This month, we’re spreading awareness about child trafficking and highlighting the work of 2013 Humanitarian Honoree Triveni Acharya, a fearless activist in India who has rescued more than 4,000 victims of child sex trafficking in India. Together with her team at Rescue Foundation, she busts brothels, helps victims recover, and makes sure traffickers are brought to justice.
Triveni Acharya may be small in stature, but she has a big mission: to end child sex trafficking in India. For good.
Despite her lofty goals, Triveni is approachable and easy to talk to; it’s no wonder that she is often photographed in the middle of a group hug with children in her program. After talking with her for even a few minutes, you’re tempted to pour your soul out to her, knowing that she will listen intently. She’s not one for small talk, though; her voice is strong and steady, and she only says exactly what she means.
In a prior life, Triveni was a renowned journalist whose interviewees included prominent actors in Hindi films. Everything changed when she met a young girl who was sobbing because she had been sold to a brothel.
“I made detailed inquiries and found to my horror that many children were imprisoned in brothels,” Triveni said. “This experience horrified me and on the spot I decided to spend my life rescuing these innocent girls.”
That was a decade ago. Now, Triveni is a well-known anti-child sex trafficking activist who has rescued more than 4,000 victims and plans to rescue thousands more, no matter what it takes.
“I receive threats over the phone every day,” Triveni said. “Sometimes there are physical attacks on us….If I die trying to rescue these children, then our second generation will be ready to rescue more children from sex slavery.”
Last June, Triveni and her team received information about young girls who were being held captive in a brothel in the Red Light District of Agra, a city best known for being the home of the Taj Mahal.
Immediately, Triveni and her organization, Rescue Foundation, reached out to trusted investigators to verify the authenticity of the information.
The investigators were able to secretly visit the brothel three times, managing to speak with the five girls who were trapped there to tell them that they were going to be rescued.
On June 19, Rescue Foundation notified the police superintendent, who quickly formed a raid team. That afternoon, police officers and Rescue Foundation team members stormed the brothel, eventually locating the small, hidden cell where the five girls were being held captive.
Children who are rescued are taken to Triveni’s safe homes at Rescue Foundation headquarters, where they are given immediate medical care, shelter and food. Once they have recovered, children are provided with educational, vocational and therapeutic opportunities, including embroidery, crafts, drawing, yoga and karate.
“Some are becoming activists, some are enrolled in school for further studies,” Triveni said. “Some are taking up security guard training.”
Many girls, like Leena, become determined to rescue others. Leena bravely volunteers for rescue missions, runs a children’s rights group and counsels other girls who have been freed from brothels.
“When I see children that were rescued at one point in time go ahead and in turn rescue other children, that is the biggest gift for me,” Triveni said.