I want to punish the men who did this to me,” said Lata, who is part of the first cohort.
A new facility opened up in India — the School of Justice — has an inaugural class of 19 girls, all of whom were formerly trafficked into sex work and will now study toward becoming lawyers in order to fight back against their perpetrators.
The school, which opened on April 6, is a joint project between India’s chapter of the anti-sex trafficking organization Free a Girl, and one of the top law schools in the country.
Lata, who is part of the first cohort, and who was sold to a brothel by her ex-husband shortly after she got married, told Mashable, “Becoming a lawyer is my dream, and bringing justice to those responsible for forced child prostitution is my goal … I want to punish the men who did this to me.”
The inaugural class will see the girls, aged between 19 and 26, take classes to prepare for law exams, and receive tutoring and mentoring. When they graduate, they will receive law degrees, specialized on commercial sexual exploitation cases.
“These are real girls who have been through highly traumatizing experiences and had lives that we could hardly imagine,” Bas Korsten, one of the project’s founders, told Adweek. “They are determined to succeed in their ambition to become lawyers, with the power to prosecute the criminals who once owned them.”
India has the largest number of people in human trafficking globally. Because the illicit nature of the practice, U.N. estimates are likely low, but the body predicts that among the 3 million sex workers in India, at least 40 percent are trafficked children, many from marginalized ethnic minorities. Many legal cases surrounding the issue are also dropped due to the lack of lawyers that specialize on the issue.
The idea for the school came from unusual roots — it was conceptualized by the marketing and communications agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, where Korsten is creative director. Free A Girl approached them to create an awareness campaign aimed at Indian men, when the team was inspired to push the idea further.
“In close collaboration with (Free A Girl), we worked out the educational program, looked for a physical space, selected the first class of girls, and built the campaign around it,” Korsten said, as reported by Mashable.
Korsten told Adweek that there are plans to open a School for Justice in Brazil in the near future.