Artist Leena Kejriwal reveals the tragic picture of female trafficking in a country where 1.2 million young girls are unwillingly subjected to this trade, even as 3 million women are forced into prostitution in India. Leena’s eight-feet tall figurines are placed in Kolkata, Delhi, Tehran, Berlin and Weimer (USA) to tell a tale of daily abuse, as part of her project M.I.S.S.I.N.G. The lensman reveals how garnering support for this cause remains her unmitigated goal.
You moved from doing city-centric photography to addressing issues such as female trafficking. What made you gradually change the purpose of your work?
I had always felt very strongly about the plight of prostitutes. When my journey as a photographer took me into their homes, I realised I could volunteer my services there and help tell their gut-wrenching story.
Tell us about your current project ‘M.I.S.S.I.N.G’?
It has been a slow and steady journey. I have always held my friends who have been working on the issue in high esteem. I have tried to be there for them in whatever capacity I could help. And the issue kept getting bigger in my work, which has finally led me to address it on a public platform. I have been involved with the issue of sex trafficking for the last 12 years, having worked closely with various activists in the field, like Ruchira Gupta, founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide,
Urmi Basu of New Light, an activist and educator in the Kalighat red light area and grassroot worker Sraboni Sarkar of Hamari Muskan. The huge number of missing girls and the impunity of a weak law drove me to launch this project, which will educate the masses on the magnitude of the issue, in an emotional and informative way.
How do you think young people can be made aware of this issue?
Everyone should be aware of the fact that trafficking is rampant and happening in all sections of society, not only in red light districts, but also many covert destinations. People should stop turning their heads away when they suspect something. They should inform NGOs working with women so that they can take necessary rehabilitation steps to rescue girls in distress. If they know a victim, they should help get them counselling so that they can find enough courage to stand up for themselves. If we turn away, we are only helping pimps and traffickers.