Road to Freedom

Updated on July 6, 2018

The Dutch anti-trafficking group Free A Girl launched a school in April called School of Justice that trains young women and girls who were victims of underage sex trafficking to earn a bachelor's degree in law so that they can use the legal system to prosecute people who prostitute women and children or people who hire them as sex slaves. Considering that 40 % of sex workers in India are children who are usually girls coming from poor backgrounds or are an ethinic minority, the main goal of this group is to change the legal dynamics in India so that people are prosecuted for the nefarious crime of human trafficking. From a global standpoint, India has the largest amount of people in human trafficking. It is hard to estimate how many people are in trafficking due to the secretiveness of the crime. Yet, the United Nations has estimated that there are three million sex workers in India. The goal of the School for Justice is to make these former child slaves into public prosecutors to try to change India's legal system from within.

Class of 2017

Lata was a young girl growing up in a village in Kultali, India, who got to go to school longer than most girls her age did. However, at sixteen she married a boy who two months after the wedding sold her to a brothel. She was able to escape her life of slavery and is now training to be a lawyer who will prosecute human traffickers through The School of Justice which arose through a partnership between Free a Girl and one of the top law schools in India. The inaugural class consists of nineteen women between the ages of 19 and 26 who will take classes to prepare for law exams, receive tutoring, and mentoring for five to six years until they graduate with law degrees with a specialization in human trafficking and sexual exploitation cases.

“Being poor, I left my family at nine years old to work in domestic service in a large house. The gardner, gatekeeper, the sweeper, and other men abused me there. {Years later} I left the house, but I didn't realize that without money or directions I would not be able to find my way home. I asked {a female beggar} for help, but she took me to a brothel and sold me to it. I was thirteen years old. I want to fight back against child sexual exploitation and help others like me. I am excited about becoming a lawyer and this is why I joined the School of Justice.”--- Sangita

The U.S. State Department reports that millions of women and children are sold into sex trafficking every year. The way they are sold into it is often they are manipulated into it by the traffickers promising them oppurtuniites of employment, marriage, and many other things only to force them into prostitution. There are laws in India against human trafficking. However, they are not always enforced. There were 3,056 cases of human trafficking investigated in India in 2014. Out of those cases, 2,604 were for sex trafficking. Seventy seven percent of the traffickers who were prosecuted were acquitted. Sangita reported that she was rescued by the police. Yet, even though the police rescued her, the people running the brothel were not even arrested.

School for Justice

There is a huge stigma against women and girls who were sold into trafficking. Often, in India once the girls are rescued their families disown them. All too often, the Indian government will arrest victims of human trafficking and not help them get the support they need to get out of human trafficking. People would like to think that this problem is isolated to only occurring in India. However, it has been documented that in the United States the victims of sex trafficking are often perceived as criminals by the police. They therefore are arrested for prostitution and other crimes while not getting the help that they need.

The way the School for Justice helps survivors of human trafficking become lawyers is by providing them with housing, food, transportation to school, and paying for their school fees. The women and girls are traumatized and in pain which makes it hard for them to complete degrees. The people running the organization know that they are not going to bring huge change with only a few female lawyers. Yet, they want to get the ball rolling and have this lead to more social change in the future.

“Becoming a lawyer is my dream, and bringing social justice to those responsible for forced child prostitution is my goal. I want to punish the men who did this to me.”---Lata

In the past eight years “Free a Girl” has helped with the release of 4,062 girls from brothels in Asia. According to the school founder less than 50 cases of child prostitution lead to convictions every year. In India, the girls are forced to fornicate with over twenty men a day and suffer from phsycial and emotional abuse for years. The problem is not isolated to only lndia though. Sergeant Nikkole Peterans of the Human Trafficking division in St. Paul Minnesota worked on a sting operation in North Dakota in 2016 that had to be shut down due to the lack of staff to arrest and prosecute the number of Johns who willingly showed up to fornicate with a fifteen year old. Sgt. Peterans said, “Even if we identified all traffickers or victims online, law enforcement across the country lack the manpower and resources to effectively respond.”

In conclusion, more light has to be shown on the nefarious crime of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of people in general. The School for Justice is training people to be lawyers to try to fight the crime from within the legal system. Yet, the fight to stop these crimes does not only happen in the legal system. It has to happen with people as a whole. We have to be aware that this is going on and be vigilant about stopping it if we are too see change in the world. As Founder of Free a Girl, Evelien Holsken said, “That's why the stories of every single girl in the school is so important- they were trafficked, they were sold, it was not a choice. They are so, so brave, and we are so proud of them. If nobody dares to speak out, then nothing will change.”

Sources Cited:

These links were assessed on June 30, 2017 to July 1, 2017.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


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