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.
Panshi grew up in Mumbai and lived with her mother, younger sister and younger brother. When she was 13 she was forced to drop out of school as her family could no longer afford it. She met an 18 year old boy, a friend who envisioned a better life for her. He tried to get her parents to allow her to continue her studies and told them he’d marry her, however her parents sent her to a different village. She was eventually told she could return to the city if she took up the family business. Panshi was 14 years old when she was forced in to prostitution by her family. When her friend tried to get her out of the life, she was taken in by the state as a minor and placed in a shelter.
I was just pretending to agree to the conditions.
Then out of the blue, my mother and sister took me to a mall for shopping, and then dinner. For a change! Then suddenly, I was taken to my aunt’s house and while my mother and aunt stood outside the door, this person came to the room. I begged the person to let me go, to let me go meet my friend. But he’d paid money…he didn’t want to waste it.
[she eventually contacted her friend who insisted she tell him why she was avoiding him]
He cried a lot and finally said I fell in love with you and no your body, I don’t care what’s happened to you.
[Panshi ran away with her friend but her family filed a police complaint against him for kidnapping a minor]
I went to the police station and told them my family did this to me, and that’s why I’m with him and want to stay with him. It was a big mistake actually.
[because she’s a minor the state wouldn’t let Panshi return to her boyfriend, she was placed in a home at the Naunihual shelter]
Whatever happens, happens for the good. If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have these opportunities.
I have a goal. I want to definitely finish my graduation and then work. I want to be financially independent.
This is my plan for 2017. I have a sharp mind and I want to be fluent.
What I decide in my mind, I do it. And when I have problems, I face them and solve them so they don’t come back. For me, I’m enough. I have to rely on myself.
Narrative provided by Public Radio International