‘The world’s oldest profession’ is a famous phrase behind which lies a sludge pool of deceit, lies and exploitation. For an unassuming person, the line seems to denote a time-honoured profession but it couldn’t be further from the truth. If one learns to read between the lines, the hidden word reveals itself – prostitution.
Prostitution and its web of illegal activities are responsible for the destruction of countless lives every year. In India alone, more than 6 lakh prostitutes ply their trade according to a 2016 UNAIDS estimate. Those who figure amongst the UNAIDS estimate are lucky enough to be counted – there are many more sex workers who are unaccounted for due to various circumstances.
The flesh trade in India is a rampant evil, threatening to chew through the fibres that hold our society together. An endless war is being fought against the flesh trade. It is an uphill battle with more setbacks than breakthroughs but the people leading the charge are yet to give up.
A name that stands out amongst the crowd is that of Sunitha Krishnan. A firebrand who is unafraid to get her hands dirty to get the desired results, Sunitha Krishnan is a trailblazer. She is the co-founder of Prajwala, an NGO that rescues, rehabilitates and reintegrates sex-trafficking victims into the fold.
She founded the organisation in 1996 with the help of Brother Jose Vettica and it has grown to become the largest anti-trafficking shelter in the world. Sunitha’s aim when she founded the NGO was to prevent the children of the prostituted mothers from falling into the clutches of the flesh trade. The NGO has branched out to provide rehabilitation for rescued children and HIV positive victims of sex trafficking.
Prajwala has evolved over the years to include a strategic approach based on five pillars – prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy. So far, Prajwala has made a positive impact on the lives of over 12,000 survivors. Many of these survivors go on to work with the NGO – out of the 200 employees of Prajwala, 70% of them are survivors.
Sunitha runs Prajwala as a full-time volunteer, something which is unheard of and shows us a glimpse of the moral fibre that courses through her veins. A Padma Shri awardee, she is an excellent writer and an accomplished orator too. She has drafted recommendations for state governments with regards to sex trafficking laws and also compiled handbooks as well.
‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is a popular line that would sum up Sunitha Krishnan’s outlook towards life. The battle is far from being won but with Prajwala and Sunitha Krishnan at the helm, hopes have never been higher.