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.
Bodhi* was 11 years old when she was sold in to a brothel. She tells of how even though she was rescued at 13, she still does not feel free, having to live in a shelter during the court case against the brothel owner.
Because … during the years I spent in custody waiting for my court case, I shrivelled like a dying tree. Now I have freedom and I am flowering into a different person.
I am 22, and I’ve been here for 8 years, waiting for my court case to get settled. Soon I’ll get married and leave the shelter. My husband knows my life and understands my pain. When I was about 11, my aunt sold me to a brothel. I remember the drunken clients, I remember being hidden in dark rooms whenever there was a police raid. Every day, I would ask myself if I would ever be free. When I was about 13, they rescued me. But I wasn’t free. I had to stay in this shelter for years while the court case went on and on. Why? I didn’t commit any crime.
Narrative ‘A Budding Leaf’ featured in the project ‘Another Me: Transformations from Pain to Power’