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Indian minor trafficked for sex, attends school for the first timeIndia Blooms News Service
"I tried to stop him but he didn’t listen,” recalls Sakshi (name changed) of the day she was raped as a child. She has not been able to forget that night ever since. Trafficked at a tender age she was only eight when she was raped. After her parents sealed a deal with a pimp Sakshi landed in brothels and finally at Sonagachi- one of India’s largest red-light districts- in Kolkata, West Bengal.
Battling with the memories of the dark days she spent in the red light area, Sakshi like any other girl of her age dreams of going to school and having a normal life.
While sharing her heart thumping story Sakshi would often choke and pause. Narrating the story of the mental and physical torture she underwent brought back memories of the horror days.
Hailing from a poor family in Bihar, Sakshi’s parents considered her to be a burden and sold her to a brothel owner. After living in many brothels she finally found herself in Sonagachi in Kolkata.
When she refused to accompany the pimp to the brothel, she was drugged and raped. “They locked me in a room and all I could remember are those bruises on my body, the way I was tortured and forced to have sex with older men. They forced me to serve five – six men per day,” says Sakshi.
“I was very scared and escaping was not an easy option to think of. Every day spent at the brothel was like hell for me. Whenever I refused to have sex they drugged me. When they would still not have their way they would shove candles, sticks and chili paste into me and I succumbed to the situation,” she adds.
Girls being considered burden is a common phenomenon across villages in India. In most cases, the girls are sold off by their parents for money and even by their family members or close ones.
According to National Crime Record Bureau every 8 minutes a girl goes missing in India. 12 lakh minors are sold for sex in India. The girls are mainly bought from neighbouring states by pimps. They are sold to brothel owners and then forced into prostitution.
Sakshi did not come out in the open immediately. It took her some time to open up. Recalling her past was not easy for this little girl.
“I wanted to run away and inform the cops. But I had no evidence to prove. They threatened to kill me if I tried to escape,” says the survivor.
The brothel owners usually say misleading stories to the girls to prevent them from escaping and force them to work for clients. The minors are forced to believe these stories. The owners say that even if they escape, they will never be accepted by the society or their family as they would forever have the tag of a prostitute embossed on them.
They are told they would never find a respectable alternative job. Not just a career they are also told they’d never find a husband. Men could only mean clients and never brothers, lovers or husbands for them,
Sakshi worked in Sonagachi for a year and then in 2015 she was rescued by an NGO. The NGO workers conducted a rescue operation along with a CID team and managed to rescue six girls from the same brothel. They failed to arrest the pimp in Sakshi’s case as he fled before they could reach him.
Sakshi was then taken to an aftercare home, a shelter, especially for sex trafficking survivors. It took time for Sakshi to overcome the trauma. She expressed her desire to take up education before supervisor Bina Nandy.
At the "Aftercare Home" she has started her schooling and vocational training. “She always had the desire to study in a proper school like other children. Sakshi was the strongest victim that we have ever rescued. She also helped our team to track other victims and rescue them,” says Nandy. They finally helped her to get admission in a private school that Sakshi always longed for.
After five years of sex slavery, Sakshi went to school. She found her freedom and reclaimed her childhood at the age of 13.
Sakshi is a brave girl, who wants to live her life on her own terms. “To live, you have to fight. Without education you can’t do anything,” says Sakshi. The little girl aims to be a teacher and forgetting everything she wants to move ahead and find her own identity.
Sakshi is one of the thousands who are trafficked for sex. The TIP (Trafficking in person Report 2015, 184), reports that incidents of selling of girls for sex, under S.372 of the IPC, 85% of incidents reported throughout India were from West Bengal.
West Bengal still has 20% share of India’s Human trafficking cases according to 2011 Indian census.
Sex trafficking business is skyrocketing in West Bengal. The percentage of minors trafficked for sex is increasing due to high demands among the clients. The minors are mostly targeted because the pimps receive huge amount for trafficking minors.
The demands of virgin girls are high among the customers, who visit brothels, which is directly proportionate to the growing rate of sex trafficking. Minors are forced into prostitution and in most cases they are difficult to locate due to their changed name. Sex-trafficking has emerged as a high-profile business in West Bengal.
In Sakshi’s case, the pimp escaped. But in most cases due to corruption at every level of the system the accused often get bail and sometimes the trial is stalled or delayed for indefinite periods.
Corruption and inactive law enforcement and inappropriate judicial system have allowed the traffickers to conduct such crime. In most cases, police are bribed by brothel owners when raids are conducted. This has opened way and permitted the traffickers to continue the sex trafficking business, say activists.
Sakhi is one of those lucky girls who was rescued and got a chance to start her life afresh. There are thousands of girls who are being trafficked for sex and forced into prostitution.
(Images by Anunay Arko)
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