The #MeToo movement is growing fast in India, where celebrities are joining in sharing stories of harassment and sexual violence on social media. Campaigners are hoping that the empowering #MeToo movement will reach also sex trafficking survivors.
Thomson Reuters Foundation interviewed a number of anti-trafficking organizations in India who explained the challenges faced by survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation, who have experienced some of the worst sexual abuse, is stopping their voices from being heard.
“They fear losing respect if they speak about their past. They fear stigma,” said Mona Almeida, a trustee with Kshamata, a non-profit that helps rehabilitate survivors.
Almeida said she hopes trafficking victims will eventually feel empowered enough to share their stories too.
“It may take some time before the movement reaches them,” Almeida said. “But when it does, they may think, ‘Why should I feel ashamed of what happened if these women are able to talk about it?'”
Speaking out is not just about empowering the individual, it’s also about preventing future crimes. Speaking out means reporting what happened to the authorities and hopefully the conviction of the perpetrators. Around 8,000 cases were reported in 2016 but of those, less than half were filed in the court by the police and less than a third of those are expected to result in a conviction.
But there it is a long journey for trafficking survivors to reach a position where they feel able to speak out in court. Campaigners hope the #MeToo movement can help to break down the stigma that prevents survivors from being empowered.
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