Welcome to the new Go Beyond Kolkata blog — the second in a new series of country-specific blogs by Kingsland’s missions ministry. This blog is specifically dedicated to the involvement of our women in justice ministry initiatives with young women and children in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Our team will post information about our work as well as stories about those rescued from Kolkata’s filthy brothels. We invite you to follow the adventure and to pray for our work. This site is under construction. Until we get things up and running, I am reposting an entry from my Go Beyond blog that I posted on April 12, 2010. This post will give you an idea about the lives of the girls we are engaged with in Kolkata.

If there is one thing that most parents share in common it is an instinctive desire to protect their children from harm. From the time our kids are very young we warn them of danger and take active steps to protect them from the people and things that we know will harm them. And, on those occasions when they do suffer harm, we ache over their pain and do everything possible to ease it. No one had to teach us to do so. It’s just something that comes naturally to most parents. That’s one reason why we scratch our heads in bewilderment when we hear stories of parents who have harmed, abandoned, or murdered their own children. It just doesn’t make sense.

This past January, I met a young girl named Jyoti at the safe house we support in South Asia. She and a group of girls performed a beautiful cultural dance for our team. After her performance, Jyoti introduced herself to me and showed me her school work. I was impressed by her work and congratulated her on her good grades. Jyoti is one of over one-hundred young girls who have found refuge at the safe house. Each of these girls has lived through unspeakable horrors and abuse. Later in the day, I asked the staff to tell me Jyoti’s story. I was shocked by what I learned and the evil role that Jyoti’s own mother had played in her sad story.

Jyoti was rescued from one of the largest red light areas in a large city in South Asia. She is from a community which traditionally sends their girl children into prostitution. The people of her village do not consider prostitution to be shameful work. The girls forced to work in brothels often return to the villages once they reach thirty years of age in order to marry and start a family. The men (including the fathers and siblings of the girls) frequently look after the businesses as pimps and brothel owners. This evil arrangement has become deeply ingrained in both the culture and financial stability of the community. And, because this has become such an accepted practice, many of the girls are sent away to work in brothels at a very young age.

The safe house we support works to rescue girls like Jyoti. Unfortunately, corrupt community leaders have been able to successfully petition to have their girls released back into the custody of their parents — the people responsible for trafficking their own children. At one point Jyoti was released to her mother, but when the staff at the safe house learned that Jyoti’s parents intended to sell her again into prostitution, they petitioned the police to intervene. Jyoti was once again rescued from danger. However this time, the staff and legal counsel of the safe house successfully argued with the courts and managed to ensure that Jyoti will remain at the safe house.

Today, with support from counselors, peers, and the staff of the safe house, Jyoti is going to sit for her high school exam. She is an excellent student, a skilled dancer, and hopes to one day become an airline hostess and travel around the world. Sadly, many other girls from Jyoti’s village are being bred for and forced into a life of prostitution. Jyoti’s story reminds us of why we must continue to pray, to give financially to the support of our safe house, and to speak on behalf of young girls trapped in a living hell. We must continue to champion this just cause.