It is estimated that there are over four million domestic workers in India. The domestic sector is informal and unregulated, obscured in private homes, and workers are not recognised as such but rather as ‘informal help’. Their wages are, on average, only a third of those in other sectors, they have very limited social protections, and commonly suffer poor working conditions, exploitation, abuse and slavery. Many domestic workers are migrants from poorer states and are among the most marginalised and socially discriminated populations in India. Most of them are Dalits or come from other disadvantaged castes and tribal minorities, many are landless, illiterate and innumerate, which increases their vulnerability and disempowerment.
Afsana was just 16 years old and her parents were struggling to feed their family when a woman offered to get Afsana a job. Eventually both parents agreed and Afsana was taken to a house to undertake domestic work. Forced to work long, gruelling hours and physically and sexually abused Afsana never received any money for her work. Afsana eventually escaped with the help of a local worker.
The situation I was in, I don’t think anyone should have to go through that.
Father used to plough other farmer's fields. He found it difficult to feed a family of eight.
She came to my house to convince my parents. “If you let me take her, I will get her a good job. And she will be able to send money home every month. You will have a better life.”
She gave my father some money. After that my father agreed to send me. But my mother didn’t agree. Finally my father was able to convince my mother to let me go.
Looking back, I think that woman was a child trafficker. Women like her prey on families like mine, and take away girls like me. They promise one thing and then make us do something entirely different.
After I left home we crossed some fields and then we came to a river. We crossed the river by boat. We got to a bus stand and then we got on a bus. I was crying on the bus so aunty said “Don’t cry. You will be looked after there.”
“Don’t worry, you will be fine. Your parents will also be fine.”
I had full confidence that she will get me a good job.
When we got to the house a lady opened the door. Then aunty told me I will be staying and working here. She said this and she left me there.
I was made to wake up at 5am. They’d make me clean the house, wash clothes and even cook. I never got proper good. If I made a mistake, they would beat me. One day while cleaning the house I broke a glass by accident. The lady of the house heard the sound. And she came running. She saw the smashed glass on the floor. She pulled my hair and started screaming and beating me.
“You have broken my glass! You ignorant person! I will throw you out of my house.”
Her husband… he would try to hold my hand, pinch my cheeks. And he would even try to touch different parts of my body. But I couldn’t go anywhere. I didn’t even know anyone in that city.
She would laugh and tell me “Money? What do you need money for? Your parent don’t love you. They don’t even want you. They have sold you to me. I’m not going to give you any money.”
Traffickers worldwide should be caught and punished so that no child or woman can be trafficked again.
As told to documentary makers at MTV Exit.