New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Every month at least 500 girls each are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh to India through the eastern corridor, and the figures are rising, says award-winning Kolkata-based documentary filmmaker Ananya Chatterjee-Chakraborty.
Chatterjee-Chakraborty has won the Ladli-United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) award for her 89-minute documentary on women and child trafficking, 'Understanding Trafficking'. She will receive the prize from President Pratibha Patil May 11 in the capital.
The numbers point to a grim scenario in the clandestine trade of transborder human trafficking across India, Bangladesh and Nepal, says the filmmaker who is also a veteran human rights and gender activist.
'Some of these girls are sold to brothels while some are forced into farm labour. The best looking ones are sent to the Middle East. The next best category goes to Mumbai,' Chatterjee-Chakraborty, who is also a writer and teaches in St Xavier's College, Kolkata, told IANS over telephone.
The key factor to trafficking is vulnerability, she says.
'The reasons could be poverty, broken families, domestic violence, desertion by husband, victims of conflict situations or natural calamities. But all the girls who are trafficked - at least the ones I met - came from poor families, and many with compound problems,' Chakraborty said.
Chakraborty's movie probes the gender menace in the context of the Indian epic 'Ramayana', which uses the metaphorical boundary of the 'Lakshman Rekha' to confine Sita to the safe haven of her 'forest dwelling' during her 14-year period of exile.
But like Sita who crossed the Lakshman Rekha to be trapped by her husband's enemy Ravana, the director tries to identify the reasons behind women crossing the filial threshold to be lured by the forces of exploitation and deceit.
The filmmaker began work on the project in 2008. 'It took me a year to complete it. I chose three countries - India, Nepal and Bangladesh. India is the receiver, while Nepal and Bangladesh are the suppliers. I shot the movie extensively in Nepal but could not tour Bangladesh with my crew because of opposition by the Khaleda Zia government,' she said.
Interpol estimates say trafficking in women and children is a $1 billion global industry that continues to grow every year. Nearly 200,000 girls of Nepali origin work in Indian brothels.
'The issue of trafficking has to be dealt with at the level of supplier, villages and communities. The things that need to be addressed are primarily poverty that is easier said than done, ignorance and the poor status of women in our society,' Chatterjee-Chakraborty said.
The filmmaker feels that 'rehabilitation is the biggest problem'.
'The majority of these girls are illiterate. So the only job they can get is as housemaids, which is not paying. However, several NGOs are trying out different methodologies for rehabilitation,' Chatterjee-Chakraborty said.
Most of the times, the girls do not make an 'informed choice'. 'The victim is usually trapped. Trafficking is waylaying. The moment a woman crosses a line, she is trapped. It is not her fault,' the filmmaker said.
Efforts to rehabilitate victims of trafficking are veering from convention to offer them a new set of survival skills. In an effort to boost the self-confidence of these women, new innovative methods of rehabilitation are being used.
'NGO Jabala in West Bengal is trying football therapy on the survivors (as the victims of trafficking are known). They are taught to play the game in interactive workshops and some of them have even tested their mettle in Indian Football Association tournaments,' she said.
Chatterjee-Chakraborty, born in 1958, was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed novel and movie 'Dahan' that took off from an incident in her life in 1992. The director exhibited exemplary courage when she rescued a girl from a bunch of goons who tried to abduct her. She was honoured globally.
In course of time, she switched to filmmaking and made several thought-provoking documentaries on women's rights like 'Dwitiya Paksha', 'Gandhari', 'Half Way Home', 'Uttaradhikar', 'Najayaaz', and 'Aids, Lies and Documentaries'.
(Madhushree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)