The Prerana Anti-Trafficking Center is a nongovernmental organization run by Pravin and Priti Patkar in Mumbai, India. The Patkars have initiated many programs, trainings, and camps to assist victims of the sex trade. They have developed curricula for training police and service providers. They run a camp every year for vulnerable children to prevent them from being drawn into the sex industry. The Patkars run a night shelter to protect the children of women who do not yet have the resources to leave prostitution, but want their children away from the red-light area. They have challenged traffickers in court when traffickers tried to regain custody of girls rescued in raids, and they have advocated for stronger laws against pimps and traffickers. This week, Ambassador John Miller, director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking is visiting India to discuss trafficking with governmental officials and those who provide assistance to victims of trafficking. Below is the Patkars open letter to Miller.
23rd January 2006
An open Letter to: Ambassador John Miller
Mr. John Miller
Ambassador & Director Trafficking In Persons Office
State Department U. S. Govt.
Mr. Miller Sir,
We welcome you to India. We welcome to India the entire constellation of the stars on anti trafficking front that accompanies you. We also take this opportunity to congratulate your government for the exceptional initiative it has taken at the global level to end the modern day slavery. We are amazed at the closeness and personal interest you have consistently shown in our work disregarding the distance and remoteness.
It is difficult for us to adequately express our appreciation and gratitude to you and your government for the sense of partnership you have nurtured while supporting a number of voluntary organizations spread all over the world who are engaged in countering the trafficking menace.
In the oriental world deities that fight evil have hands more than one, sometimes 4 or 6 or even 8. The unanimous passing of the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) 2005 by your Senate has offered an extra pair of hands to everyone engaged in fighting the modern day slavery. We don’t know whether we are able to convey how seriously we mean all this.
Of late the fight against trafficking here in India had become somewhat difficult because of the hurdles posed by the manner in which the programmes meant to prevent and control HIV/AIDS were getting usurped, shaped, led, and boosted by certain elements. The two programmes looked unnecessarily in conflict with each other exactly at a time when the need for them to join hands was increasing. Your latest policy has skillfully combined the two interests, struck the much required delicate balance and emphatically offered a human and moral face to the anti HIV/AIDS programmes.
History will surely spare a few pages to note down in bold letters your government’s efforts and accomplishments towards ensuring the minimum dignity of human life by ending slavery.
We welcome you to India and once again thank your government for your every effort to strengthen our arms to fight the ultimate exploitation of our time. In this expression we are joined by all our colleagues and partners.
With best regards
Mr. Pravin & Ms. Priti Patkar–PRERANA, Mumbai, India
–Donna M. Hughes is professor and Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. She was recently in Seoul where she interviewed North Korean refugees and activists in the underground railroad.