A young girl stands on the pavement. She's all dressed up: a pretty, floral dress; a bright blue clip in her neatly-braided hair, silvery heels. She looks unsure, innocent and a little agitated. You think it's because she needs to cross the street full of rushing traffic that she looks so concerned. Once, she seems to look at an old man in a tailor shop who seems to have his eye on her. There are other men on her side of the road who openly stare at her, and you can't help but hope that she'll cross the road and get away from their stares.
Finally, she does.
On the other side, a car stands, waiting. She walks up to the car and then looks back at the tailor shop. As she stands in front of it, she looks back at the old man. He tells her to go ahead. The car door opens. Inside the car is a middle aged man. She climbs into the car, unwillingness sharply etched upon every part of her. He offers her a chocolate and then places his hand upon her thigh.
This video on child prostitution, titled 'Don't Look Away' has been uploaded by the Delhi-based NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Directed by Jaydeep Sarkar, the video's struck a chord with thousands of viewers (it's had 195, 026 views and counting) and has gone viral since it appeared online in mid-November.
Watch the video here:
Of course the video is about the girl and her plight -- as the video informs us near the end, 40 girls under 15 years of age are forced into prostitution every day in India — but she's not the only person that Sarkar would like viewers to notice. Talking to Firstpost, Sarkar said that for him, 'Don't Look Away' is actually about the man at the juice counter and everyone else who choose to look away as the girl crosses the street and gets into the car. " The man in the juice counter is the protagonist of the film," said Sarkar. " We as observers have become so indifferent. I am not saying that we all have to be saviours, but we shouldn't be so apathetic."
Sarkar hopes that the video will motivate people to react more, instead of just playing the blame game. "It's easy to point a finger at state machinery," he said. "And they do fall short in many aspects but what do we do as observers? We have such little concern and all we do is to engage in rhetoric and empty banters. We express our anger against rape by rallying at Jantar Mantar, but we do not channelise it. So it is really important to know what to do in situations such as these. Whom to inform and how to help."
The inspiration for 'Don't Look Away' came from an incident that happened in Sarkar's own life. "I was stuck in a horrible traffic jam one day when a girl came in front of my car. I looked at her, it seemed she wanted to say something, but before I could react, she went and got into another car," recounted Sarkar. "I knew the car number and everything, but I didn't know what to do or whom to call. But that girl's face kept haunting me, so I thought of making this video."
One of the organisations you could call if you see something like this is Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a Delhi based NGO that supported Sarkar's video and has been campaigning to stop human trafficking and child labour in India. Established in 1980, the NGO has been working concertedly with children in different kinds of servitude over the past decades. "In cases of child trafficking it is just not restricted to rescuing the children," explained Sarkar. "The children rescued have to be rehabilitated as well and a lot of work has to be done."
It's ironic that the video about a young girl being forced into prostitution went viral on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Then again, it's a good day to call attention to the fact that according to the latest government data, over 1.26 lakh of child trafficking cases were registered in India during 2011-12. Many of these cases may well have happened in our presence, on busy streets like the ones in the video. Keep an eye out for such situations and remember the plea in Sarkar's video — don't look away.