Two Sides of the Same Coin: Nepal’s missing women & Mumbai’s brothels

by Lo, YWAM Madison staff, DTS '11 graduate

Our team in Nepal talks of villages stripped of women, children without mothers, and families without daughters. These women were taken from their homes and trafficked to India for prostitution.

Today I walked the streets of Mumbai, India scouting a new ministry for future work.

As we sat drinking chai, our contact Abhay told me more about the room we were in. We were sitting in a former brothel. As I looked up I could still see the poles from which they hung the partitions. I couldn't believe such a small room used to have 8 beds in it.

The room itself tells of God's restoration, what was once a place of pain and abuse is now a children's daycare – full of children laughing, playing, and dancing around the room. These children who would otherwise be hiding under their mothers' beds while they were with a “customer” now had a place where they could be loved, rest, and just be kids.

As we ventured out into the alleys and brothels I saw the women that were missing from Nepal. In 2001, there were at least 100,000 prostitutes in Mumbai alone. Abhay told me he believes there are at least 200,000 prostitutes in Mumbai, half of which are Nepali.

We met woman after woman, all from the villages that our team in Nepal is working with right now. Their stories are similar, at the age of 11 to 14 they were trafficked out of their village and sold for $2500 to work in the brothels of Mumbai. Some of the women were my age (23) and others had been there for 10-20 years, most now suffering from HIV and TB. These “older women” are often thrown out on the street like trash. My heart broke for them.

There are also many children, like a little girl named Mari we met at the daycare. Her mother was trafficked into Mumbai at age 15. When Mari was 7 months old, the pimp sold her mother to another brothel, leaving the little girl in the care of the pimp who is now raising her to be a prostitute.

I watched as man after man entered different brothels, paying for services from women whom I had just talked to and prayed with.

I felt useless, like I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything to save them.

I saw little glimpses of hope and light in the women's eyes as I sat and talked with them. They would hold my hand as I asked them questions and prayed with them. In that moment, God reminded me that I bring something to these women that no one else can. For the fleeting amount of time I'm with them I am being a unique part of God's love that they may never see again.

* Editor's note: Watch our blog for posts about the villages in Nepal, where the women are being tricked or sold into prostitution