Shubha Ranganathan

Abstracts

3 Film Review of 'Heroic Saviours and Survivors': The Representation of Sex Trafficking in Popular Films in India

Authors: Nisha James, Shubha Ranganathan

Abstract:

One of the most poignant forms of organized crime against women, which has rarely made it to the world of Indian cinema, is that of sex trafficking, i.e. the forcible involvement of women in the sex trade through fraud or coercion (Hughes, 2005). In the space of Indian cinema, much of the spotlight has been on the sensational drug trafficking and gang mafia of Bombay. During our research on sex trafficking, the rehabilitated women interviewed often expressed strong criticism about mass media’s naive portrayal of prostitutes as money-minting, happy and sexually driven women. They argued that this unrealistic portrayal ignored the fact that this was not a reality for the majority of trafficked women. Given the gravity of sex trafficking as a human rights issue, it is, therefore, refreshing to see three recent films on sex trafficking in Indian Languages – Naa Bangaaru Talli (2014, Telugu), Mardaani (2014, Hindi) and Lakshmi (2014, Hindi). This paper reviews these three films to explore the portrayal of the everyday reality of trafficking for women. Film analysis was used to understand the representation of psychological issues in the media. The strength of these movies starts with their inspirations which are of true stories and that they are all aimed at bringing awareness about the issue of sex trafficking, which is a rising social evil in Indian society though none of the three films move to portray the next phase of rehabilitation and reintegration of victims, which is a very complex and important process in the life of a survivor. According to findings, survivors of sex trafficking find the rehabilitation and reintegration into society to be a slow and tough part of their life as they continuously face stigma and social exclusion and have to strive to live against all odds of non-acceptance starting from their family.

Keywords: Sex trafficking, film review, Indian films, survivors

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2 The Role of Chennai NGOs in Combatting Human Trafficking

Authors: Nisha James, Shubha Ranganathan

Abstract:

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking involving prostitution of individuals for sexual exploitation. The stigma and social isolation they face in the society often makes it difficult for them to become rehabilitated from trafficking, due to which many of them continue in prostitution for years after being sex trafficked. Victims are subjected to violations of their fundamental human rights, deprived of basic medical facilities and undergo long-term abuse. This paper focuses on the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the rescue and rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 survivors of sex trafficking, five sex workers and 14 non-community staff members of a project running NGO in the city of Chennai in South India. Chennai has a number of NGOs that are involved in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs. In many cases, rehabilitation of sex trafficking victims is also a mandate of these NGOs. This particular NGO was also involved in development activities towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS. For instance, they were engaged in inculcating safe sex practices among high-risk groups such as sex workers or in fighting for sex worker rights. The study found that the NGO’s role in combatting sex trafficking is overrun by the way it approaches these issue related to HIV/AIDS. Further, their activities are dependent solely on funding. Given that gradually, international funding for HIV/AIDS has slowly been withdrawn, there have been problems such as reduction in the salary of the project staff, the outreach workers and peer educators, many of whom were survivors of sex trafficking who have been able to survive on their wages instead of continuing in prostitution. Therefore, till date, the project funding has helped in making them aware of the health and social consequences of continuing in prostitution, and in supporting them socioeconomically, but the lack of funding may also lead the NGO workers into a state of unemployment, poverty and eventually into being re-trafficked. The study concludes by pointing to the need for disengaging anti-trafficking efforts from the HIV/AIDS related programs.

Keywords: Sex Workers, non-governmental organization role, non-governmental organization staff, sex trafficking survivors

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1 The Social Construction of the Family among the Survivors of Sex Trafficking

Authors: Nisha James, Shubha Ranganathan

Abstract:

Sex trafficking is a traumatic ongoing process which includes human rights violations against the victims. Majority of the trafficked individuals in India are from families with low socioeconomic status, from rural areas, unmarried or married off at a very young age. Many of the sex trafficked feel that it is necessary to make sacrifices, for the benefit of their families. The combination of these cultural family values with the stigma of rape and prostitution are manipulated and used as a tool in the abuse of power against the sex trafficked. The rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of these individuals are usually difficult due to the stigma and social exclusion that they face. In these circumstances, social support is very effective in social inclusion of these individuals. The present study was a qualitative one, using semi-structured interviews with 29 Indian survivors of sex trafficking and a few sex workers. Thematic analysis was done on the data derived from the semi-structured interviews. The major findings indicate that the family can be seen as both the ‘cause’ for being sex trafficked, and the factor in victim continuing to be sex trafficked. At the same time, it can also become a driver for getting rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated. The study also explores the social construction about ‘family’ among the survivors of sex trafficking, reflecting on who they refer to as ‘family’, what they mean by the term ‘family’ and how these families emerge. Therefore the analytic concept of ‘family’ is a crucial element in sex trafficking and cannot be defined only in terms of its conventional definition of a basic unit of society.

Keywords: Family, Social Construction, sex-trafficking, survivor

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