Light Shining in Delhi
Filed Under: Blog, India, Reintegration, Rescue, Restoration, Stories
I thought I had heard it all before.
I’ve been involved with Destiny Rescue for the better part of three years now – one year on the ground in Thailand, almost two in New Zealand – and I’ve heard some harrowing stories from the children we rescue, but I wasn’t prepared for the horror of what awaited us in India, nor for the sheer scale of it.
India is our newest project; we’ve been operating rescue and aftercare there for over a year now – we also have a prevention home in the south – and have rescued over 200 children so far in Delhi alone.
We’re only scratching the surface of child sexual exploitation in a city of 20 million, and I’m almost scared to think what will happen when we stop scratching and start digging. What on earth will we find in the back alleys and underground brothels when, without really trying too hard, we’ve already found dozens of girls being raped daily – some by up to 20 men – and even more who have been subject to rape and torture by family, friends, or boys who wooed them then sold them into slavery?
As part of our visit I got to sit down with a number of girls to hear their stories, all of them 15 years old, all beautiful young women with radiant smiles and a boldness in their eyes and voices that showed they wanted their stories told to the world.
Anya’s* was a common story, I was later told. She grew up in a terribly poor slum, her parents didn’t want her educated so she was made to stay at home all day, every day, and cook and clean and keep the derelict brick shack somewhat presentable. She fell for a neighbouring boy who was sweet on her and treated her incredibly well. They began to spend time together until one day he confessed to her that a few nights earlier he had drugged her and raped her, and that if she didn’t do exactly what he wanted, then he would tell everyone they slept together and she would bring great shame on her family.
She was trapped. A young unmarried Indian girl who has had sex – whether consensual or even being raped – is seen as a loose, immoral woman, and the cultural shame brought upon her and her family would be too much to bear. So she relented. The next time they went for a walk they went into a room and he demanded they have sex – more threats of shaming her – so she consented. But when he finished he procured some rope and tied her hands and feet to the bed. She didn’t know what was going on. Fear was rising and then spilled over when the door opened and some of the boy’s friends walked in. They’d all been promised a turn.
After they’d raped her and beaten her they then dragged her to a brothel area and sold her. She was stuck in the brothel for a month until the older sex workers took pity on her, gave her some money and helped her escape out a back door.
As she sat and told me this story, her face hidden behind a vibrant green scarf, her eyes screamed of the pain of the memory. Wooed, tricked, raped, beaten, sold. All before her 16th birthday.
And she is one girl. In a slum of 100,000 people. In a city of 20 million people. In a country of a billion. How many more girls are there like her in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Calcutta… in the rest of India alone?
Later, when speaking with some of the parents in the slum, they estimated nine out of 10 girls in the slum would’ve been raped – 90 percent! The estimation staggered me, and the way the mother told me – with an air of apathy – also spoke volumes about the acceptance of what happens.
I asked a mother what she thought of the men in the slum who were raping the children. “It’s only partially their fault,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
The mother then explained to me that if the girls were at home cooking and cleaning like they were supposed to, instead of walking around, then they wouldn’t get raped. But because they were outside “roaming around” – her words – they were asking for it.
The problem suddenly got deeper. Not only are we battling depraved men who take advantage of children in broad daylight, in their homes, in the brothels, on the streets, in back alleys and filthy hotels, but also a disturbing cultural psyche which blames girls for “asking for it” if they are walking around.
I know not all Indians believe this – this isn’t a cultural attack, just a presentation of the facts – but it’s a prominent problem that needs addressing on a deep level, which is why Destiny Rescue is already seeing the fruit of what can happen when the gospel of Jesus Christ is introduced to these kids and their families.
Hearing about the atrocities happening on a daily basis was somewhat soothed by the balm of spending time with the girls in our aftercare homes. Seeing them dance freely and laugh their heads off at us westerners trying to dance was heartwarming; watching one girl hold another’s hand and help her get food at lunchtime was beautiful; seeing others beckon a new girl to join them in dance, and still others proud to show the sarees they were learning to make in our sewing programme – all filled me with hope because of what’s being accomplished because we believe in a God who longs for captives to be set free.
The local staff and volunteers working for Destiny Rescue in Delhi are some of the most passionate and fearless Christians I’ve ever met. In the face of a culture that has increasing persecution of Christianity, they are boldly proclaiming Jesus on the streets and to the children that come into our care.
Many staff told me of their passion to see these children grow up to be empowered young women, strong in their position as daughters of the King, bold in their beliefs and relentless in the pursuit of their dreams of work and family, and to see the largely poor treatment of women and children cease.
In the coming weeks and months Destiny Rescue will be releasing videos, photos and more stories of what’s happening in India: the heart-wrenching horror, which I’ve touched on here, but also the stunningly beautiful stories of redemption; of lives changing, of smiles returning, of girls finding joy in dancing, hope in their vocational training; of girls receiving love from their peers and staff, and finding freedom in Christ.
Hope is building in India.
By Jerram Watts
Destiny Rescue NZ Chief Executive
*Name changed to protect her identity