A little girl who was forced to work as a prostitute in southern India has received new life in Christ thanks to the witness of indigenous missionaries, and has since dedicated her life to sharing the Gospel with her people.
According to a report from Christian Aid Mission, by the time she was just four years old, Tehmina was already dedicated as a temple prostitute. Her impoverished mother, who offered sex to men as a service to Hindu gods in northern Karnataka state, saw no other way for her young daughter to earn an income.
"Her father was taking her by the hand at midnight looking for customers, and then during the day her mother would take her on the streets," an indigenous ministry leader told the outlet. "By her earnings, the whole family would be taken care of."
Miraculously, Tehmina came into the ministry's care when her mother put her faith in Jesus Christ: "She learned that if her daughter is to have any hope, it has to be through Jesus Christ alone," the director said. "So Tehmina went to school, stayed with us for 11 years and completed 10th grade. After that she wanted to go back and take care of her mother and go to college. We thought she would be a great witness to her own people, so now she is in college and taking care of her mother."
The ministry is also assisting her with her education by providing a scholarship, said the director, who along with her husband started the ministry to temple prostitutes and their families in 1995.
Unfortunately, stories like these are all too common in southern India, where women known as "devadasis" - a term that implies they are slaves to gods - are forced to prostitute themselves to generate income for their families.
"We have seen many times these ladies come to us crying, very desperate, they have nothing, no hope was there, and then they receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior and they return back, bringing the joy of Christ," the ministry leader said.
Oftentimes, children are forced to be in the same room while their mothers entertain men.
"In many houses, when the mother is practicing prostitution at night time, the children have to go under the bed and hide themselves," she said. "If it is during the daytime, they are thrown out onto the streets while the mother is entertaining men. So the ministry seeks to give them a safe place where they're protected, and they can study and be loved."
In addition to training rescued women and girls in sewing and computer skills, among other things, the ministry is currently meeting the basic needs of food, clothing and medicine for 40 girls and 10 boys and has begun providing food the entire families of 100 people with HIV.
"If they stop working as prostitutes, they won't be able to feed their families," he said. "The government doesn't give any support for them. So they don't want to leave prostitution, even if they are very weak, very sickly, and they will be spreading this disease to so many people. And they're dying, so we thought it would be good to give something to these people, at least give them some food so they will have a full stomach."
One of the ministry's churches is located in an area where nearly 80 percent of the residents are HIV positive, he said. Through the ministry's HIV project, five churches have now emerged in one village.
"We were not just filling their stomach, but we also have opportunities to share the good news with these people," the ministry said. "I have seen these people who were sickly, they know they will not be able to survive it, but they come to the church and just raise their hands to the Lord Jesus Christ, because they have the joy of receiving Jesus Christ into their lives."
"We have seen many people who have received Jesus Christ just before their death," the leader added.
More children are sold into prostitution in India than in any other country, according to the yearly report on the state of worldwide human trafficking and slavery for forced labor and sex from the U.S. Department of State.
And, despite its illegality, government figures showed a 25 percent increase in cases of human trafficking in India in 2015, with 43 percent of the 9,127 victims below the age of 18.
In light of these staggering statistics, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a member of parliament from the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, has asked the government for a revision of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, clearer emphasis on child trafficking in the proposed Anti-Trafficking Bill and a child sexual offender register across police stations in India.
"With child rights and safety being left unregulated for decades, we have created a fertile ground for their trafficking and abuse," he told Reuters earlier this week.
"Children cannot speak for themselves and neither can they organize themselves as an effective group," he added. "They depend on adults to get them justice, and we are failing them. The depth and lack of sensitivity in government departments is startling. The existing laws are not working. Reporting crimes under these acts, proper investigations and evidence collection is also not happening. A rethink is urgently required."