Fighting against human trafficking, particularly of women and children, is the most urgent and important way to improve human rights and safeguard democracy, the president of the Rescue Foundation of India said in Taipei yesterday.
“When we talk about democracy, the helplessness of women and their status — equivalent to slavery — bothers us very much. Human traffickers sell girls and women in open markets … Men who are overcome by sex rape these girls two dozen times a day. At that time our soul shivers,” said Triveni Balkrishna Acharya, the winner of the 2010 Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award, in her speech at the award ceremony yesterday.
The Rescue Foundation was the fifth recipient of the annual award given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-affiliated TFD. It established the award to honor individuals or organizations that have demonstrated commitment and leadership to advancing democracy and human rights in Asia.
Established in 2000, the Mumbai-based foundation mainly works for the rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration of women and girls who were trafficked from different parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh and sold into forced prostitution.
“The girls undergo such inhuman, physical and mental torture and brainwashing in the brothels that we cannot even believe that one human being could cause such pain to another for money,” Acharya said.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who doubles as TFD chairman, praised Acharya and the Rescue Foundation for their achievements in rescuing about 300 girls annually from brothels and providing them with medical care and professional training to help them return to normal life.
Wang said he was especially moved by a letter of recommendation praising Acharya for the award in the nomination process, written by a 17-year-old girl on her own initiative, in which she said that she would not have been able to regain her life without the help of the foundation.
The foundation was chosen from a pool of 25 nominations after a two-stage review process.
Saying that human rights is a universal value across national borders, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the contributions made by Acharya were highly recognized as she devoted herself to rescuing human trafficking victims in every corner of South Asia.
“I hope that the trophy will make thousands of women activists more committed to the task and boost their morale. Taiwan and the TFD will continue to offer them support,” Ma said in his speech.
A symposium titled the “The Dark Corner — Current Situation of International Human Trafficking” was held following the award ceremony. Sandy Yeh (葉毓蘭), an associate professor in the Department of Foreign Affairs Police at the Central Police University, told the symposium that despite progress by the Taiwan government in recent years in establishing a comprehensive mechanism against human trafficking, there is still a long way to go to partner with other countries and international non-government organizations to stem the crime.
“There is always a girl to be rescued if there is no systematic change,” added Justine Wang (王鴻英), director of the Human Trafficking Department of Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation.