Helping sex traffic victims through dance
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with members of Kolkata Sanved during a stop in Kolkata earlier this week.
May 8th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

Helping sex traffic victims through dance

By Jill Dougherty reporting from Kolkata

The girls step forward, chanting rhythmically, their breath coming in explosive waves.

At first they look delicate, vulnerable. Their feet are bare. They wear brightly colored tops held with a sash of traditional fabric, and cream pantaloons secured with a saffron belt.

But their vulnerability is suddenly transformed, their arms moving in karate-chop gestures, their voices slashing the air.

These are teenagers who once worked in the sex trade. They live in Kolkata, India, a nation that, according to non-governmental organizations, has approximately 3 million female sex workers. Some of them were trafficked, held against their will. Others were sold into prostitution by their families. Others left the work, only to return to it later, the way an abused woman returns to a spouse who continues to beat her.

The U.S. State Department issues an annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.

In its 2011 report, the department says, "The government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."

But in these dances you see none of that.

The girls are part of Kolkata Sanved, a dance therapy movement founded in 2004 by Sohini Chakraborty, a dance sociologist and dance activist.

Kolkata Sanved conducts workshops around the world, providing an alternative approach to recovery and healing for victims of violence and trafficking, for mental health patients, for women and children with HIV /AIDS, and other vulnerable people.

"Sanved" means "that which responds to stimulus" and the approach tries to break the barriers of traditional dance, employing body movements to transform victims of sexual abuse into "proactive advocates" for themselves.

The girls came to Kolkata's Cultural Center to perform for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As they began, the visitors who filled the hall fell silent and the secretary's face became a study in concentration as they watched five teenage girls suddenly filled with a power that comes from within.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Sam

    Mrs Clinton's husband would have loved to accompany her on that trip

    May 30, 2012 at 5:50 am | Reply
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    May 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  3. SOONITHA

    Bravo Girls! Well done, my admiration for you all is immeasurable. Let dance take over your life and make you whole once again.

    May 20, 2012 at 7:22 am | Reply
  4. aaron

    Its great to see the restoration these girls have experienced. Check out restoreinnocence.org to see what is being done for victims of human trafficking here in Colorado!

    May 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  5. daniel

    Dancing seems to help a lot of people. Students who are too shy do any active activities seem to be more relaxed after they dance. Prisoners do massive coordinated dances to release tensions. Here, victims of sexual assault also seem to be coping better through dance. More projects with dance would be better in schools, too. haha. I'm a klutz.

    May 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  6. Satyanarayana Neeli

    It shoud wake up our morale and responsibility.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
  7. semper fi

    If you want to help go to 4the1.org

    May 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  8. Trader

    How much for the one in orange? Not to rent, to buy. She's hot.

    May 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • Someday

      You obviously do not have a daughter, wife, or woman in your life that means something to you.

      May 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • WOW

      Do even know how a woman feels after she's been thru this? How would you feel if that girl in orange was your sister, mother, daughter or even your grandmother? I completely agree with Someday.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
    • Indian

      Only by someone with your mentality – It will be your sister or mother (not to rent but to BUY) even if she is not HOT.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  9. Cooze

    Maybe Dieter from 'Sprockets' can give them a hand.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
    • Debjit

      I wanted to let you know that your reocfltien has hit a chord with a number of my readers. Thanks for letting me share this. Many blessings on you and your work. If you are interested in contributing to future blog series that I do (usually for Lent and Advent) please let me know & send me your email so that I can add you to my writers list.Blessings

      June 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
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    thats a good development, its will go a long

    May 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Reply

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