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.
Jaya grew up in a brothel in India, subjected to rape and sexual violence daily from an early age. Jaya’s exploitation finally ended one night when the police raided the brothel and arrested her trafficker.
I am Jaya*. I grew up in India in a brothel with Udaya* and many other girls. I’m seventeen and Udaya is fifteen. I had more customers when I was thirteen. I hated those days the most. The young ones are always the favorites, and Madam Ankita can charge more for them. We are all busy though; I hate my life. I service five to seven men a day. My body aches, and now I cannot remember a time when it did not. I have few memories before I came to this brothel; my parent’s faces, worn and weary, the cold nights in our hut, and moments where I remember the pain of a deep hunger. Not the kind of hunger I sometimes experience now, when Madam Ankita is angry with us. There is no happiness in those memories. I’m not sure where my home is, I was so young when I left it.
Now I am here, ruled by Madam Ankita. I hate living in this place and when I sleep, I dream of floating up out of the house, far away from Madam Ankita and the rough, piggish men who visit it.
One night, an army of police arrived - uniforms and vans and noise and chaos. We were shocked and scared. Madam Ankita and many of the girls tried to escape. I stayed close to Udaya. A woman with the police came to speak with us. She was wearing plain clothes. She had a gentle voice and told us we were not in trouble. She said they had come to help us. She gave us bottles of water. At first, we were upset. How were we going to survive? We needed this work to eat. She explained this kind of work wasn’t safe or healthy for us. She told us there could be another way and that she was going to help us find that way. I felt so nervous. Udaya was upset too.
Madam Ankita was found and arrested. We all went to the police station together, and the woman - her name was Bashita - stayed with us the entire time while we had to give our story to the police. She held our hands and gave us food. She asked us questions about our family back home and why they had let us live with Madam Ankita in the first place. Bashita told us we wouldn’t be forced to be with men anymore.
It didn’t make sense to me, not really, not yet. But I did understand this: someone had come for us.
Narrative provided by The Exodus Road, ‘Someone Came for US: 3 Sex Trafficking Survivor Stories’