Indian sex trafficking survivors take their #MeToo stories online

CHENNAI, September 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation): Sex trafficking survivors in India are making audio recordings about their experiences to be used in a social media campaign, which organisers hope will reduce discrimination that follows them even after they escape the trade.


Of an estimated 20 million commercial sex workers in India, 16 million women and girls are victims of trafficking, according to campaigners.


Survivors are widely discriminated against after being rescued, and choose not to tell their stories in public, said Arun Pandey of the anti-trafficking charity Anyay Rahit Zindagi (Injustice-free Life).


“The narrative is built either by an activist or an official,” Pandey said.


“Here we want their stories to be told in their own voices, in their own words and with no filters. We wanted the victim to speak for herself.”


The campaign builds on a four-part video uploaded to YouTube in July. The film included voice recordings from women in four brothels in cities across India, and was intended to give viewers an insight into the real lives of sex workers.


Sex trafficking survivors are now being encouraged to submit their recorded stories, which are disseminated on social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube, according to Pandey.


They will also be played during training sessions with police to “shatter myths and misconceptions” about women who have been trafficked into the sex industry said Pandey.


In recordings, women talk about drunk customers, violence, and why they find it difficult to leave the sex industry, Pandey said.


In one of the videos uploaded in July, a woman recounts police officers negotiating with brothel owners for a free night of sex in exchange for not charging them.


The campaign is being launched against a backdrop of debate in India about whether consenting adults in the sex industry will be at risk of forced rescue under proposed legislation, which is aimed at stopping sex trafficking