword To Curb Sex Trafficking: Artist And Activist Leena Kejriwal

  • IWB Post
  •  November 28, 2018

The power of art is the power of truth: Julian Beck

Artist, author, and activist Leena Kejriwal realised that power long ago and decided to use her skill and passion to throw light on social issues. Being a photographer, she covered many aspects of society in her projects and books. But a project that came to the public’s notice was her public art project – Missing. 

Missing covers the issue of human trafficking and prostitution of young girls. The art installation is a symbol of a missing girl represented through larger-than-life black silhouettes of young girls against urban backdrops, which look like sharp, black cutouts of the sky – holes into which millions of girls disappear from the face of the earth into the dark world of prostitution.

Sex trafficking, the plight of children, and lack of awareness are the few things that we discovered in a conversation with her.

Read excerpts:

The anti-trafficking bill proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Monsoon session of the Parliament received negative feedback from many activists. What is your take on it?

The bill is a great effort by the government and they have tried to cover a lot to deal with the crime but there are a couple of loopholes. The structure is weak and there is no mention of sexual exploitation while it has covered aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging, and marriage.

Leena Kejriwal

Girls with the artwork.

Also, the keyword to curb the crime – public awareness – is missing.

“Why Wait for a Girl to Get Trafficked to Save Her?” has been your and your project’s motto. Let’s discuss the actions that can prevent the crime of trafficking?

See, there only is supply when there is a demand. And, the demand is coming from the public. So, like I said, what is missing in the bill is what we need really need to work on – public awareness. We need to spread awareness, talk about the repercussions, talk about the benefits of preventing the crime in their personal lives and in the environment. Humanity is kind of selfish.

Another thing is a strict regulation of content available on the Internet. I mean, apps like WhatsApp exchange casual sexism jokes and quotes every now and then. We need to understand the kind of social fabric we’re weaving through such conversations.

Leena Kejriwal

Leena’s black silhouette art.
Photo source: DW

Then, there is the horrific content of children on porn websites that are actually triggering people to perform them in real life. In one of the cases, two guys caught for trafficking and raping a minor girl confessed that they got the urge to abduct and rape her since they saw something similar on the internet.

Leena created a game app to talk more on this issue.

Leena Kejriwal

The game Missing created by Leena.

There needs to be awareness – amongst youth, parents, society.

On that note, the way children are raised plays a huge role. And, you had once mentioned the importance of teaching girls to say ‘No’. What are the skills you think parents should teach their girls that can prevent trafficking?  

First, as a parent, think big for your girls. Choose education over early marriage. As a skill, teach them to be smart, not good. Teach them to question more – who, what, why, where, all the Ws should be on the tip of their tongue.

Tell us about the stigmas that rescued girls from trafficking face.

There are social stigmas like taunts, there is rejection, there is shaming. All of these not only surround the victim child but also her parents. However, the good part is, the scenario around this is changing. From pointing a finger at the victim, it has now turned on to the accused.

That is great. Let’s talk about the importance of rehabilitation programmes for the rescued girls. 

It plays a big, big role. At the moment, there is no such big rehab programme. There are government homes where girls are sheltered for six months and are counseled. The programme at the homes can definitely get better. To begin with, the counseling of children should become systematic. Vocational training should be in full degree. The homes should focus on result-oriented programme wherein children come out evolved with energy and positivity.

Discussions on trafficking have reached many households now. What do you think we’re not talking about?

That you play the most important role in creating the demand for trafficking. You are the culprit and you are the solution.

Leena Kejriwal

The anti-trafficking bill has upset activists for conflating trafficked victims and consenting sex workers. Will prostitution aggravate the issue of trafficking or is it the opposite?

It is aggravating the crime. Till the time sex work does not get fully systematic, till the time there is no paperwork, till the time there is no evaluation of voluntarily and non-voluntarily, we can’t judge if the consent has come from no form of abuse.

Are you worried about receiving threats for raising your voice against the crime?

I haven’t yet and I do not fear because I am not pointing a finger at the traffickers. I am questioning the public. We are focused on informing the public and abolishing the crime.

This article was first published on July 20, 2018.

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