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.
Aahna* was forced to marry her Uncle at a young age. After her Uncle left, Aahna was sold in to a brothel where she was forced to provide sexual services. She was able to escape when a boy that visited the brothel reported Aahna’s situation to the police.
I was raised in a large poor family in the state of Orissa. My mother forced me to marry my uncle, a horrible man, much older than I. The other villagers warned her about him, but she didn’t listen. He had another wife, his sister-in-law, and had three children by her. I think this wife did black magic on him, because he stopped talking to me and refused to eat the food I cooked. They beat me a lot. Finally, the village elders scolded my husband and he ran away, leaving me alone.
I returned to my parents’ house but it wasn’t a good situation. I’d been married, I was supposed to be living with my husband, and all the village talked. After some time, a relative from a neighbouring village promised to find a job for me and my sister in another state.
I guess I was lucky. Soon after I was sold, a boy from Orissa came to the brothel. I told him my story, he informed the police and they rescued me. That was 4 years ago. I’ve been here in this shelter since, waiting for my relative to be prosecuted.
What will I do in the future? I love children, I love cooking, but I refuse to be a housewife. I won’t sit in a house while my parents starve. I can’t go back to the village. I certainly won’t go back to that horrible man. Do I have any options? I don’t think so. I’ve got to earn money. I’ll be forced to go back to prostitution, and then you’ll say I made a ‘choice’. What choice do I have? Tell me. I feel so angry. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Find me a job. Trust me, and I won’t let you down. After all, I sent my trafficker to prison for 8 years, didn’t I? So what can I do now?
Narrative ‘The Snake Goddess’ featured in the project ‘Another Me: Transformations from Pain to Power’