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Type of document: News
Topic: Policy and Planning
Geographic descriptors: United States of America
Language: English
Source: www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1504660,00050001.htm
Date of publication: 30 September 2005
Long Abstract: US government is getting tough on the issue of trafficking of human beings. Indicating its seriousness on the issue, the US government funding agency USAID terminated funding to the NGO Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM) for reportedly supporting brothel owners and obstructing the rescue of minor girls from red light areas.

SANGRAM is said to be the first NGO to be cut off from funding for trying to thwart rescue efforts. "It is for the first time in India and perhaps internationally, as far as I know. I want to believe this is an exception, an anomaly. But we are reviewing other programmes and if there is any specific information that an organisation is trying to keep people from being rescued from any kind of trafficking we will be looking into it," said Ambassador John R Miller, director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons.

In a letter dated September 9, the office of AVERT, a joint project of USAID and the Indian government, informed SANGRAM of the termination of funding. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US State Department had received reports about SANGRAM's role in "thwarting rescue efforts".

The US embassy in India and USAID are reviewing a bunch of grants to examine if the grants are being used to fund work that is contrary to the US policy on trafficking or HIV/AIDS. It is reliably learnt that funds could be cut off to four or five more NGOs in India on similar grounds as SANGRAM. Restore International (RI), a South India-based anti-trafficking NGO, was part of the raid organised by the police in May this year in Gokul Nagar red light area in Sangli, Maharashtra. Seventeen minors were reportedly rescued during the raid. According to the RI report, SANGRAM, which has many brothel keepers as its members, has been trying to thwart attempts to rescue minors in prostitution.

SANGRAM in turn has termed the rescue "unlawful" and has questioned the claim that 17 of the rescued girls were minors. However, an order of a judicial magistrate dated May 30 this year states that of the 35 women removed from Gokul Nagar, "17 were reported to be minors". The magistrate had ordered the case for custody of these minors to be placed before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), the authority that deals with juveniles who need protection and care.

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