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A new life beyond the brothel

Nuns help girls rescued from the flesh trade

A new life beyond the brothel
Sitabuldi market in Nagpur. Identities of the girls must be protected for fear the traffickers will seize them again
Saji Thomas, Nagpur

April 19, 2011

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Young girls rescued from the flesh trade in a western Indian town vow not to return to what they described as “dark ages of their lives." “Now I am longing for a reunion with my family. I want to study and lead a normal life like any other person," says a 17-year-old girl Suchandana (not her real name) who was rescued from prostitution in Nagpur, Maharashtra state. She is one among  the 20 girls residing in a government rescue home given regular special counseling sessions by Catholic nuns of the order of Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (SMMI). The nuns have been counseling the victims of prostitution rackets since 2008 following a request from government authorities. “We share the compassionate love of Lord Jesus to broken bodies and broken hearts. We also try to rebuild their shattered lives helping them regain their lost dignity and hope," says Sister Vasla Thomas, one of the counselors. Suchandana, like many other girls in the home, was forced into prostitution, the nun told Eevn though they are safe here in the home, the nun and the authorities in the rescue home refuse to divulge any details about them as there is a danger of them falling back into the hands of the traffickers. The home also helps victims who were sold out by their parents. Many were badly traumatized condition when the police brought them in after being kept in a very unhygienic conditions and also most inhuman way, the nun said. Besides counseling, them the nuns teach life skill so the girls can restart their lives when their family members cannot accept them back - especially when it was the family which sold them out. “This is really pathetic when your own people disown you,” says the nun. The sisters provide an adult literacy program, basic education coupled with training as beauticians and in tailoring, garment making, computer and typing. They also help find employment outside the city so that they could lead a normal life without the danger of them falling in the hands of the traffickers again. A senior officials of the rescue home, who did not want to be named, said, “the nuns have done a wonderful job in instilling confidence in the wounded minds and bodies of these young girls." “We could not have achieved much in rebuilding their lives without the help of the nuns”."
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