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.
Anita D was 19 years old when she took a job as a maid in India. However, upon arrival she discovered she would be forced to work in a brothel. Anita was locked in a room for three years and forced to provide sexual services for up to 40 men a day. Anita tells of the importance of status to survival in the brothel, how she became a madam, and how finding religion showed her the path to freedom.
I was taken to this place where I expected to do maid service but as soon as I walked in, I saw a bunch a men sitting around and there were these ladies wearing this really garish and loud makeup. I turned to the lady who had brought me there and I said, ‘what is this place?’ I started to get really scared. I was taken into a room and told what I had to do. I told them I can’t do that. Where I was from in Nepal, girls were kept separate from boys, I had never even spoken to a boy much less a man. I screamed. I can’t do that job, but six women grabbed my arms and legs and held me down on a bed. I screamed and fought, I really didn’t understand what was happening until two men came into the room and raped me. They yelled at me stop crying, it’s not going to help, that nothing I could do was going to stop it. It was one of the darkest moments of my entire life. I just cried and cried.
I was 19 years old and didn’t know anything of this. But unfortunately, that was just the beginning. This was not a life that I wanted. I fought them with all the strength and stubbornness that I had, and when they attacked me, I attacked back. But because of it, I was regularly tortured.
For 3 years they locked me in a room and never let me out. There was no way of escape. For 3 years I never saw the sun or stars. As many as 40 men came to me every day. With no hope I finally accepted it, this was my life now. I always feared the men, how is this man going to treat me? Is he going to abuse me? About 90% of them did. And they smelled so bad. I started drinking heavily just to endure each day. In your heart and in your mind it’s about survival. Even in the brothels, status and perception become important. So, after years of abuse as one of the girls I climbed to the position of madam simply to improve my life. I really didn’t think about the role I was going to then play in the problem.
Once I became a madam, I had three kids. Unfortunately, my first died at 10 months old, but my second and third child, they gave me something to live for. Looking after them gave me hope that maybe I could give them a life I could never have.
The things that I have seen are unimaginable, I’m ashamed to even speak of them. There was one time when two new girls were brought to our brothel. They had only been there about three days and were in the process of being broken in when there was a police raid. Those two girls were put into a hidden room to keep them from being found by the police, but we didn’t realise there was some rope left in the room. And when we came back, we found the girls had hung themselves. The two girls were sisters. That really affected me. They were so badly tortured. There wasn’t a spot on their hands that didn’t have cigarette burns they obviously felt the better choice was death.
90% of the girls brought to the brothels are kidnapped and taken completely against their will and the other 10% like me were tricked into thinking they would have a legitimate job. In our brothel there were 12-year olds and 13-year olds, 15-years old, 20-years old, every age. Children in brothels, if it’s a girl, they’re in danger. They can be abused at any age. That’s why I had to get my children out. Especially my daughter.
So, it was about the time I was looking for a safe place my kids that I found out about the church in the red light district. That’s where I first heard about Jesus. Each time I visited the church I heard more about him. The rescue did take in my children and these people started to visit me again and again and care for me. They told me to trust in God. I began to think that if these people can do that then maybe there is a God that does care about me too. So, I gave my life to God and that’s the only thing that got me through that year,
There were 12 girls under me at the time. I started closing the brothel every Saturday long enough to take them all to church. Every girl eventually came to know Jesus as saviour. One of them was even healed of a sickness she had been living with for 10 years. On the day that we planned to leave, I could barely contain my excitement. I was jumping up and down, it seemed almost impossible that I was really leaving this place. The six girls I sent back to Nepal, the other six girls went with me to the rescue centre and my life changed dramatically.
But forgiveness and healing, that was a long process. I couldn’t forgive people, especially the lady who had originally betrayed me. I fasted for 40 days for a breakthrough and when that didn’t work, I fasted another 40. It wasn’t until a pastor told me how Jesus, a completely innocent man tortured and hung on a cross said, ‘Father forgive them’, that I was able to let go and forgive. I learned that day that forgiveness was the first step for me to walk in freedom with Jesus. That’s when I really saw God shining through men. I’ve been able to go back in to the red-light district. As I walk in the sadness and depression on the faces of the girls it breaks my heart and I find myself wanting to run up to them and share the hope that I found. Because I was no one special, but God rescued me, and I want to tell them he can rescue them too.
When they come out, we see their countenances transformed. At first, they’re heavily depressed and can’t look you in the eye, but now there’ a radiance in their faces and this joy breaks forth. God has provided for my life. I now have this wonderful role of being a mother to young daughters of girls who still have to work in the brothels. They come to the rescue centre and I come alongside them. I love them and I give them shelter and good and all the things they lack in the brothels.