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Freedom5 min read

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Daughters for sale — The heartbreaking tradition of nari mata

Megan Stoia
Jan 16, 2023

 

In the Banchara community, one of the first things you’ll notice is the cots placed outside the houses.

Embroidered pillows with deep shades of maroon and flashy gold draw the eye toward them. Some have flower petals littered over the top.

These cots are symbols of a dark family business. They signify that inside the home, a young girl was groomed and forced into sex work. When she is sitting on the cot, she is open for business.

In places like Thailand and India, these girls begin their careers as sex workers as young as 12 years old. The Banchara community calls the practice of placing your eldest daughter in the sex trade nari mata.

women trapped in the sex industry
Girls in the Banchara community have between 10 to 12 customers per day

This tradition began over 500 years ago. Legend has it a king happened upon a poor, beautiful young woman. He kidnapped her, took her back to his castle, and forced her to have his children.

Once her daughters were old enough, the woman forced them into prostitution out of spite. Whether there’s any truth to this legend or not, the custom still has a tight grip on the Banchara community.

When a girl is born, her entire life is decided for her. Mothers begin grooming their daughters at a young age to become sex workers.

One mother from India shared:

“I wanted to make her look pretty. Why shouldn’t I do it? My mother did it for my elder sister when she turned 12 years old. Now it is my turn because Neetu is the oldest among my three daughters. It is my duty to get her prepared for her new life.”

Once the child is deemed old enough, her father holds a special ceremony to announce her entry into the sex industry … while her first customer waits inside the family home.

Brothers even help fathers pimp out their sisters, knowing the money will go toward their dowries. These girls will spend years paying off debts that aren’t even theirs … and will often work until they are too sick to continue.

Nari mata has been around for so long that many girls don’t recognize what’s really happening to them. It’s just the way things are done. It has been a daughter’s duty to provide for the family for generations. Parents rely on them to help care for the other children.

This tradition of slavery costs young women their childhoods, dignity, physical health, and robs them of their dreams.

woman wants more for her daughters
Women are breaking the cycle of sexual slavery by letting their daughters receive an education

But it’s not just girls born in Banchara who are forced to enter the sex industry. The high demand for prostitutes here has led to an increase in other forms of human trafficking.

Baby girls from all over India are purchased and sold to community members — for as low as $25. Families hope to increase their income by having another “daughter” in the sex industry.

These girls are trapped in culturally accepted sexual slavery … and they can’t marry or receive an education once they start working.

As you can imagine, life in the sex industry also comes with a slew of physical consequences. An estimated 50% of sex workers in this region are HIV positive, and 90% of pre-teen girls in the industry end up pregnant.

Knowing no different, the cycle of prostitution will continue with their children. But on the flip side, rescuing or preventing just one girl from entering the sex industry can completely shatter this tradition of slavery.

Our partners in India shared that something as simple as receiving an education changes a woman’s life in the Banchara community. Nari mata’s roots may be strong, but when these steps are taken, a transformation begins that will last for generations.

But these girls need your help to make it happen. Without it, these young girls and women might never escape the sex industry. They need someone like YOU to step in and help provide the resources that will change their lives.

woman in india leave sex industry
You can help a girl experience freedom from sexual slavery

For just $50, you can help one girl in India or Thailand experience freedom from the sex industry. You’ll provide them with critical needs like a safe place to live, counseling, education, medical care, and outreach.

But even more than that, you’ll help a girl experience God’s love, maybe for the very first time.

There’s no better time to help a girl experience freedom than the present — especially since January is Human Trafficking Awareness month.

You can help make a difference today by helping end the vicious cycle of nari mata. Giving these girls a chance to receive an education will allow them to chase after their dreams … and will let their children do the same.

Please, give your best gift NOW to help one girl break free from a life trapped in sexual slavery.

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