Involving the communities in prevention is the most sustainable option to combat a problem. Sensitization and ownership of the communities ensures that intervention continues irrespective of the presence or absence of a civil society organization. In view of the magnitude of the problem of trafficking, a need was felt to mobilize communities to combat the crime. This was done through the formation of Community Based Prevention Programs. The CBPP teams take up sensitization of communities in high source areas as part of anti-trafficking campaigns. By targeting adolescent girls, men and women from all walks of life such as slums, schools/colleges, villages, institutions, and trade unions, the team creates awareness on how they can play a role in preventing their own from being trafficked. In this process, stakeholders such as police, government officials, students, and many others are educated about the prevalence and dangers of the sex trade.
All these initiatives bring about awareness among vulnerable population, but Prajwala realized that a positive change can also be brought about by curbing the demand at the source—specifically by addressing the male demand for prostitution. During one of our rescue operations, the madam blatantly remarked that “Till there are men, the girls will have their jobs.” This remark brought about an epiphany and we realized that the only way of treating the problem is to stop treating the symptoms and attack the root cause. That was when Prajwala initiated Men Against Demand (M.A.D).
The M.A.D. movement mainly targets auto rickshaw drivers and industrial employees, both of which are major demand sources. The majority of population of these groups is migrant workers who live away from their wives and families. Thus engaging services of women in prostitution serves both as entertainment and to satisfy unmet sexual urges. Auto rickshaw drives play another vital role in the circle of prostitution; they are the ones who transport women from one client to another. Many times, they also pick up girls at entry and exit points and sell them to traffickers for meager amounts of money.
In order to get access to these populations, we contact their trade unions and arrange to conduct programs at auto stands, outside industries etc. We conduct our sensitization programs after which these men can sign a Men Against Demand pledge, where in they agree to not indulge in prostitution. Through these programs we strive to bring about a change of attitude and mentality in these men. We tell them to think of women in prostitution as their own sisters or mothers. Over the years thousands of men have been sensitized and we have more than 1 lakh signatures of men who signed the MAD pledge.
We face innumerable challenges in this initiative. The first and the biggest challenge is to go out and speak to the public about such sensitive issues, that are many a times tabooed in the conservative Indian society. Apart from that we face logistical issues: Many times due to lack of electricity in certain areas we cannot successfully conduct the program. An important aspect of the program involves showing a short movie about the issue to the participants. This leaves them with a strong visual memory and brings about deeper sensitization. In addition, most of these programs are conducted in open air which can give rise to interruptions due to rain, by traffickers or by people who are opposed to the cause. As most of these programs happen during the evenings, many a times some interruptions are caused by drunkards. The trouble makers do not stop at just interrupting the programs but sometimes even physically attack our staff or try to destroy our equipment.
In spite of facing tremendous hardships, our CBPP team goes out afresh every day and continues to spread the message against prostitution. As a result of their determination and courage we achieved a great deal. Sensitization tapped the human inside all of us and helps us evict the demons who make life living hell for countless women and children. In 2012-2013 alone, a total of 185 anti-demand programs were conducted in which 21,443 members participated. Signatures were collected from 20,419 people who were sensitized, and 185 Community Vigilant Groups (CVGs) were formed consisting of 1,266 members.