Adam McNutt walked into a brothel in India and found children running around. They showed him the scars—cigarette burns and bruises—they got from their pimps. Babies as young as two weeks old had been sold as sex slaves to meet the growing demand from men who believe having sex with a virgin will cure them of AIDS.
It isn’t legal, but corruption runs so deep in India that many police officers look the other way. Many people look the other way, too. McNutt said Hindus believe in reincarnation, so they look the other way because they assume these children must have done something wrong in a past life.
“They believe they did something so wrong, so grievous, that this is their karma,” McNutt explained. That’s why he has devoted his life to helping them.
McNutt and his wife, Leslie, spent seven years as missionaries in India before their children’s needs brought them back to the United States—their daughter was diagnosed with autism and their son with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. The McNutts felt the United States offered the best educational assistance for their children, so they left India.
But they couldn’t forget all they’d seen in India. The McNutts knew they wanted to help those children trapped in human trafficking, so they started Set Them Free International Ministries to support an orphanage in north India that rescues children from human trafficking.
There are more than 30 million orphans in India—a number exacerbated by the AIDS epidemic and the lesser value placed on girls. According to McNutt, families will sell young girls instead of spending money to raise them. Poverty is rampant, and desperate families will do almost anything to provide for male children.
“The poverty drives people, especially people who don’t know Jesus, to do the most wicked of things for temporary relief,” McNutt said.
There are three main ways children end up in trafficking: They are kidnapped, sold by their families or found as orphans on the street. And because these children exist outside the four-tier Hindu caste system, they are called the Untouchables—outcasts—and considered impure.
McNutt tells of one human trafficking victim, Lakshmi, who was sold to a man who visited her village. He came in, wearing a business suit and fancy shoes, to an area where most people weren’t educated. He told Lakshmi’s family he would take her to the city to get a good education, and they sold her to him and used the money to feed the rest of the family.
In an area where most people make one to two dollars per day, a young girl can be sold for $50, McNutt said. Others are sold at auctions in Mumbai for a few thousand dollars, depending on their physical condition.
When Adam and Leslie McNutt first moved to India, they knew nothing about human trafficking in the country. It wasn’t until Leslie went on a trip with a group fighting trafficking that they realized the scope of the industry. Worldwide human trafficking has grown into a $33 billion per year industry.
Charities in India won’t pay for the children’s release. McNutt explains they don’t want to give money to the very organization they’re fighting against. Instead, charities befriend the madams in the brothels and work to change them, and in turn, free the children.
What the McNutts have found is the madams are often women who were once kidnapped or sold into sex slavery and have been there their entire lives.
“When you go in there, and you love them and you’re Jesus to them, you show them that there is hope, and things can change,” McNutt said.
Rays of Hope
McNutt raises money for the Rays of Hope home that focuses on the education and safety of the 76 orphans currently living there. They stress education because many people in India have grown up in poverty without any schooling. They have only known farming or housekeeping and can be easily convinced to let their daughters go off with strangers.
“The [Rays of Hope girls] do go to school, they do get a great education,” McNutt said. “Because without it you can fall into these snares. You can fall into poverty; you can be manipulated.
Another Rays of Hope outreach program is a morning breakfast for a few hundred children who are still in the brothels. These relationship-building experiences are a strong factor in getting children released.
While they’re no longer in the red-light districts of India, McNutt and his family are working hard to provide for the children. His dream is to raise $5,000 each month—they aren’t quite there yet— to send to Rays of Hope. With your help, he can meet that goal.
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