One in a Billion: Anti-Human Trafficking in India

2013 One in a Billion AHT in India

Jason Pope, Technical Adviser for Empowerment and Livelihoods for The Salvation Army World Service Office, conducts an interview with “Aruna” and one of her children, at a drop-in center in Mumbai’s red light district. Aruna found employment and a place to stay with The Salvation Army in a 3-mile area where more than 9,000 young women and girls are in prostitution, many as a result of human-trafficking.

India’s population now stands at a little more than 1.2 billion.

One way to visualize India’s population density when compared with the United States is to imagine four times the number of people living on one-third the land mass.

But big numbers are not always defined by the number of zeroes that follow and population density can be better grasped by looking at its impact on people’s lives.

In a 3-mile area of Mumbai’s red light district, a footprint smaller than the grounds of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., there are more than 9,000 young women and girls in prostitution – a situation they feel powerless to change.

In the world of anti-human trafficking, this is the number that The Salvation Army is trying to address.

Increased mobility and rapid urbanization and industrialization are three of the reasons human trafficking in India is rising.  An increasing number of job placement agencies lure adults and children for sex trafficking under false promises of employment, and those from India’s lower classes are most vulnerable.

Many of the young women involved in the sex trade have children who are neglected and left alone while their mothers ‘work’.  The children experience poor nutrition, no education and are left for hours to fend for themselves in dangerous situations.

The Salvation Army has established centers in the heart of the Mumbai red light district that offer women a safe alternative to the sex trade.  Through skills building, vocational training and income generation, it gives them an avenue to return to their families, attend school or learn alternative means of earning a living.  Drop-in centers also provide the children of sex workers with a safe place to stay, with food and educational activities.

“Aruna” has two children in the drop-in center.  Her story is, unfortunately, typical. When her husband died, she accepted an invitation from a sister who lived near the red light district.  When Aruna arrived, however, her sister told her that she would have to perform sex work to pay rent for her place in the house. Distraught, Aruna left her sister’s home with nowhere to go, and resisted pressure from other women to join a brothel.  She instead found a job and place to stay with The Salvation Army.  She has now worked for The Salvation Army for five years and her daughters have been enrolled in The Salvation Army school.

The Salvation Army continues to champion the cause of every woman like Aruna – to provide the sanctuary, skills and hope by which they all can escape this modern form of slavery – and to never let each one forget that she is special…that she is in fact one in 1.2 billion.



Lieutenant Colonel Joan Canning is the Executive Director of The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO). SAWSO’s vision is to “create a world where people live in safe and sustainable communities in which differences are respected, basic needs are met, and all enjoy opportunities to learn, work, and worship in freedom.” Learn more at