Remarkable. There's actually something more affluent about Mumbai. Kolkata seems a more egalitarian city. There are fewer signs of wealth. Poverty everywhere. Most of the taxis are 1960's Austin Ambassadors held together with gaffer tape and ferrous oxide. Here they are little Hyundais. Some parts of Mumbai actually look presentable. Of course that affluence doesn't affect the vast majority of the 20 million people that live here, a million on the streets and many more millions in slums and hovels that Brits wouldn't let their family dog sleep in.
And in the midst of all of this there is the most horrendous forced prostitition that you could imagine. I'm not even going to begin to describe the suffering of these young and innocent children that get sold and used as property against their will, daily, hourly, often even more regularly than that, girls with hopes and dreams to be doctors and lawyers, school teachers and social workers. Girls. Children, or have I already said that? Each child is worth 1 million rupees a year to a pimp or brothal madam. That's about £10,000. Most Mumbai brothels have at least 7 girls, many have 10. And so as the Mumbai Field Office Director (FOD) told us this morning a pimp can earn over three times what he earns just from one brothel. It's shocking, therefore, but not surprising that 1 child goes missing every 8 minutes in India. That's 2 or 3 whilst you read this - and half of them are never found.
But we did see some of them that had been found this afternoon. Girls rescued after undercover IJM operations and taken to a safe house where they are loved and cared for, fed and educated, counselled and restored. In the same house were orphans, the youngest just 15 months rescued from a life, or death, or the streets and a probable fate like the older girls. It was wonderful to see the smiles on the girls faces, the way they engaged with us, despite the fact that all but one of us were men. We saw the hope that they have been given, a hope for the future. Tomorrow we are meeting one such girl, saved from 8 years in an abusive brothel, held against her will. She was rescued by IJM and has now come to faith in Jesus because she wanted to find out why these strangers had helped her. She has qualified in Social Work and is employed by IJM. You know about the starfish on the beach? Well, it mattered to her! And the other 529 that have been rescued by IJM Mumbai since 1994. In the FOD's office is a board with all their names on it. Why not take a minute or two to pray over this board and as you do remembered that each one has been freed. And if the Son sets you free.......
And that's not all that IJM have done. To make this work lasting and effective into the future there needs to a systemic change of the Indian justice system. Like the Kolkata office IJM Mumbai have now found favour with the authorities and are training 1,000 judges, 3,000 prosecutors and 11,000 police offices in the delicacies and details of handling these cases.
But that's not the end of the story. There remains a massive hurdle to overcome if justice is going to be done and the perpetrators realise that justice will be done to them if they abuse these young lives. Nothing will deter more, and thus protect future generations of children, than the fear of effective justice being done. We went to the High Court this afternoon.
I've been to the High Court in the Strand many times and let me tell you that apart from some barristers gowns I saw no similarity whatsoever.
The court scene we observed was more suited to Jaryndice v Jaryndice (let the Bleak House reader understand). There are 13 million people in the province per judge and it will take 466 years to clear the backlog of cases. Cases of child trafficking should be dealt with in 6 months from arrest to trial and sentence. They can take up to 7 years and often aren't concluded because of administrative issues, defendants or their counsel not turning up etc. The Criminal Justice system in any county is like a pipeline and a blockage anywhere in that pipeline will cause delay and injustice. Do pray for the pipe to be unblocked. With The Lord behind us, and IJM in the field, it can change.
Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream - Amos 5:24
(And sorry for the lack of names and photos of people. Anything that could risk any person or part of the process has to be minimised).