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2002 (Narrative date)

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day there were nearly 8 million people living in modern slavery in India. The GSI 2018 reports an emerging trend in northeast India where organised trafficking syndicates operate along the open and unmanned international borders, duping or coercing young girls seeking employment outside their local area in to forced sexual exploitation. Many women and girls are lured with the promise of a good job but then forced in to sex work, with a 'conditioning' period involving violence, threats, debt bondage and rape. 

Mala was trafficked at 15 years old by a distant relative (Roma) who had been in the sex trade for a long time. Her parents were unaware of this and allowed Mala to go with Roma for a job as a nanny to her son. However, upon arrival Mala was forced in to commercial sexual exploitation.

Roma (known as Sita Di in the brothel) persuaded my parents to send me with her so that I could look after her 7 year old son. With her cunning proposal, my parents fell in the trap. She brought me to Sonagachi. I understood very quickly what kind of place it was but I could not escape. Sita Di pushed me into this work. I never thought it could happen to me.


"If my father knew where I am, he would have a heart attack. I came here 1½ month ago. My aunt brought me. I was a student at the madrassah. Sitadi convinced my parents to take me with her to look after her 7 year old son. She said to my father:

- "You are my relative. How could I want to spoil the honour of your daughter?"

Hearing these words, my father agreed. There was probably another reason why my father let me go. I had a love affair with a village boy. Our fathers quarreled about a piece of land and my father did not want me to continue with this relationship. He thought that if I went away for 2-3 months, I would forget about the boy. That is why he agreed to let me go so easily.

When I came to Sitadi's room, I understood everything. I am not that young. At first, she tried to convince me to do this work for the money but I did not agree. Then she locked me up with customers. I cried a lot. I did not want to go with them. I hit some of them.

I still have not been given any money. Actually, I don't want that money. All I want is to go back home. One customer told me he could help me to get away but I was afraid to trust him. What if he sells me somewhere else?

I am not allowed to go out except one day when Sita took me to a circus. She wanted to teach me everything. She said not to tell my real name or my real age. Police may come disguised as a customer. I do as she tells me.

Sitadi told me she would take me to visit our village in May. I am eagerly waiting for this, so I try to please her. If I can go once, I will never come back. She lied to me. Why did she ask me to do this kind of work? She could have appointed me to a humble job but not to sex work. I will tell when I go home. Sitadi will not be able to stand in front of my parents.

Sitadi met the boy who loves me. She threatened him. If you come to India, I will teach you, she said. Here I am selling my body. I could do this with the boy who loves me but not with so many strangers.

Sitadi always visits our village with her Kabuli husband. That is why people do not suspect her profession and she could convince my parents. She changed my name to Menuka. It is the name of a goddess. Now I am that goddess.



Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub