22 days, 2 countries, 3 brothel locations, 15 days of isolation. Recalling her exploitation, Sharmila says, “They beat me up like an animal, I was nothing more than that, to the ones who trafficked me.”
Sharmila* was trafficked into West Bengal, India and was conditioned to engage customers at Sonagachi, Kolkata before she was transferred to another red-light area in a town named Haldia.
A countless number of people, just like Sharmila continue to be trafficked every day in India. According to a global report on human trafficking from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking standing at 79%
Women and children are predominantly the victims of sexual exploitation. Forced labour is also known to be a less frequently reported form of trafficking, according to the report.
Like Sharmila, Parobai and her family followed the promise of a better life but ended up being trafficked into back-breaking labour at a sugarcane farm in Maharashtra. Her husband managed to escape when conditions became unbearable, but Parobai, her two daughters, and three other families remained trapped in captivity and increasing violence. Her husband’s escape made Parobai’s life at the farm even more miserable. She was abused and beaten by the owner who now wanted her to do her husband’s share of the work as well.
Thankfully, her husband returned, a month later with local government officials —bringing Parobai tearfully into freedom.
The Government of India recognizes Human Trafficking as a grave crime and attaches great importance to the efforts from different quarters directed at preventing and countering human trafficking. Due to the efforts of the government, Sharmila, Parobai, and many others like them are “free and hopeful” today, rebuilding their lives.
*Name changed to protect privacy