Released 22 August 2014, the Hindi crime drama Mardaani ("Warrior") is a must-see film that offers an no-nonsense heroine and an interesting story while tackling the important issue of sex trafficking.
The Film: Mardaani
The story centers around Senior Police Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukherjee) who is an astute cop working in a Mumbai Crime Branch unit. Deft at picking up hidden clues and fearless in confronting hardened criminals, Shivani stumbles on a case of sex trafficking. She pursues the clues to track down trafficking kingpin Walt (Tahir Raj Bhasin) and free the girls he's taken.
Fortunately, there are no big Bollywood item numbers in this film - it is too sobering a topic - though the "Mardaani Anthem" is a inspiring song you'll not soon forget. The story is a straighforward cat-and-mouse game between Roy and Walt which takes many twists and turns before leading to an explosive conclusion.
Never one to shy away from tough roles, Rani Mukherjee's Sivani Shivaji Roy is confident and shrewd. She doesn't avoid confrontations. But she isn't a top cop caricature. In a film world dominated by Chulbul Pandey and Bajirao Singham, in steps this woman who is equally strong and capable of tackling the evils of society. She can make meals, share laughter, and spend time with her husband and niece while also being a tough, respected leader who acts whenever action is needed - one of her most inspiring attributes.
The film is gritty and harsh at times - but this is to be expected given the subject matter. While you may debate the tactics used in the climax of the film, the film gives the viewer a lot to think about and respond to.
The Issue: Sex Trafficking
Despite the fact that international law and the laws of 134 countries criminalize sex trafficking it continues to be a worldwide problem. According to EqualityNow, the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide is trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation.
Mardaani offers the following information:
India is the world’s hub for child sex trafficking… Nearly 40,000 children are abducted every year… Every 8 minutes a girl child goes missing in India!
Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director and Former President of Chile, explains the driving forces behind sex trafficking:
An estimated 80% of all trafficked persons are used and abused as sexual slaves. This human rights violation is driven by demand for sexual services and the profit that is generated. The commodification of human beings as sexual objects, poverty, gender inequality and subordinate positions of women and girls provide fertile ground for human trafficking.
While it is estimated that women and girls make up 98% of victims, identifying the total number of exploited individuals is difficult. According to the U.S. Department of State,
Reporters often lead with numbers, but reliable statistics related to human trafficking are difficult to find. Human trafficking is a clandestine crime and few victims and survivors come forward for fear of retaliation, shame, or lack of understanding of what is happening to them.
In the United States, sex trafficking is found in a wide variety of venues including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution. According to The Covering House:
- The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 13-14 years old. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
- The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day. (Polaris Project)
- The top 20 human trafficking jurisdictions in the United States are: Houston • El Paso • Los Angeles • Atlanta • Chicago • Charlotte • Miami • Las Vegas • New York • Long Island • New Orleans • Washington, D.C. • Philadelphia • Phoenix • Richmond • San Diego • San Francisco • St Louis • Seattle • Tampa (U.S. Department of Justice)
- One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)
How You Can Help
If you suspect a case of human trafficking in the United States, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) by calling 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). NHTRC is a confidential, national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the U.S., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.
To help address sex trafficking in India, you may be interested in learning more about and supporting the work of groups such as:
- Apne Aap, a non-profit organization (with offices in India and the U.S.) working to empower girls and women to resist and end sex trafficking by organizing marginalized women and girls into small self-empowerment groups, where they work collectively to access their legal, social, economic, and political rights.
- Destiny Rescue, a grassroots, internationally recognized, Christian based, non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
- Prerana, an organization that works to end second generation prostitution and to protect women and children from the threats of human trafficking by defending their rights and dignity, providing a safe environment, supporting their education and health, and leading major advocacy efforts.
The combination of an outspoken woman unflinchingly addressing the issue of sex trafficking is motivating. In an India West interview Rani Mukherjee explained:
"We are projecting a social evil in a nation where, somewhere or the other, a girl gets violated every eight minutes as per statistics," she grimaces. "And this situation is getting worse progressively, I do not remember my parents being scared for me when I went to school. I am very angry and am venting out my anger through this film. I can’t wait for this film to release and influence people, especially women, who must be made aware of their own strength. Women have been repressed and suppressed for too long!"
She also believes that women should take self-defense classes from an early age.
The following video playlist features the trailer, music from and making of the film Mardaani. It also features Rani Mukherjee sharing some self-defense techniques for women.
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