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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Indian woman empowers women facing violence
           

moumita Biswas
Moumita Biswas speaks on domestic violence, human trafficking.

Moumita Biswas, a human rights worker with the Church of North India in Calcutta, West Bengal, calls for challenging “the politics of injustice with the politics of justice.”

In 2014, she and another woman who serve at St. Paul’s Cathedral there will be the first Indian women ordained in the Church of North India as it celebrates its 200th anniversary.  They will succeed a Scottish woman, who is the only woman priest in the diocese.

Moumita’s father has been a champion of her ordination.

She had chosen a husband she loved, but seven days after they married, she was in the street, beaten.  A victim of domestic violence, she lived in shame, even as she worked to empower other victims of domestic violence.  She often went to the church to pray after her husband beat her.  Eventually, she gained strength to leave the violent relationship.

“Over the years I realized that when home is no longer safe, the church can be of great use to empower women against violence,” said Moumita, a single mother who studied at the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches near Geneva and graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2003.

“We always see glimpses of love, hope and God.  As we share stories of terrible things, we also share stories of how the church of God can spread help,” she said. 

“Now I help women turn pain to power by combating human trafficking and domestic violence,” she said in a presentation during the pre-assembly on the community of women and men before the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, during October.

“To weep is not weak when we weep about injustice done to us.  Crying brings out righteous anger.  It brings us life,” she said.  “We cry for peace.  God weeps.  Jesus weeps.  Many weep, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’  We weep for life.”

As Moumita spoke of her work against human trafficking, she said that “women are bought and sold in our own back yards”—everywhere around the world. 

“Slavery exists and happens to women in our back yards.  Human trafficking is modern slavery.  It is the second most profitable industry after drug trafficking.  It’s the fastest growing criminal enterprise,” she said.

The United Nations defines human trafficking “as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receiving persons, by means of the threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

With more than 800,000 people trafficked each year, she said it’s “a pressing global reality we need to explore given the rising number of slave traders and profits at $20 billion.”

Women and children, as the most vulnerable people, are caught in human trafficking.

Her anger about it was further stirred when a friend went to Gili, the capital, and returned crying and shaken.  Men had taken her, but another woman helped her escape.

Moumita described some of the many forms of human trafficking:

• In Bangladesh, oxytocin, a hormone given to cows to produce more milk, is given to trafficked girls so they will be voluptuous.   

• Some three- to five-years olds are taken to be camel jockeys.  They cannot weigh more than 44 pounds, so they are fed little and do not grow.  They race from 4 a.m. to noon on the hot desert. 

• In China, women took out a boy’s eyes to sell for an organ transplant. Kidneys are also sold.

• In Europe, China and Russia, there are mail-order brides.

• Thai women, who are sold as slaves, are forced into prostitution.  Men are also prostituted.

• Some traffic virgin girls because of the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS.

• Children are also trafficked to be soldiers in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Africa.

• Some are bonded as agricultural workers.

• Gangs traffic children in India to be beggars.

“Trafficking of women is age old,” Moumita said, suggesting human trafficking and slavery can be stopped if people know it is in their back yards and act on that awareness.

“We must become aware, break the silence, educate and advocate.  We can buy fair trade products.  We can hold protest rallies when someone is raped,” she said.

Moumita said that the Salvation Army in the United States has a Day of Prayer for Victims of Sex Trafficking.  In the United Kingdom, Salvation Army members collected newspapers, cut out ads on sex and sent them to the newspapers, saying, “Thanks but no thanks!  It’s human trafficking.”  In a few months, the ads stopped.

“Spiritually, we must reclaim and nurture constructive anger,” she said.  “Trafficking is a crime, a human rights violation.  How are churches and church women using their voices?”

For information, email moumitabiswas3110@gmail.com.

 

In the Inland Northwest, Lutheran Community Services’ Spokane Crime Victim Service Center, Catholic Charities Spokane, World Relief, the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence, the Salvation Army and the Intercommunity Center for Peace and Justice are among faith-based programs addressing human trafficking.

World Relief is offering a Human Trafficking 101 class at 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 9, in its office at 1522 N. Washington.  For information, call 484-9829.

 






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