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.
Ruma was trafficked to Mumbai at the age of 11 by her cousin. After spending months working in her house, Ruma’s cousin then sold her to a woman from Kolkata for sex work.
My father was a richshawallah in Khulna. We were very poor. I was the eldest of 3 sisters and 1 brother. One day my cousin (mamato bon) offered to take me to Mumbai. My parents agreed. This was in 1981-82. I was 11 years old.
I was supposed to work in her house for 1 or 2 years, then she would arrange my marriage if she found a suitable boy. I worked in her house for 7 to 8 months and, when I understood the language, the bitch sold me to a woman from Kolkata for sex work.
I worked and I cried everyday. I was like a parrot in a cage. I was taught the language, I was fed when I pleased my keeper and I had no possibility to go out. The work was not the worst. I missed my family terribly. My cousin sometimes came to collect the money. When I asked her about my income she would reply:
-"You are a child, yet you speak like a grown up. Your money is there. When you go home, you can take it with you."
After one year I was freed. Then I myself decided to work in a bar. I understood that my cousin intended to sell me off as a wife to a man in Uttar Pradesh. One Bangladeshi woman helped me to escape and introduced me to bar work. Later, I paid her 10,000 rupees.
Two years after going to Mumbai, I recovered my freedom. I then renewed contact with my family and started sending them money through people. If I had been married, this would not have been possible. My cousin was angry with me. I did not keep in touch with her and I never got the money she took from me.
My work was a disgusting one but I was pleased to be able to send money home. One day, I met Ali Hussain. We agreed on a contract and I married him. I had learned a lot by then and I did not trust people easily. I made conditions very clear. After marriage, I would split my income in two: half to my family and half to my husband. I worked 8 years after this. In the end, I left because I was pregnant. We have a 5 month old child.
I have bad sores on my skin. I also have heavy white discharge like pus and it smells. I sought treatment in Mumbai. I was already pregnant when I did and the doctor told me this condition could affect my child. This is why we left.
I am paying for my past sins. I feel depressed. I cannot hide my condition.
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