Child Protection in Madhya Pradesh – Interview with Archana Sahay
Over the past few years, the ATC has been instrumental in documenting concerns around human trafficking in India, including the accomplishments and insights of the anti-trafficking activists and service providers. In July 2019, our ATC team met with Ms. Archana Sahay, Co-Founder of a non-profit civil society organization, Aarambh. Based in Bhopal, the capital city of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Aarambh started its work in 1992 by working with street children through providing a form of day-care service to the children of migrant labourers. Through the past years, it has diversified its scope of work to address, among other social issues, the issues of child rights and child protection. Aarambh is also the implementing partner of Childline in Bhopal. In an interaction, with the ATC Team, Archana shared the experiences of Aarambh on child trafficking and child protection in Bhopal.
As part of their interventions in child protection, Aarambh undertakes sessions on sexual health, safety and also informs the children who they work with about laws that they should be aware of like, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSOA). They also run an adolescent counselling helpline (104) along with a Children’s Home for young boys of marginalized communities (not necessarily ‘children in need of care and protection’). Child participation has become an important part of their programmes. They also run a Safe Cities initiative, in partnership with UNICEF India, to build capacity of children and bring about child-led child participation. This is a one of its kind initiatives in Bhopal.
Aarambh has been the local implementing partner of Childline since January 2000. As Childline coordinator, Archana has observed that, although the city of Bhopal has grown considerably since the time Childline came in, the scale of Childline in itself has not increased. This makes it difficult for them to cover the growing pool of cases.
Trends in Trafficking
Speaking on the trends in trafficking and child protection, Archana has observed that due to frequent rescues in Bhopal, the incidence of child labour has reduced. In Madhya Pradesh, trafficking for child labour is rampant with children being trafficked for bangle-making and zardozi (embroidery) work. In Sarafa Bazaar, Indore children are trafficked for gold polishing, and also to make papads (snacks) and chips. Aarambh as Childline has rescued many victims of labour trafficking. In one rescue, the children were native to Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh, and were being exploited in Madhya Pradesh. They were employed in bangle-making to put studs in hot glass which is a hazardous activity. In another case, some boys were rescued while they were traveling by train when they were found with bruise marks on their necks. The marks, too, were from working with hot glass to make bangles. The children were natives of Samasthipur, Bihar. Archana has also observed that boys are brought under the pretext of studying in a madrassas (religious schools) but are then made to work as child labor. In another case, she shared of trends about children being used in animal industries. Children are trafficked to work in chicken farms as they have small hands which are put to removing eggs in poultry farms and hatcheries. She spoke of children being trafficked to work in fish farms as well. The children are put in water so that fish eggs can settle on their lashes, and these eggs are then used for fish farming.
In Archana’s experience, the areas around the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border, and Rajasthan act as a source, destination, and transit for human trafficking. After dance bars got shut in Mumbai in the 2000s decade, Madhya Pradesh saw an increase in the number of dance bars, indicating that some of the women might have migrated to Madhya Pradesh. Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, itself serves as a destination for human trafficking. In one of their cases, a hotel run by the tourism department of MP was being used as a place to finalize deals of sex trafficking. In a major commercial area, called New Market in Bhopal, godowns have been used for soliciting and the sex trade.
Archana has not worked with cases of inter-generational trafficking but has observed that communities like Bedia that practice inter-generational prostitution are no longer pushing their own daughters into the sex trade. Instead, they are buying girls from other communities and pushing them into the sex trade. Archana also spoke about of a trend in their communities where some women are in relationships with married men outside the community, and even have children with them. In one case, a woman was in a relationship and also had three children with an already married man, till one day he moved back to his native place and stopped seeing her. She has also seen cases of bride trafficking to Haryana and Kerala. In some cases, the trafficked women are sent back after they give birth.
Speaking on Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), she lamented that there were no success stories worth quoting. In one case, where the father was sexually abusing a child the child was restored to the family and, the community was entrusted with the task to keep a vigil for the safety of the child. However, the child was killed by the father soon after her restoration. She also shared that CBR could especially not work in cases where the family is directly involved in exploiting/abusing the child or a family member is the accused. In cases where the threat stems from the community itself, families tend to relocate to safer places. She recommended that preparing the family and the community for the restoration of the child is crucial. She also shared that in this regard they think that work should be started at the Ward, Zonal and Parishad levels. Capacity building of the Self-Help Groups, the workers and the administration would be helpful. She emphasized on the need to strengthen CBR. Sex trafficking cases need more hard work in CBR, in her experience.
cases of CBR , in Archana’s experience
The interaction was insightful in understanding child protection in Madhya Pradesh as understood by local partners. It is a part of the many interactions that are held by the ATC team to document human trafficking in India. Watch this space for more.