A pioneer in the area of rehabilitation and welfare of children and women rescued from miserable conditions, Dr Sunitha Krishnan is already changing the world. The Hyderabad-based social activist is a leader in the fight to rescue sex-trafficked girls and women and help them find shelter. Krishnan, who herself was gang-raped by eight men when she was 15, has put the topic of commercial sexual exploitation before a wider audience. Despite the brutal assault, Krishnan refused to remain broken. In 1996, she and her brother – Bro. Jose Vetticatil – founded Prajwala, a non-governmental organisation, by converting a brothel into a centre for the children of sex workers.
Over the last 23 years, Prajwala has rescued over 17,000 girls from prostitution. “All kinds of traumatic incidents had happened, including the 17 attacks I had faced in my life and the murder of my colleague in front of me,” Sunitha said in an interview to PTI. Today, Sunitha, who works tirelessly to protect girls from being forced into the sex trade and rehabilitates them for a better future, is a recipient of the prestigious Vital Voices Global Leadership Award and the Padma Shri.
An alumnus of the School of Social Work Roshni Nilaya, Mangalore, throughout her career, Sunitha has proven herself to be a leader in fighting sex trafficking, championing women’s rights and peace-building, and has played a major part in battling inequality in the nation and around the world. The 47-year-old activist played a major role in an anti-trafficking bill, which was started in 2004 when she filed a PIL (56/2004) in the Supreme Court. The Trafficking of Persons Bill – Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation – provides for the confidentiality of victims, complainants, and witnesses, and repatriation of victims.