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.
Poppy, along with her older sister Jesmin and the rest of her family, migrated to Mumbai when she was young. Once there, Poppy and her sisters went to work in a ‘bar’ to help support their family. Poppy worked massaging men where she was subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
At first, I gathered papers on the street. Then mother fixed a job for me. On the third floor of the bar, I massaged men.
These men, they hurt me. They grabbed me and they bit me. By force, they got me to lie down. Big fat men came. They frightened me and I cried.
When I complained to mother, she said:
- "There is no work at home, no food. You must stick it out here for a few years, save money. We have to arrange your marriage. Besides, no one sees the kind of work we do here, no one knows. Life is hardship, you must learn this. Don't you see how well Kuddus (a neighbour whose first wife is reportedly dying of AIDS and now lives off his second wife's earnings) is doing from this work? Your father does not take any responsibility for you. If you don't work, what will you do?"
I don't like my mother. My elder sister is like her. She does not want to come back.
We used to go to work together but came back separately. Usually, Jesmin and I returned at the same time but the others all came back at different times, sometimes one or two days later. I saw what my elder sister did. We tried not to meet but when we did I felt shame.
Here I cannot tell what my mother does in Mumbai. When people ask, I just cry. My sister and I refused to stay. Before we came, my mother hit us a lot. Still, we did not stay.
My sister Jesmin is sick because of this work. Now she is always afraid and sometimes she loses consciousness. My mother used to hit her because she did not want to do bad work and my sister became very angry and rebellious
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