Last week we traveled 12 hours south by train to Goa. An area that used to be known as the hub for child trafficking here in India. Our main purpose once reaching Goa was to locate the founder of non-profit organization ARZ, which stands for “Anyay Rahit Zindagi” meaning “to deliver their life all of the way.” ARZ has radically changed the trafficking environment since 1997.
The organization has been appointed as the nodal NGO in the Integrated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit which was set up by the Goa Police for the purpose of providing witnesses, conducting rescue operations along with police, training and counseling of rescued persons, assisting in interviews of rescued persons, networking with other NGOs for all activities, empowerment of rescued persons and ensuring their proper rehabilitation. This has given the organization the authority to start working more closely with the system. It has clearly defined the role of Arz in working towards combating trafficking in Goa along with the criminal justice system.
WHY Goa? After brothel based activities were stopped in 2004 by ARZ, when a number of brothels along Baina beach were demolished, the trafficked women extended their activities elsewhere. The brothels now operate in the guise of beauty parlours, spas, escort services, friendship clubs and also offer their services through the internet, and in the homes of impoverished families.
Our journey to finding the organization was something in and of itself. We walked through two villages, frequently stopping and asking locals if they new where ARZ was located. They would point and we would walk. Little did we know where we were walking, along Baina beach, was through the remains of the pre-existing red light district of Goa that we had heard so much about.
(Baina beach red light district remains)
Finally we found what appeared to be an outhouse. However the sign on this shack of a building said in fact ARZ! We had found it, or had we? A woman by the name of Laila opened the door and invited us in. Laila has worked for ARZ for 12 years. She shared with us about their work and how now it has become more difficult to find the women and children due to most all acts taking place behind closed doors. After sharing our purpose in seeking out this specific NGO she hastily said “You must meet Arun! He is the founder and can help you.” YES! That is what we had come for. So we replied, “Great, where is Arun?” She said, “Oh his office is not here, it is in Vasco. You must go there.” Vasco is the city where we had traveled from to reach Baina.
There was purpose in meeting Laila and seeing how ARZ was operating out of a 7×10 foot building right in the middle of the pre-existing red light district. They had positioned themselves in a way that really spoke to me. Their presence in the community made a statement. That statement as I interpreted it was “WE ARE HERE FOR CHANGE, WE AREN’T LEAVING, SO GET USED TO IT!”
We found our way to Vasco and quickly located ARZ’s corporate office to meet with Arun Pandey. In case you were wondering, it did not look like an outhouse. A man answered the door, his name was Arun! He invited us in and said he would gladly meet with us. After an hour of questions, concerns, direction, and a wealth of wisdom, I felt like we had the next piece of the puzzle. I knew why we had come to Goa and what steps we must take next.
The tourism industry in the state has directly or indirectly contributed to the surge in human trafficking rackets in Goa. The recent report on human trafficking in India by the United Nations conventions against transnational organized crime (UNTOC) says, “Demand for sex services by the tourists has led to an upsurge of trafficking rackets operating in the state.” The victims who have been forced into the sex trade are smuggled into Goa even from across international borders, the report says.
Over the last three years 179 girls who were smuggled into Goa for sex trafficking have been rescued. 146 were Indian girls followed by Nepal (27), Bangladesh (4) and Russia (2). From Indian states, 39 girls came from Mumbai. Others were Manipur (31), Goa (16), Andhra Pradesh (14), West Bengal (09), Nagaland (08), Karnataka (07), Maharashtra and Assam (both 5 each), Mizoram (4).
Will we buy land in Goa? That is still undecided, but what we have learned is that there is not an existing safe home in Goa for the local children. Mostly because local children found in trafficking choose to runaway from the home to find their families (most of which sold them into this industry) or the families come and reclaim their children. These children need to be relocated and only the government of Goa can determine their placement. By law the Indian government would rather have the child living with the parents if found suitable. Therefore, safe homes in Goa are reluctant to receiving local children. Once in law enforcements hands, ARZ can make recommendations as to where the child can be placed. It is in our favor that we met personally with Arun and Laila. Once our home is established with the Women and Child Welfare agency of India then we can be recommended for specific cases in which we would be the first to receive the younger children since we have a specific and distinct module for our course of restoration.
- This music film below is on the hardships faced by poverty-struck families in Goa. Which has also given a rise to child labour, which is directly proportionate to the number of families ‘Below the Poverty Line’ in Goa, India. Just click this link http://vimeo.com/37738926 to watch on vimeo.
During our time Vinod, John and I were able to connect with old friends and believers throughout Goa. Seeing some familiar faces and meeting new ones was great. We had opportunities to speak in churches, minister to non-believers from all over the world, and pray over women who had lost hope. I also was able to see the medical clinic in the red light district that Hope Again International supported for 2 years! Sadly it is no longer running, but we were able to meet with the owner of the building who is Hindu and share Papa’s love with her.
(ASHADAI means day of HOPE)
(Our dear friend Hegin, who is a leader in the Goa community, runs a Christian school where many children of trafficked mothers are placed.)
There was a woman named Mary who was a red light worker. Hegin new her family and situation through his position within the community. She had two daughters and one son. She told her children that their father lived in the village but in truth did not know who each of their fathers were. Mary wanted a better life for her children, but after time the daughters grew more and more afraid of this imposed future. One of the daughters ran away from home and has not returned, the other committed suicide. The son is still at home with his mother. Mary has left this lifestyle and now for her families income picks up bottles at the railway station.
This is real life for so many here in India. Hope Again International desires to change that. John and I realize we cannot rescue EVERY child from sex trafficking. It is not about the quantity of lives you save but the quality to that they are restored.
Here are some snaps from our journey south!
(My friend Isabel from Germany who is running a ministry in Arunbul, Goa where she works with Israelis)
The place John and I stayed in Bogmolo beach for only 800 rupees a night ($12.50). WITH air conditioning AND hot water!
We enjoyed swimming in the ocean the last two days until the sun set! Trying to surf waves while being over 5 months pregnant was a new concept so I left most of the waves to John.
On the train ride home we saw an incredible waterfall as the sun was setting over the mountains.
Bogmolo sunsets and fried food, yes please!
Thank you for your continued love and support for our family here in India! If you would like to follow our pregnancy blog you can find it at wearenowthree.com !
May peace be with you