The numbers are depressing: Every 8 minutes a girl goes missing in India. Most of these girls are trafficked for sex, beggary or domestic labor.
Unofficial counts put the number of victims of sex trafficking in India at 16 million — not counting the girls from neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh who end up here. Mumbai, where I live, is the second-most frequent destination for these girls.
The stories are heartbreaking: In very rare cases the girls have run away or are kidnapped. But in most cases, according to Priti Patkar, who has run an anti-trafficking NGO in Mumbai for 30 years, almost all of are taken by people they trust — promised a job or marriage.
“Stranger danger is a myth. These girls are preyed upon, they’re carefully profiled by traffickers with a full measure of their desperate straits,” Patkar says.
Some, like this 16-year-old who calls herself Panshi, though that isn’t her real name, are inducted into the sex trade by their own families.