The link between Craniofacial Deformities and Human Trafficking
The smell of crispy sweet jalebi combined with the vehicle exhaust and open sewers greeted us at the entrance of one of Mumbai’s red-light districts, called Thurbe, where Love Without Reason operates an entrepreneurial training center. We wanted to meet the ladies who had been rescued from sex trafficking and who now are learning new self-sustainable business skills. As the hot sun beat on our heads, we climbed through the alleys and one lane streets of the city.
On each side of the road you saw one-level unkempt buildings. Laughter of children, rumbling of motorcycles, and croons of voices permeated the streets. As we walked deeper into the city and stepped over the streams of sewage, we saw women sitting outside of their doorways. They searched us with their eyes, and you knew their curiosity was piqued. With their permission and with the help of our translator we asked them for their stories.
For many of the women in this part of Mumbai, the story is the same. They were born into poverty in some remote part of India.
Their parents unknowingly or knowingly sold them into the hands of human traffickers, as they were unable to provide for them. As young children, many were sold into forced labor networks. At some point they were sold into the red-light districts to pimps. The majority of them have only known a life of rejection, being unwanted, and defined as worthless.
The same psychological abuse echoes in the souls of those born with facial birth defects. For instance, six-year-old Bhuvan from a village outside of Bangalore, was kicked out of preschool because he could not speak or communicate well. He was born with a cleft palate. Unfortunately, his peers and their parents were afraid of him. They began to call him names and bully him. He should have been in kindergarten, but the teachers joined in the abuse and deemed that Bhuvan would never amount to anything in his life. The lack of education and literacy will only promote the cycle of poverty. Consequently, these young lives are vulnerable and sometimes willing to do any work in order to sleep with warmth and a full stomach.
For young Navitha (pictured), who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, the stigma was more intense due to the obvious facial differences. After her birth, her parents were advised to end her life, rather than work to feed another mouth. Her life was of no value to the community. She could have been easy prey for those willing to traffick her. Vulnerable children like Navitha are at risk for being sold into bonded labor, sexual slavery, beggary and organ harvesting. However, the intervention by Love Without Reason to provide Navitha with cost-free surgeries saved her from being trafficked as the women in the red-light districts of Mumbai.
Help us continue to fight human trafficking by saving the most vulnerable! There are many more children born like Navitha and Bhuvan whose lives will be changed by life-transforming surgery. Join us, because every child matters!