Little Lajwanti Lost (Brothels of India)
Plucked from family tree
nowhere near ripe
Sold to brothel
She aches, lacerated
Beaten if she says “no”
Infected if she says “yes”
Enslaved since she was five
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
I saw a PBS special last night that changed my life. Although the perpetrators of violence against women in this film are mostly dark-skinned, it’s not a racist film – those who know me understand I’m open and outspoken about my own childhood sexual abuse, and we have plenty of work to do around the unearned shame of victims and survivors Stateside. This is about girls in Asia and Africa who lack support of any kind, who through no fault of their own are disowned by families after being raped, who are sold by families or total strangers into prostitution… and the brave women and men who risk all to come to their defense.
“Lajwanti” is a Hindi name that means “a sensitive plant.” I chose the name for the specific irony of the fate of mostly lower-caste girls. The sex slave trade in India is protected by local police bribery and fought by a lion-hearted woman named Somaly, who as a young girl was sold into slavery and now runs a refuge for the girls they are able to spring from the brothels. She says, “They are me.”
The PBS special about the film, Half The Sky, is not to be viewed with popcorn and brewskis. It is a brutally frank account of violence against women, from culturally sanctioned rape to girls as young as five sold into prostitution worldwide. From the brothels of India to the rape of girls as young as two years old in Sierra Leone (where to “devirginize” a girl is a matter of pride for the man), this film also shows some real-life heroines who deserve our support. Please click the link above to learn more.
There are stars, beginning with George Clooney’s commentary, along with several female stars traveling to witness and comfort the rescued girls. A tremendous scene: A former prostitute who was rescued, now aged 15, confronting a roomful of men and quizzing them on why condoms are useful. She even shows them how to open the packet without damaging the contents and looks them straight in the eye. Like I said, lion-hearted women.
If you want to help this vital movement on behalf of half the world’s population, visit THIS LINK.
As a “little white suburban girl” who was used for sex by her own father, I can tell you this: Look behind the siding of houses in your own neighborhood. Men who use girls (and boys) without conscience are everywhere, often trusted family friends or family members, scout leaders, upstanding clergy, teachers…
I am eternally grateful for this prompt, from Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where Mama Zen asked for a poetic drama in 30 words or less, and Roger at ABC Wednesday (L). Also at my safe haven, Poets United.