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.
Setara was sold to a brothel in Sonagachi at 15 years old. Setara was able to leave sexual exploitation when she met her husband, however he would not let her forget where she came from and eventually Setara returned to the brothel.
We are 3 sisters and 3 brothers. Our family was very poor and I had to look for a job early. An elderly woman from a neighbouring village proposed to my mother that I accompany her to Kolkata where she would find me a job. That woman sold me in Sonagachi. I was 15 years old. The fist year, my malkeen kept all my income. The next two years, I worked as an adiya under the same malkeen. Meanwhile, I learned about the brothel and brought my elder sister.
As an adiya, I had a babu (a regular man/lover). Eventually we married and I left the brothel. I stayed outside with him for a few years but I was not happy. Everyday, he reminded me of where I came from. I did not conceive, and he blamed me for it. While in the para, I had an abortion and I probably damaged my womb. Because of his bad treatment, I returned to the brothel. In a short while, I got another babu and, with his help, I became a malkeen. There was no divorce with the first babu but he does not come anymore. My second babu is about 42 years old and is well connected with the club.
I visit the village with my babu several times a year. We cross the border at Hakimpur. The cost is one thousand taka per return trip for the two us. I have adopted one daughter. She is now 5 years old and lives with my mother in the village.
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