The following are literary articles…
BREAK THESE CHAINS
By Roger Seth
Before the glowing screen hunches a man
Eyes hungry and desperate
Searching a new fantasy
Raw footage dulling senses gone cold
Behind the throbbing monitor lies a trailer Cameras glare behind stark lights A room full of threat and horror For her “Make it look like you want it,” she is told
Beneath that dirty corner winds a caravan Trains cross a desert of bartered souls Rape and torture, betrayal and death For them
Did you know some are just 8 years old?
Ahead of the clawing traffic sits my village War-torn or famined, disastered or impoverished Vying for food or jobs or a decent chance For us
To seek a better future dare we be so bold?
So you can titillate yourself For two short moments Before you click your mouse And greedily consume another window Full of our daughters, my sisters, sold
Though people might like to think that pornography usage is an act-in-isolation, in reality it is an act-in-community—the community being global humanity. The demand for purchased sex in any form (whether prostitution or pornography) feeds a system which, at its furthest edges, is constantly endangering younger and younger children in vulnerable communities.
Imagine that you have a precious 10-year-old daughter. She loves to dance in the rain, play on a swing, sing songs in the car. She brightens your day. Now imagine that she is missing. She never came home from school one day. You waited for her with a snack, but she didn’t come. Imagine your panic. You call the school, you call all her friends. Your mind thinks the worst. You pray. You call the police who take forever in coming. What would you do?
Now imagine that she has been missing for two weeks. The police come to talk to you at your house where you have been waiting by the phone for any good word. The police tell you that they think they know where your daughter is. They have a source that thinks they saw her in a brothel in another town. Imagine your horror at hearing this. Your precious, innocent little daughter is being forced to do horrible things with men. The police then tell you that it will be another couple of days before they can arrange for a rescue of her. What would you do?
Imagine that you are the father. You find out where this brothel is. Would you wait the couple of days that the police said it would take? Would you go there yourself to rescue your baby? Imagine pretending to be a customer so that you could see if it is your daughter. The brothel owner brings out a young girl, but it is not your daughter. Your heart sinks. You wanted to find your little girl so desperately. Now you see another sweet little girl about her age who is standing in front of you. You see the fear in her eyes. Could you leave without her?
Imagine that as you sit there, staring at this little girl, you hear a scream in another room. You know that it is your daughter’s voice. The brothel owner tells you that it is just another customer enjoying his time. Would you not, at that time, do everything within you to get your daughter? Would you break down the walls? Could you leave without her?
Every day there are little girls who get taken and forced into prostitution. Join us in giving hope to these girls who have been rescued.
A TALE OF TWO PIGEONS
“There’s a dead pigeon hanging from a tree!” My oldest son’s frantic screams from our New Delhi terrace interrupted our preparations for a lazy morning’s breakfast. Everyone else in the family rushed outside to the
Suspended in the air, almost at eye-level to our second-floor balcony, the pigeon’s limp body swayed slightly, an unnatural twist to its neck. Closer inspection revealed that it had gotten caught in near-invisible string from the wreckage of a kite that could have been left behind last summer by any of a number of children from the apartments which ring the park.
Suddenly one of us noticed yet another pigeon higher in the air, tangled upside down in the string. This one was still alive, flailing in vain against the line which was wrapped around a foot and one wing. “I can’t bear to watch!” cried my seven-year-old daughter. “It’s too horrible to see that poor bird suffering!”
“Look,” said my younger son, pointing skyward. “There’s a third pigeon circling around. It seems concerned for its friend.” Indeed, one bird was swooping in an oblong orbit, a free but agitated streak of gray feathers. It seemed to be trying to lead the ensnared bird to some imaginary escape up and away, not comprehending that its companion simply could not break free of the string.
“We have to do something,” my wife said to me, her eyes earnest and determined. But the struggling pigeon was too far up in the air for a ladder to reach, and too far away from our balcony for me to grab the string. My daughter having run inside to her room and shut the door behind her, the four of us continued to watch, feeling helpless. It seemed nothing could be done to save the bird.
“Let’s call the guards,” I finally suggested, feeling resigned. “Perhaps they can help.” I phoned the front gate and explained in halting Hindi what was wrong.
“I’ll send a gardener,” the watchmen promised.
Minutes later a young man called to us from down on the ground. We leaned over the balcony rail and pointed at the victims. “Can you assist the bird?” I asked.
The gardener stood there, thinking for a moment. His upward gaze somehow attracted the attention of another man, who was soon joined by a third in a track suit–one of our neighbors who was out jogging.
They conferred with one another, and then the gardener ran to a far corner of the park. He walked back with a long bamboo pole–part of the frame of a wedding tent which had been left behind. He carefully worked the pole up far above the pigeon’s head and snapped the kite line. The pigeon half fell, half flew to the ground with an awkward flutter, then skittered across the park in terror, fleeing into a bush. The gardener calmly followed and retrieved the traumatized bird with a firm but gentle hand.
“Bring some turmeric powder,” he hollered up to us. We had been watching, mesmerized, but now rushed to the kitchen to carry out his orders. My children hastily put their shoes on to follow me downstairs with the yellow spice. Reaching the park, we approached the bird, which was being cradled in the gardener’s hands as another man untangled the twine that had pinned the wing.
The gardener took the turmeric and gently worked the powder into a ugly red gash where the string had cut into the bird. “It’s a natural antiseptic,” the neighbor wearing sweat pants explained to us. By now the pigeon had calmed down and somehow seemed to understand that these strange hands were helping, not hurting her.
First aid completed, the gardener kept a strong grip around the bird so that she would not struggle free, then walked through the trees toward the edge of the park. He slowly raised the bird level with his face and pointed her head up toward a cubbyhole above one of the apartment windows high in the building. Once he was sure she was looking in the right direction, he released her. She flew straight up and away from the trees and nestled onto her new roost, safe from both cats and kite string.
Though it was sad to see the gardener cut down the dead pigeon, we returned to our home with a feeling of satisfaction. “At least we were able to save one pigeon,” I said.
Almost immediately afterward, my wife and I realized we had all enacted something deeper and more significant.
Might it be that the way we had responded to the two pigeons in our colony was symbolic of how people can respond to the girls in our city who are enslaved in brothels? Consider…
- We had simply discovered the two pigeons hanging outside our balcony that morning. All it takes are eyes to see what is happening at our own back door.
- We experienced a range of emotions: shock, horror, helplessness. Only my daughter–the youngest in our home–ran and hid. The other four family members discussed what to do and took action. Facing the reality girls as young as eight being trafficked for sex is emotionally difficult, yet it need not immobilize us.
- Rather than turning our backs on the plight of the trapped pigeon, we did what we could. Ordinary people need to–and can–act.
- We called the guard, who sent the gardener who, upon arrival, attracted the attention of passersby. Our action stimulated further response by the community. Though one person couldn’t solve the problem alone, the group was able to figure out what to do.
- Effective local solutions were available once we involved the right people.
- After the bird was doctored, the gardener did what he could to prevent the pigeon from being re-entangled in the kite string, by aiming the bird toward a safe place to heal. We need not only timely intervention, but the “big picture” sense to prevent further trauma and to enable long-term healing.
As we reflected on the experience, we were struck by the goodwill and compassion shown by so many neighbors. A total of 8 people (including our children) stopped their morning routine to attend to one traumatized pigeon. No one who helped was an “expert,” yet each did what he or she knew.
We all shared a sense of purpose: This little bird must be saved. Though it was too late to help the dead pigeon, we intervened before the trapped pigeon could be attacked by a bird of prey or die of bleeding or shock.
Could we not see this same goodwill and compassion be shown by our communities on behalf of our sisters and daughters who have been caught in harm’s way?
In India no less than 200 Indian women and girls enter the sex trade every day. Most cases are coercive–the girl enters prostitution against her will–and the majority of the girls are well under 18 years of age. The trauma, abuse and torture being borne by these girls are beyond comprehension, and the scale of such tragedy can have an immobilizing effect. Yet as each of my family members took part in a feathery drama just outside our back window one day not long ago, we found ourselves demonstrating ways to respond to sex trafficking….
The problem of sex trafficking is certainly not unique to India. These days it is found anywhere and everywhere. As others like David Batstone, author of Not for Sale, have well noted, it is probably occurring far closer to your back door than you think.
True, the web of organized crime, greed, poverty and demand for younger girls by predatory men is a much more complex and intimidating threat than a tangle of kite string accidentally left in a tree.
Specialists are needed for certain tasks, such as conducting undercover investigations, collaborating with police to raid brothels and to prosecute perpetrators. Experienced trauma counselors have a vital role to help girls work through the emotional scars of daily abuse.
Yet systems of human trafficking are the outgrowth of multiple forces in society. Looking at the broader picture, we find that many common people contribute to the problem.
Who are the men who buy sex in a brothel or on the Internet? Who are the people who perpetuate unfair (and inaccurate) stereotypes of “prostitutes” such that some among
us believe that a red light district is filled with women who want to be there? Who is the housewife, the government official, the athlete, the average man or woman who turns
the other way rather than look at the harsh facts of others’ suffering?
Can’t ordinary people like us now be part of a solution? We might think we can do nothing, yet as we step forward to act as well as involve others around us, practical solutions will emerge.
Like the dead pigeon, for some girls it is already too late–or it will soon be. However, for others, there is still a small hope, a chance that if we act now, they can be freed like the pigeon whose line was cut, and can then find a safe place of healing.
It may seriously interrupt our everyday routines, but the value of lives saved, rather than lost, will prove well worth it.
Tricked. Empty. Pain. Guilt. Lies. Dead. Fear. Lonely.
Disease. Scared. Abused. Misled. Used. Discarded. Dirty.
Hurt. Hopeless. Cheap. Unnoticed. Lost.
Bruised. Embarrassed. Weak.
Slave. Forgotten. Worthless. Angry.
Powerless. Broken. Wounded. Defeated.
Victim. Helpless. Taken. Sold. Unwanted.
You saw me.
You noticed me.
You rescued me.
Shelter. Hope. Precious. Heard. Free. Rescued. Loved.
Seen. Helped. Restored. Clean.
Redeemed. Life. Ransomed. Strength. Shelter. Hope. Saved.
Precious. Changed. Noticed. Strength.
Princess. Beauty. Dreams. Dancing. Joy.
Secure. Chosen. Worthy. Found. Truth. Peace. Content.
You saw me.
You helped me.
You rescued me.